An amino acid may hold the key to treating and preventing a wide range of brain problems including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Its secret is a unique ability to energize brain cells. The effect is similar to what happens when you add an octane-boosting additive to your car’s gas tank– an additive that supercharges the power your engine gets from its fuel.

That’s what this amino acid – acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) – does for the cells in your brain and other parts of the body. In fact, the latest research shows that ALC can sharpen your thinking even if you already suffer with Alzheimer’s disease.

And we’re going to give ourselves a pat on the back: This publication was telling readers this important fact years ago.

Your body makes acetyl-L-carnitine from L-carnitine to turn fat into energy. Specifically, ALC shuffles fatty acids in cells across the membranes of the mitochondria – the energy-producing organelles in each cell – for use in cellular energy production.

Because ALC is so crucial for energy production, researchers believe that high levels can keep neurons in the brain firing on all cylinders and allow them to communicate with each other more rapidly.1

Sharper, Dementia-Free Brains Get More ALC 

A study in Italy looked at people’s ALC levels and found they were lower in those who were suffering from memory problems.

In this study, researchers measured ALC in people whose brains were functioning normally, in others who were suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI – a condition that can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease) and in people who were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.2

Their investigation led the Italian researchers to conclude that the very lowest levels of ALC in people with MCI means they’re at the highest risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Supports Growth of New Brain Cells 

ALC also helps to keep neurons’ membranes intact by lowering the threat of oxidative damage.3 In addition, ALC protects the synapses between neurons – where signals are exchanged. These synapses are “packed” with mitochondria.4

For example, a study in the Middle East shows that ALC can increase the regeneration of new neurons and other nervous system tissues by promoting the health of stem cells.5

Another study indicates that when the body tries to regenerate damaged neurons in the brain, stem cells are often injured and die off at the same time, limiting the body’s regenerative abilities. This die off occurs when stem cells are done in by extreme stress to their mitochondria.

As mitochondria are cut off from what they need to produce energy (which can happen during a stroke or traumatic injury), they may start the process called apoptosis – pre-programmed cellular self-destruction. But, the researchers say, ALC can help the stem cells survive by keeping their mitochondria from pressing their self-destruct buttons.6

Improved Brain Function in Alzheimer’s Patients by 30 Percent 

In a remarkable clinical study out of the University of Massachusetts, researchers found that ALC supplements can help slow the mental decline of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that by giving folks with Alzheimer’s disease ALC together with folate, vitamin B12, alpha-tocopherol, S-adenosyl methionine and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) they improved their brain function by 30 percent and slowed the worsening of their cognitive abilities.7

One reason, researchers say, is the fact that ALC helps refuel cellular mitochondria and makes it a crucial nutrient for the brain to work properly. Another promising study, this one in Australia, showed that ALC might also be a useful part of a program for treating chronic fatigue.8 In that research, ALC was beneficial when combined with CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, and B Vitamins.

Please note that each of the supplements we just mentioned is readily available online, and we’ve recommended them in this newsletter.

Meanwhile, at Stanford, researchers found ALC can help people with depression. Their study found that people suffering with depression have low levels of ALC. In fact, those patients who were the most depressed had the lowest levels.9

Supplementing with ALC

If you’re taking blood thinners or certain antibiotics, or if you suffer from bipolar disorder or seizures, ALC can interact with these medications and conditions so talk to your healthcare provider before supplementing.10 But, in general, ALC appears to be safe and healthy for just about everyone. I find ALC very energizing and I have to cut back on it from time to time.