Acetyl-L-Carnitine, or ALCAR for short, is a supplement that is making its way into many peoples daily regimen. Acetyl-L-Carnitine lacks many human studies conducted on healthy adults, but reports on mice are so compelling that it warrants further research on humans. Current research indicates that Acetyl-L-Carnitine has many positive effects on the brain in terms of increasing cognitive functioning, memory recall, and enhancing individuals learning capability.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Adenosine TriPhosphate
Acetyl-L-Carnitine may play a role in Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP). First, though, what is ATP?
"Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is considered by biologists to be the energy currency of life. It is the high-energy molecule that stores the energy we need to do just about everything we do. It is present in the cytoplasm and nucleoplasm of every cell, and essentially all the physiological mechanisms that require energy for operation obtain it directly from the stored ATP." 
Acetyl-L-Carnitine gets studied frequently for its role in Alzheimer's research. ATP depletion plays a major role in neurological deterioration seen in patients suffering from Alzheimer's. A study conducted by the Center for Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research at the University of Massachusetts Lowell showed that "ALCAR prevented ATP depletion; therefore, ALCAR may mediate its protective effect by buffering oxidative stress and maintaining ATP levels." 
Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Fat Loss
Acetyl-L-Carnitine has long been theorized to aid in fat loss through its ability to increase fatty acid metabolism in the mitochondria.
"There is extensive research on carnitine, as seen in the following research overview. The focus is on athletic performance and enhanced endurance; increased fat metabolism; lowering of cholesterol and triglyceride levels; and heart protection. Because carnitine facilitates fatty acid transport into the mitochondria for oxidation, researchers initially theorized that it is possible that elevated carnitine levels would permit a greater/faster transport of fat leading to increased fat oxidation, which may impact weight loss and/or endurance performance." 
Research is not conclusive on its ability to aid in fat loss. More research is needed to discover ALCAR's true capabilities when it comes to aiding in fat loss.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Brain Functioning
A lot of users consumer Acetyl-L-Carnitine based on it's potential to increase brain functioning. Studies show that ALCAR can aid on this, but few if any studies are constructed on healthy, active adults. Most are on the already brain impaired or on older individuals who already may have intellect deterioration. Regardless, there is current research that shows Acetyl-L-Carnitine's ability to help with memory functioning and constructional thinking:
"Each subject was treated over 150 days, and a battery of tests (investigating cognitive functioning, emotional-affective state and relational behavior) was administered at the beginning on the treatment and the conclusion of each of its four phases. In the first and the last phases there was a 30 days placebo treatment (aimed respectively to wash-out the effects of previous drug and to assess the residual effects of the treatment), while in the second and the third ones (both 45 days long) the subjects took 1500 mg/day of Acetyl-L-carnitine. Repeated multivariate analysis of variance and of covariance (taking as independent variables phases of treatment, age, gender, etiology and severity of mental impairment, as dependent variables the scores either of each test administered or of groups of items and as covariants the level of depression and the sensitivity to placebo effect) showed that drug treatment significantly increased the effectiveness of performance on all the measures of cognitive functioning and of emotional-affective state and on some scores of the relational behavior." 
What does this mean for the future of ALCAR? Well, it clearly shows its ability to increase the effectiveness of:
- Cognitive functioning
- Emotional state
- Rational behavior
Another study was conducted on individuals with mild mental impairment:
"In the present controlled double-blind study the authors followed two randomized homogeneous groups of both sexes of 30 patients each, aged over 65 years and suffering from mild mental impairment. One group of patients underwent therapy with acetyl-L-carnitine, 2 g/day for three months, while the other group was treated with a placebo. The statistical evaluation of the results was carried-out using non-parametric methods (Friedman-Nemenyi two-way ANOVA). It was possible to affirm that the acetyl-L-carnitine treated patients showed statistically significant improvement in the behavioural scales, in the memory tests, in the attention barrage test and in the Verbal Fluency test." 
Overall, these two studies clearly show ALCAR has the capability to aid in items such as cognitive functioning/reasoning, memory, and oral articulacy.
There is an unpublished study that shows how ALCAR affects healthy college students.
"This research examined the effects of acetyl-l-carnitne(ALCAR)on memory and cognition. Forty college age students were randomly assigned into a Solomon four-group design. Groups recieved either ALCAR 500mg or placebo for a two-week treatment period. Testing was facilitated by computer software program. Results found that the treatment group outperformed the controls on 83% of the dependent measures." 
Acetyl-L-Carnitine as an Anti-Depressant
It's clear now that ALCAR has a host of positive nootropic effects. Acetyl-L-Carnitine may also aid in quality of life. In a study that was conducted in regards to individuals suffering from dysthymic disorders (depression as an example), one group was given a placebo, and another 3g of Acetyl-L-Carnitine daily.
The Acetyl-L-Carnitine group showed:
"that treatment with acetyl-L-carnitine induced a significant reduction, as compared to the placebo (p less than 0.002), in the severity of depressive symptoms and also a significant improvement (p less than 0.0027) in the items measuring the quality of life." 
The idea of being able to increase our cognitive abilities may be quickly approaching. With supplements such as Acetyl-L-Carnitine and the potential for future research, we may find ourselves in an era where people can get a leg up in the classroom or at work via supplementation. In conclusion, Acetyl-L-Carnitine MAY aid in:
- Cognitive functioning
- Learning capabilities
- Prevent ATP depletion
- Rational behavior
- Memory recall
- Verbal fluency
- Quality of life
Author's Note: This information is intended to supplement your knowledge, not to replace advice from your health care provider. Interactions between your current medications and the above topic are not noted, therefore never use supplements without approval from your health care provider.