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Carnosine, or L-carnosine, is an amino acid made naturally in the body, which was discovered more than 100 years ago. It is thought to be a powerful anti-aging supplement, with benefits that researchers have only recently begun to explore.

Carnosine helps protect the body from glycation, one of the two main processes that cause symptoms associated with the breakdown, or aging of the body. Recent studies have indicated that glycation works together with oxidation to create free radicals, the destructive oxygen atoms that damage other healthy cells in the body. While oxidation is a result of oxygen use in the body, glycation is driven by the body’s use of sugar.

The glycation process attacks the proteins in the body and converts them into Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). As AGEs accumulate throughout the body, they generate more compounded free radicals that break down tissues in the body, resulting in damage to the skin, eyes, nervous and circulatory system, and vital organs. The result is the wrinkled skin, mental decline, and other complications often associated with aging.

Although nothing has thus far been shown to reverse the damage done by glycation, L-carnosine has been shown to slow the glycation process in laboratory rats. In one study, carnosine was found to improve the rats’ lifespan, brain function, and physical appearance. It is not certain if these results can be achieved in humans taking carnosine supplements, but initial laboratory studies have shown that carnosine can extend the life of human cells.

Some “life extensionists,” or people who seek to prolong life through holistic health treatments, point out that, while antioxidants protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals, they are not equally effective in protecting proteins from the damage caused by sugar-related glycation. They advocate the use of carnosine supplements along with antioxidants for anyone seeking to fight the damage caused by aging.

Carnosine supplements also combat cellular damage by helping the body rid itself of toxic metals, a process known as chelation. Excessive levels of pro-oxidative metals, such as copper and zinc, and toxic heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and nickel, have been linked to a host of illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, dementia, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Supplementing with carnosine may help protect against these disorders, because it helps keep these substances from accumulating in your system.

Carnosine oral supplementation is a relatively new, and there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for this substance. The normal dose for anti-aging benefits is 100 to 200 milligrams each day. Such dosages have failed to produce any report of serious side effects or contraindications to date. There have been some reports of disturbing muscle twitching with dosages of over 1 gram per day.

Do not confuse L-carnosine with L-carnitine, a supplement used to protect the heart and help stabilize blood sugar. These supplements are in no way related and serve entirely different purposes in the body.

L-carnosine is also available in topical forms. Regular use of carnosine skin creams and tonics may help prevent and treat the appearance of tough, leathery skin and improve overall skin condition, as well as to help prevent signs of skin aging.

Another form of carnosine called n-acetylcarnosine is available in eye drops. This form of carnosine is not for oral use as it is not absorbed through the stomach, but it has demonstrated some remarkable effects on patients with cataracts, a condition caused by the free-radical damage to the eye lens. In some cases, the cataracts went away completely, and these results were maintained with regular use of the drops.

Carnosine has been hailed as the next super-antioxidant. Although research concerning carnosine supplementation is preliminary, early results are promising. Those that wish to add a potentially powerful weapon to their anti-aging arsenal have little to lose—no toxic effects have been reported, and the supplements are relatively inexpensive.

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