Carnitine and hemodialysis

Author

Bellinghieri G

Date

3/2003

Journal

Am J Kidney Dis

Abstract

Carnitine, gamma-trimethyl-beta-hydroxybutyrobetaine, is a small molecule widely present in all cells from prokaryotic to eukaryotic. It is an important element in the beta-oxidation of fatty acids. A lack of carnitine in hemodialysis patients is caused by insufficient carnitine synthesis and particularly by the loss through dialytic membranes, leading in some patients to carnitine depletion with a relative increase of esterified forms. The authors found a decrease in plasma-triglyceride and increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-Chol) in dialysis patients during carnitine treatment. Many studies have shown that L-carnitine supplementation leads to improvements in several complications seen in uremic patients, including cardiac complications, impaired exercise and functional capacities, muscle symptoms, increased symptomatic intradialytic hypotension, and erythropoietin-resistant anemia, normalizing the reduced carnitine palmitoyl transferase activity in red cells. In addition, carnitine supplementation may improve protein metabolism and insulin resistance. Recently, carnitine supplementation has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration not only for the treatment, but also for the prevention of carnitine depletion in dialysis patients. Regular carnitine supplementation in hemodialysis patients can improve their lipid metabolism, protein nutrition, antioxidant status, and anemia requiring large doses of erythropoietin, It also may reduce the incidence of intradialytic muscle cramps, hypotension, asthenia, muscle weakness, and cardiomyopathy.