Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is an amino acid that is made by the body, but it is also often taken as a supplement. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is often noted as having an influence on levels of acetylcholine and serotonin levels in the brain. It has also shown to have an effect on NGF (neural growth factor) and brain energy metabolism. Due to these pharmacological properties, Acetyl-L-carnitine is known as a nootropic supplement. While Acetyl-L-Carnitine may not have as pronounced effects as some other nootropics, it still may provide a wide array of health benefits. Its primary benefit may be cognitive support, but it has also been shown to have antioxidant properties. Users and studies have reported benefits in the following areas:

  • May improve mental performance
  • May support general cognition
  • May support general mood
  • May support overall brain health


One method of action for ALCAR’s nootropic activity is that it acts as a cholinergic. Cholinergics are noted to have an influence on acetylcholine levels in the brain. Most cholinergics cause increases in acetylcholine levels by increasing the levels of choline in the brain. However, ALCAR directly increases the synthesis of acetylcholine (the metabolite of choline) in the brain. It does this by lending its acetyl group to the compound acetylcholine transferase (AcHT). Acetylcholine transferase is the primary enzyme responsible for the transfer of one enzyme group to another in the synthesis of acetylcholine.
ALCAR’s effect on acetylcholine levels could potentially benefit cognition and overall mental performance during cognitively demanding tasks. This is mostly in part because acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter utilized by neurons to communicate. As the neurotransmitter becomes more bioavailable, neurons may be able to communicate more efficiently. However, ALCAR may also assist with cognition and mental performance through other mechanisms as well. Studies have shown that it also alters brain energy metabolism and noradrenaline. This may cause increased energy levels, while also increasing blood flow to the brain.
Studies have shown that ALCAR may be beneficial to overall brain health. This is mostly due to its effects on neural growth factor (NGF), which is an amino acid that assists with the development and maintenance of neurons and synapses. Increased levels of NGF caused by ALCAR may help to maintain the integrity of pre-existing neurons. However, this may also help the brain in the development of pre and postsynaptic connections during learning. Studies have shown this to benefit memory retention and may also be beneficial to age-related cognitive decline. ALCAR has also been shown to have an improvement in brain health through its interaction with excitatory compounds. These compounds often cause over-stimulation of neurons, which in turn causes cellular death. ALCAR has been shown to affect the metabolization of these compounds, thus reducing neuronal death from over-stimulation.
ALCAR has also been shown to increase antioxidant levels in the body. It does so by causing an increase in antioxidant synthesis by cells. This may be beneficial to both brain health and general wellness as antioxidants remove free radicals (unstable atoms) that can damage cells. Aside from its effect on cognition and brain health, it’s also been shown to affect mood. It primarily does this through increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter noted for causing feelings of well-being and happiness. Increased levels of serotonin may lead to an improvement in mood.



While ALCAR has been shown to have no acute toxicity in normal dose ranges, some users have reported mild side effects such as nausea and stomach discomfort.


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