Although L-carnosine was discovered in Russia in 1900, it is only relatively recently that its function in the human body has been recognized. This was as a result of research in the UK, USA, Australia, Japan and Russia, and now some of its amazing properties have come to light biochemists are seeking to determine what other important parts it is playing in mammalian biology.
So what is this wonderful material known as L-carnosine? From its name it is obviously an amino acid, although in fact it is a dipeptide, a combination of two amino acids, namely L-histidine and beta-alanine. However, one of the amazing facts of these two amino acids is when they decombine from L-carnosine into themselves again, they possess properties significantly enhanced over those they possessed prior to combining to form carnosine. Although they seem identical before and after, somehow the combination to L-carnosine and then breaking down into their individual parts again appears to have imparted them with enhanced properties.
What are these properties of L-carnosine that have got the scientists so excited? In fact carnosine is believed to possess a large number of properties due to it being able to change itself into a number of compounds that each has an effect on a number of our biological functions.
Details of some of these will be discussed later, but among them are the ability to detoxify the body of harmful metal compounds, fight allergies, increase the flow of blood to the brain, protect cell membranes from the effect of free radicals, and it also possesses strong antioxidant properties. There is more, in fact too many to discuss in an article as short as this. However, let’s first discuss its effect on glycation.
What is glycation? Also known as glycosylation, glycation is the binding of glucose and a protein molecule, resulting in the protein structure being changed, and its biological activity being reduced, or destroyed altogether. It can lead to several age-related diseases and conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, cataracts and a reduction in neurological activity. Known also as the Maillard reaction, this is a major cause of aging and it is believed that it could also contribute to cancer.
Diabetics are particularly prone to glycation, and the final products of this combination of glucose and proteins are referred to as an advanced glycation end products, appropriately referred to by the acronym AGEs. These AGEs can crosslink with neighboring proteins to form a tough mass of tissue. Any body organ depending upon flexible tissue for its proper function will hence be affected, and when combined with a side effect of glycation being a massive increase in free radical activity, arteries, some nerves, the kidneys and parts of the eyes come under particular attack.
This results in corneal problems, renal degradation, inflammation and problems with the arteries, many of which are life-threatening and can cause premature aging. The use of glycation inhibitors can significantly reduce or even prevent many of the effects that aging can cause. The chemical structure of L-carnosine is very similar to that of the proteins attacked by glycating agents, and can be used to inhibit the glycation effect.
Another thing that carnosine can do is to tag affected proteins for proteolysis, or their rapid removal from the cells they can affect. By using a supplement of L-carnosine, not only do the carnosine molecules attract those glucose molecules that would otherwise attach to proteins, but also help to remove such affected proteins from body cells before they can do damage by cross linking with other proteins. This tagging process is known as carnosinylation.
Because of these properties, carnosine can be used to treat several complications of diabetes, such as arteriosclerosis, cataracts and kidney disease and can also be used by normally healthy people to delay some the effects of aging, because AGEs is responsible for some of the effects of normal aging, not only in diabetics.
A significant property of the amino acid is its maintenance of the integrity of DNA structure. DNA suffers progressive oxidative degradation with age, the effect cumulating over time. Using carnosine as a supplement can help to reduce this effect. Not only does it prevent the cross-link age of DNA and proteins, but also possesses strong antioxidant properties that can destroy even the most powerful free radicals such as the so-called superoxide, peroxides and the hydroxyl radical.
L-Carnosine also has a rejuvenation effect on connective tissue, and is of particular use in the healing of wounds. Not only that, but as cells reach the end of their ability to divide, known as senescence, carnosine can help to extend their life and restore their normal appearance. It also helps prevent the cross-linking of skin collagen, and helped the skin to retain its elasticity with less likelihood of wrinkling.
Alzheimer’s sufferers possess abnormal quantities of beta-amyloid in their brains, and carnosine appears to protect the brain from cell damage and plaques formed by this substance. That is not to suggest that the amino acid can be used to cure Alzheimer’s, or even treat it, but it does suggest that a supplement can go some way towards preventing or slowing down its occurrence.
Among other claims made for this amazing substance is anti-cancer properties, protection against cellular damage from radiation and that it may be of use in treating autistic children. However more research is required in these potential applications before any significant claims can be justified.
All in all, it is its anti-aging properties of L-carnosine that render it such an attractive supplement to most people. Not only can it help existing conditions and make it less liable for diabetics to suffer certain premature aging effects, but it can delay the effects of aging in otherwise healthy people. This is as a result of its strong antioxidant effect, its inhibiting effect on glycation and its protection of DNA.
L-Carnosine is without a doubt one of the more attractive of the amino acid supplements available today, as would be expected of any substance claiming to possess any of the properties of the Holy Grail of perpetual youth. L-Carnosine is available in supplement form at your local or internet health food store.