7 L-Carnitine Benefits: Combat Statins’ Muscle Pain and Much More

Over 10% of those taking statins to lower their LDL cholesterol experience muscle pain.

Statins lower cholesterol by blocking the enzyme known as HMGR.

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For people on statins, muscle pain is not an uncommon side effect. Over 10% of those taking statins to lower their LDL cholesterol experience muscle pain, and according to one study a large percentage of those experiencing pain experience actual skeletal muscle damage[1]. Many of them have heard about and tried CoQ10 supplements to combat statins’ muscle pain side effects. For some, CoQ10 supplementation brings significant relief, and they can continue on their statin at the same dose. For others on statins, muscle pain improves slightly on CoQ10, but not enough. And others, unfortunately, get no benefit at all.

Statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor) or rosuvastatin (Crestor) lower cholesterol by blocking the enzyme known as HMGR  which is responsible for cholesterol production in the liver. However, in blocking HMGR, statins also inhibit the production of other important compounds, including coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells, and statins are known to deplete CoQ10 levels. Many patients experience muscle pain side effects from insufficient CoQ10 production.

Study shows L-carnitine benefits patients with gene defect  

A paper published in Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy and reported by Medscape suggests that another natural compound besides CoQ10 may be depleted in those experiencing statins’ muscle pain side effects: L-carnitine. Benefits from the supplement were studied by a group of researchers; they tested samples of blood and muscle from 132 patients experiencing statins’ muscle pain side effects.

Patients experiencing muscle pains on statins were 11-times more likely to have inherited a defective gene that makes them deficient in a carnitine-containing enzyme. This enzyme, known as carnitine palmitoyltransferase-2, uses carnitine to help the mitochondria inside muscle cells produce energy. People with this inherited enzyme deficiency require extra carnitine to help with energy metabolism inside muscle cells.

Combination of CoQ10 and L-carnitine benefits statin users

The researchers also found that 31% of muscle biopsies evaluated had carnitine “abnormalities.” Furthermore, almost 50% of the analyzed samples had CoQ10 levels that were significantly below normal. The researchers suggested that for those on statins, muscle pain may be in part due to the genetic abnormalities in carnitine enzymes; therefore, supplementing with l-carnitine and CoQ10 and may be a “rational approach” to treating certain muscle symptoms associated with statins, muscle pain being the primary side effect.

What are other L-carnitine benefits?

Aside from the promising research for statin users, L-carnitine benefits a wide range of health conditions including fatigue, diabetic neuropathy, memory impairment, male infertility, and heart disease. In particular, research suggests people with heart attack risk factors (such as high cholesterol) should consider taking supplemental l-carnitine. Benefits for heart patients include: decreasing angina (chest pain), reducing symptoms of heart failure, and improving exercise capacity for people with heart conditions.[2]

What to do for side effects from statins, muscle pain especially

So far, there are no randomized controlled trials evaluating L-carnitine supplementation for statins’ muscle pain side effects. But given the researchers’ findings and the safety of natural L-carnitine supplements, there’s no reason not to try this approach. The typical dose is 500-1000 mg L-carnitine two to three times a day. Acetyl-L-carnitine is the most easily absorbed and utilized form. Take this with at least 200 mg of CoQ10 for at least six weeks before making any conclusions regarding its success. Of course, by discontinuing your statins, muscle pain may be a thing of the past. Ditching your statin may be an appropriate option for some, as long as you make sure you are controlling your cholesterol and lowering your cardiovascular risk by using the appropriate natural therapies. Find out more about natural cholesterol-lowering remedies here.


Originally published in 2013.

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  • I am confused because everything I have read about cholesterol food only affects it in a small amount both my brothers in law are on lipitor genetically high cholesterol and even though I hate lipitor it has bought their cholesterol down they both had healthy diets – confused??

  • Thank you, Kathleen. I didn’t know that about l-carnitine. I’ll have to give it a try.

    I used to walk five miles non-stop several times a week, no problem. Then my doctor put me on statins (never mentioning Co-Q10), and by the end of two years I was barely able to walk a quarter of a mile without developing debilitating muscle pain in the calf of my left leg, and then eventually numbness in my left foot at well.

    Thankfully my brother happens to be a registered nurse, and he enlightened me about the dangers of statins. So I stopped taking them and started taking Co-Q10 two years ago, and I have now recovered to the point where I can once again walk two miles non-stop twice a week without too much pain. Unfortunately, I’ve been stalled at two or three miles max twice a week for over a year now, with no further improvement.

    Needless to say, I have have fired the doctor who prescribed the health-destroying statins in the first place. I’ve also found that, now that (thanks to what I’ve learned on this site and others like it–but not, of course, from my doctor) I’ve switched to eating a really healthy all-natural-foods diet with absolutely no processed foods–including plenty of healthy fats and eggs from free range hens, and absolutely no processed vegetable oils–I no longer have any cardiovascular disease “risk factors” left to worry about. Taking absolutely no medications (a.k.a. Big Pharma poisons) at all anymore, my resting blood pressure has even dropped to 110/60, with a pulse of 65. But I’m concerned that at least some of the damage that was done to the muscles in my leg by the statins may be irreversible.

    Now I’ll add l-carnitine to my recovery program, and I’ll revisit this page in a couple of months for a follow-up comment to let you know if it seems to be helping.

  • Following up on my comment last April, I have tried l-carnitine for several months now and added Ginkgo Biloba to it, with no apparent benefit. But there has been a new development. I recently had an initial appointment with a holistic dentist who took a thorough set of x-rays and said, “You had better get that root canalled tooth pulled before you have a heart attack.” At that point he knew nothing at all about my health history, which includes three heart attacks so far in spite of my having none of the conventionally-recognized “risk factors.”

    Doing some extensive online research I found that it was Weston A. Price who first discovered and thoroughly documented the causal relationship between root canals and heart attacks. More recently, Hal Huggins continued and confirmed Price’s research.

    I have also learned that the symptoms in my legs are typical of what is called intermittent claudication, which is caused by peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Although I’ve not yet found any online confirmation of this, I’m guessing that the etiology of PVD is closely related to the etiology of the kind of coronary artery disease that caused my heart attacks, both stemming from years of the toxins oozing out of my chronically infected dead tooth. I am now scheduled to have that tooth pulled, and will come back this page again in a few months to keep you all posted on whether that seems to be finally making a difference.

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