Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year or long of unprotected sex. Both men and women can experience problems with infertility. According to the CDC, about 6% of married women in the United States are unable to get pregnant and 12% of American women are unable to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term regardless of the marital status. Infertility isn’t only a woman’s problem, in 35% of couples with infertility a male factor is identified together with female’s and in 8% of couples who struggle to conceive male factor is the only identifiable cause. There are many ways to improve your fertility and in this post, we’re going to focus on acetyl-l-carnitine and its benefits.
Can Acetyl-L-Carnitine Help with Infertility?
What is Acetyl-L-Carnitine?
Acetyl-l-carnitine is made from l-carnitine, an amino acid naturally produced in the body. Interestingly, acetyl-l-carnitine can also be converted to l-carnitine. The amino acid helps the body produce energy. Despite the fact that l-carnitine is an amino acid it doesn’t make proteins, unlike its counter parts.
Benefits of acetyl-l-carnitine are numerous; it is used for various diseases affecting brain health such as Alzheimer’s disease, late-life depression, age-related memory loss, thinking problems related alcoholism, impaired liver function, Lyme disease and others. Acetyl-l-carnitine is also used for tiredness associated with the aging process. Men use acetyl-l-carnitine to address symptoms of “male menopause” which occurs when levels of testosterone start decreasing. Acetyl-l-carnitine is available in the form of supplements, but l-carnitine is also found in some foods such as meat, fish and poultry. Benefits of acetyl-l-carnitine also extend to improve fertility.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine & Male Infertility
The male reproductive tract has a high concentration of carnitine, particularly in the epididymis (the tube that connects the testicles to a vas deferens), thus suggesting that this amino acid is vital for energy metabolism and the maturation of spermatozoa.
Thanks to its presence in a male reproductive tract and its impact on sperm, a growing body of evidence confirms that acetyl-l-carnitine exhibits positive effects on male fertility. One study found that administration of carnitine to the testicular sperm samples can lead to improve both sperm motility and chromatin quality.
Basically, this means that carnitine can improve a man’s infertility by exhibiting positive effects on their sperm. In order to fertilize an egg, sperm needs to be mobile and swim to a woman’s egg. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for men to have slow sperm. When sperm doesn’t swim fast, fertilization of an egg becomes highly unlikely. A woman doesn’t get pregnant and while couples keep trying, the entire process becomes incredibly stressful.
Intake carnitine supplement spurs those slow sperm back into proper motion. If you thought benefits of this amino acid on sperm motility were an act of coincidence, then it’s important to mention that in an Italian study supplements improved movement of sperm while placebo didn’t.
That said, the extent of carnitine benefits varied depending on the men’s condition. Mitochondria, structures that create energy in the cell, could explain why carnitine has different extent of benefits in subjects. In some participants, mitochondria weren’t functioning properly. Despite the improvement in sperm motility with carnitine use, their results didn’t match this with normal mitochondria.
Not only does carnitine improve sperm motility, but it also improves a man’s erection. For example, a study from the journal Urology found that a combination of acetyl-l-carnitine and propionyl-l-carnitine improve the efficacy of sildenafil in a safe and reliable manner. let’s not forget that carnitine boosts energy levels and improves sexual stamina both of which play a role in sexual performance. Combined with faster sperm, optimal performance between the sheets will increase the odds of egg fertilization. Why? Without sexual stamina and energy, your libido would decrease meaning you would be reluctant to have sex. In addition, carnitine is an antioxidant that improves sperm health by protecting the body from free radical damage. This is particularly important if we bear in mind that sperm cells are sensitive and highly susceptible to damage caused by free radicals.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine & Female Fertility
Men are more like to use l-carnitine supplements and reality is that studies focus on the impact of this amino acid on male reproductive healthy primarily. That being said, carnitine can play a role in female fertility as well. January 2018 issue of journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology published a study whose main objective was to inspect the role of l-carnitine and acetyl-l-carnitine on female fertility individually and in combination with each other. Results show that both l-carnitine and acetyl-l-carnitine have their applications in improving fertility in women. However, the latter is more powerful and preferred option due to its better antioxidant properties. Scientists concluded carnitine can be used as a treatment for women who are dealing with fertility struggles.
Hormonal imbalance is the primary cause of infertility in women. Studies show that a subset of women seeking hormone balance has lower levels of l-carnitine and that decrease strongly correlated to alterations in insulin and sex hormones. Additionally, scientists from Egypt assessed the efficacy of carnitine on the occurrence of ovulation and pregnancy in women with PCOS seeking healthy fertility. Participants were assigned randomly to one of two groups where group A received 250mg of conventional agent developed for ovulation from third to the seventh day of menstrual cycle together with 3g carnitine a day. Group B received 250mg of the same conventional agent combined with placebo.
Results, published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, revealed that a combination of conventional treatment for ovulation and carnitine led to a major improvement in ovulation and cumulative pregnancy rates. In fact, 64.4% of women in group A experienced ovulation improvement and 51.5% conceived. On the other hand, ovulation and pregnancy rates in group B were 17.4% and 5.8% respectively.
Both men and women can struggle with fertility and it can cause a major strain on a relationship, especially when a couple tries to conceive for a long time. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve fertility and intake of carnitine, supplements along with carnitine-rich foods is a great way to start. Not only does carnitine improve male fertility, but women’s too. Bare in the mind that carnitine intake isn’t a substitution to doctor-recommended treatment, just a complementary approach.