6 Carnosine Benefits and How to Choose

Supplementing with individual proteins and amino acids is something many people associate with the body-building community, however, some unfamiliar forms offer more than just providing bulk. Not to be confused with carnitine or creatine, carnosine has a multitude of health benefits worthy of noting. Let’s take a closer look at some of top carnosine benefits and how to choose a high-quality carnosine supplement. 

What Is Carnosine?

Carnosine is a protein building block that is naturally produced in the body’s muscle cells. Made up of the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine, carnosine is classified as a “d-ipeptide.” It is found in abundance throughout the body, especially in the brain, skeletal muscles, and kidneys, where energy demands are high (1).

Younger individuals tend to have higher levels of carnosine, as the production of carnosine dwindles with age. Additionally, chronic conditions such as blood sugar irregularities and metabolic disorders may also contribute to lower than normal carnosine levels. 

With a variety of functions, carnosine is most noted for its antioxidant capabilities, protecting the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are inflammatory molecules that contribute to bodily burden and increase rates of aging, inflammation, and disease.

Outside of impeding cellular damage caused by free radical oxidation, carnosine has also been researched for its ability to promote balanced blood glucose levels, enhance muscle function/development, delay aging, enhance longevity, and boost memory, DNA, and gut health (2).

Since carnosine is synthesized inside muscle tissues, it is found in high amounts of protein-rich foods, including beef, turkey, pork, poultry, and fish. Plant-based sources include button mushrooms, soybeans, green peas, and asparagus, although they tend to be much lower in concentration (3). 

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Top 6 Benefits of Carnosine

From the brain to the gut and everything in between, carnosine has a multitude of benefits that are far too expansive to list. That is why we’ve combed through the literature and selected the top six well-researched benefits that it has to offer:


Carnosine has the ability to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are derived from internal and external factors, including environmental toxins, physical/emotional stressors, metabolic waste products, and poor dietary habits. When left uncontrolled, free radicals can wreak havoc on arterial walls, DNA, cellular energy production, and more. Carnosine helps to deactivate excessive free radicals, therefore supports the health of our cardiovascular system, genes, and ability to produce energy (4). 


Cellular glycation occurs when sugar molecules attach to proteins in the body. Since sugar is sticky, glycation can slow down the ability of our cells to function properly. Glycated proteins that become oxidized by free radicals are called Advanced Glycated Endproducts (AGEs), and actually contribute to aging and disease. By binding to free sugar groups that would otherwise bind to cellular proteins, and decreasing the levels of AGEs in the body, carnosine helps protect our organs and tissues from these highly inflammatory molecules (5). 


Mitochondria are like the “battery packs” of each cell, responsible for the production of energy to ensure cells, tissues, and organs function optimally. Studies have shown that mice fed high levels of l-carnosine showed improved mitochondrial functioning, especially in mitochondria-dense brain cells (6). Carnosine supplementation has also been shown to inhibit the cross-linking of proteins in the brain, which can contribute to various cognitive disorders, cognitive decline, and brain inflammation (7). Additional mouse studies have shown carnosine supplementation decreases glutamic acid toxicity (a molecule that puts the brain into overdrive and leads to brain cell burnout). 

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Carnosine has been shown to balance the body’s innate immune responses, helping to maintain balance against pathogens. It has also been shown to be of importance for those suffering from an overactive or underactive immune system, and also helps to decrease inflammatory molecules that would otherwise put the immune system into an (unnecessary) overdrive (8).


Carnosine bound to zinc has been shown to have incredible gut-supporting properties, especially regarding the maintenance of the gut wall. With inflammation, food intolerances, and infections, the connections between gut cells can become damaged and “leaky.” Zinc-l-carnosine was also shown to reduce the level of damage caused by certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Carnosine has also been studied for its ability to lower levels of inflammatory toxins secreted by certain pathogenic strains of bacteria (9). 


Topical application of carnosine helps speed wound recovery times. Additionally, carnosine is also beneficial for those suffering from ulcerations and wounds due to imbalanced glucose levels, having the ability to speed healing rates. For athletes, the precursor to carnosine (beta-alanine) enhances VO2 levels, and for those who consume alcohol, carnosine has been shown to bind to excess amounts of acetaldehyde ( a bi-product of alcohol metabolism), decreasing its impact on both the liver and immune cells (10). 

How to Use Carnosine

Carnosine comes in a variety of forms, including solid tablets, powdered capsules, liquids, and mixable powders.

The most common form of carnosine is “L,” the form the body can most readily utilize.

Zinc L-carnosine is a synthetic derivative of carnosine, made up of an ion of zinc and molecule of L-carnosine. Zinc L-carnosine is commonly found in gastrointestinal support products, including those for inflammatory gut conditions and dyspepsia.

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One’s individual preference will dictate what form should be chosen. However, liquids, powders, or vegetable caps are easier to digest by the body, and therefore the preferred form.

Dosaging is highly dependent on the individual, age, sex, nutritional needs, etc. In addition, one should always consult with a medical doctor prior to taking any type of supplement.

The research surrounding carnosine’s benefits mainly regard doses of 500 milligrams once per day. Studies have shown that anything above 1,000 milligrams per day may tax a specific enzyme needed to maintain sufficient carnosine levels, and therefore lead to long-term imbalances. Carnosine is best taken with food, and the dose can be split up throughout the day (11).   

Carnosine Side Effects

Carnosine is generally recognized as safe for use in the appropriate amounts by healthy adults. Rare side effects, including rash, dry mouth, changes in appetite, vivid dreams, and lethargy have been reported, and so oversight from a trained medical practitioner is always advised prior to supplementation.

Pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as young children, should avoid supplementing with carnosine. Those taking blood pressure lowering medications should also avoid use, as carnosine may decrease blood pressure. 

How to Choose a Carnosine Supplement

When choosing a carnosine supplement, be sure to choose those that are produced by reputable and trustworthy companies, and those that follow good manufacturing processes (GMP). Additionally, selecting products that are free of unnecessary ingredients, including fillers, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, etc., is also advised. 

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About the Author: Tung Chi