Carnosine

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Alanine, anserine, beta-alanyl-L-histidine, Can-Cr®, carnivorous diets, carnosinase, carnosine, carnosine-related compounds, CBEX, chicken breast extract, histidine, homocarnosine, imidazole, L-carnosine, L-CAZ®, NAC, N-acetyl carnosine, N-alpha-acetyl carnosine, polaprezinc, zinc complex of L-carnosine, zinc-carnosine chelate.

Background

  • Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine), also called L-carnosine, was first discovered in 1900 by W. S. Gulewitsch. The structure of carnosine is made up of two amino acids, histidine and alanine. This molecule is found only in animal tissue, especially skeletal, heart muscle, nerve, and brain tissue. Most vegetarian diets may not provide enough carnosine, but whether this has a negative effect remains undetermined.

  • The exact biological role of carnosine is unclear. Individuals who have Down syndrome or who experience seizures have lower levels of carnosine. Therefore, carnosine is believed to help control brain activity.

  • Carnosine supplements are popular among bodybuilders and athletes, who hope to improve recovery from muscle fatigue. More recently, it has been used as an antiaging treatment. Carnosine has been called a “longevity nutrient” and the “antiaging and antioxidant dipeptide,” based on findings showing that animals with higher levels of carnosine appear to live longer.

  • Carnosine is also used to prevent or treat diabetes complications, such as nerve disorders, cataracts, and kidney dysfunction. Clinical trials have shown benefits associated with carnosine supplementation in children with autism and eye disorders, including cataracts, corneal disease, and eyeball injury. However, evidence supporting the use of carnosine for any medical condition in humans is limited.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Autism

Carnosine is thought to build up in a portion of the brain that has been linked with expression and behavior. This brain area is usually impaired in autistic individuals. Carnosine may help protect or activate this area of the brain, thus improving speech, social activity, and behavior in autistic children. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

Cataracts

Carnosine eyedrop solutions may help protect areas around the lens of the eye. Also, carnosine eyedrop solutions may help treat cataracts in the elderly. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

Exercise performance

Carnosine may improve recovery from muscle fatigue by reducing the buildup of acid in muscles following high-intensity workouts. However, overall exercise performance may still not improve. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

Eye disorders

In Russia, carnosine eyedrops have been approved to treat eye disorders. However, further research is required before a conclusion can be made.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Age-related nerve damage, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), anti-aging, antioxidant, asthma, atherosclerosis, cardiac ischemia, chelating agent (heavy metals), diabetes, diabetic complications, digestive disorders, Helicobacter pylori bacteria eradication, immune deficiency, inflammatory conditions, longevity, malignant tumors, migraine, neuropathy, sepsis, wound healing.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Carnosine is commonly sold as a supplement in 500 milligram capsules.

  • For stomach ulcers, 150 milligrams of polaprezinc, a zinc-carnosine combination, have been taken daily.

  • For cataracts, two carnosine eyedrops have been used twice daily for two years.

  • For eye disorders, carnosine eyedrops have been used to treat eye diseases and eyeball injuries.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • According to evidence that has not been confirmed, 100-200 milligrams of carnosine, taken by mouth before breakfast and lunch for several weeks, is considered to be safe for children. In children with brain disorders or injuries, 200-3,000 milligrams of carnosine daily has been used.

  • For children with autism, 800 milligrams of carnosine powder mixed with either food or drink has been used daily for eight weeks. A dose of 400 milligrams of carnosine in combination with 50 international units of vitamin E and five milligrams of zinc twice daily has also been used.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • An allergy or sensitivity to carnosine is considered unlikely.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Reports of adverse effects associated with carnosine are limited.

  • Use cautiously in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, due to a lack of safety information.

  • Use cautiously in children with autism, as carnosine may cause hyperactivity.

  • Use cautiously in individuals taking blood pressure-lowering agents, as carnosine may also cause low blood pressure.

  • Use cautiously in individuals taking agents that affect the immune system, as carnosine may affect the immune system.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Carnosine is not suggested in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Carnosine may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.

  • Carnosine may also interact with anticancer agents, anti-inflammatory agents, and agents that affect the immune system.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Carnosine may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.

  • Carnosine may also interact with anticancer herbs and supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antioxidants, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, and zinc.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Babizhayev, M. A., Deyev, A. I., Yermakova, V. N., Semiletov, Y. A., Davydova, N. G., Kurysheva, N. I., Zhukotskii, A. V., and Goldman, I. M. N-Acetylcarnosine, a natural histidine-containing dipeptide, as a potent ophthalmic drug in treatment of human cataracts. Peptides 2001;22(6):979-994. View Abstract
  2. Begum, G., Cunliffe, A., and Leveritt, M. Physiological role of carnosine in contracting muscle. Int J Sport Nutr.Exerc.Metab 2005;15(5):493-514. View Abstract
  3. Chez, M. G., Buchanan, C. P., Aimonovitch, M. C., Becker, M., Schaefer, K., Black, C., and Komen, J. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of L-carnosine supplementation in children with autistic spectrum disorders. J.Child Neurol. 2002;17(11):833-837. View Abstract
  4. Guiotto, A., Calderan, A., Ruzza, P., and Borin, G. Carnosine and carnosine-related antioxidants: a review. Curr.Med Chem. 2005;12(20):2293-2315. View Abstract
  5. Hipkiss, A. R. Carnosine, a protective, anti-ageing peptide? Int.J.Biochem.Cell Biol. 1998;30(8):863-868. View Abstract
  6. Hipkiss, A. R. Glycation, ageing and carnosine: are carnivorous diets beneficial? Mech.Ageing Dev. 2005;126(10):1034-1039. View Abstract
  7. Hipkiss, A. R. On the mechanisms of ageing suppression by dietary restriction-is persistent glycolysis the problem? Mech.Ageing Dev. 2006;127(1):8-15. View Abstract
  8. Hipkiss, A. R. Would carnosine or a carnivorous diet help suppress aging and associated pathologies? Ann.N.Y.Acad.Sci 2006;1067:369-374. View Abstract
  9. Holecek, V., Liska, J., Racek, J., and Rokyta, R. [The significance of free radicals and antioxidants due to the load induced by sport activity]. Cesk.Fysiol. 2004;53(2):76-79. View Abstract
  10. Maichuk, IuF, Formaziuk, V. E., and Sergienko, V. I. [Development of carnosine eyedrops and assessing their efficacy in corneal diseases]. Vestn.Oftalmol. 1997;113(6):27-31. View Abstract
  11. Nagai, K. and Suda, T. Realization of spontaneous healing function by carnosine. Methods Find.Exp.Clin.Pharmacol. 1988;10(8):497-507. View Abstract
  12. Reddy, V. P., Garrett, M. R., Perry, G., and Smith, M. A. Carnosine: a versatile antioxidant and antiglycating agent. Sci Aging Knowledge.Environ. 5-4-2005;2005(18):e12. View Abstract
  13. Severina, I. S., Bussygina, O. G., and Pyatakova, N. V. Carnosine as a regulator of soluble guanylate cyclase. Biochemistry (Mosc.) 2000;65(7):783-788. View Abstract
  14. Stuerenburg, H. J. The roles of carnosine in aging of skeletal muscle and in neuromuscular diseases. Biochemistry (Mosc.) 2000;65(7):862-865. View Abstract
  15. Yoshikawa, T., Naito, Y., and Kondo, M. Antioxidant therapy in digestive diseases. J Nutr.Sci Vitaminol.(Tokyo) 1993;39 Suppl:S35-S41. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.