Carnosine: Overview

Alternative names: Beta-alanyl-L-histidine.

Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) is a multifunctional dipeptide made up of a chemical combination of the amino acids beta-alanine and l-histidine.  Long-lived cells such as nerve cells and muscle cells contain high levels of carnosine.  Muscle levels of carnosine correlate with the maximum life spans of animal species and carnosine levels decline with age.

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There are thought to be many mechanisms responsible for aging.  Carnosine's life extension potential places it on a par with CoQ10 as a cornerstone of longevity nutrition.

Now that many are cutting down on meat – the main dietary source of carnosine – supplementation, when indicated, may be more important.


Carnosine has the remarkable ability to rejuvenate cells approaching senescence (the end of the life cycle of dividing cells), restoring normal appearance and extending cellular life span.

L-Carnosine is the most effective anti-carbonylation agent yet discovered.  Carnosine helps to prevent skin collagen cross-linking which leads to loss of elasticity and wrinkles.

Carnosine's ability to rejuvenate connective tissue cells may explain its beneficial effects on wound healing.  In addition, skin aging is bound up with protein modification.  Damaged proteins accumulate and cross-link in the skin, causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity.  In the lens of the eye, protein cross-linking is part of cataract formation.

As an antioxidant, carnosine potently quenches that most destructive of free radicals, the hydroxyl, as well as superoxide, singlet oxygen and the peroxyl radical.  Surprisingly, carnosine was found to be the only antioxidant to significantly protect chromosomes from oxidative damage due to 90% oxygen exposure.

It also acts as a regulator of zinc and copper concentrations in nerve cells, helping to prevent overstimulation by these neuroactive minerals.  Carnosine helps to chelate ionic metals (flush toxins from the body).

The enzyme carnosinase must be saturated with more carnosine than it is able to neutralize in order to make free carnosine available to the rest of the body.


Carnosine is safe, with no toxicity even at dosages above 500mg per kg of body weight in animal studies.

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Carnosine can help with the following:


Eyes / Ocular


N-Acetyl-Carnosine (NAC) eye drops have been shown to delay vision senescence in humans, being effective in 100% of cases of primary senile cataract and 80% of cases of mature senile cataract. [Biochemistry (Moscow). 2000; 65(7): pp.869-71]

These are remarkable results considering that the best that could normally be expected would be a slight improvement, a halt to the progression and under normal circumstances a worsening of the disease.  Importantly, it was also noted that there were no side-effects noted in any of the cases.

CAUTION: It is only N-acetylcarnosine that has been clinically proven as suitable for eye use.  Other forms of carnosine, such as L-carnosine should not be used topically in the eye.  L-Carnosine releases the toxic compound, histamine, which can severely promote oxidation reactions.  NAC appears to penetrate through the cornea more gradually, thus maintaining a longer active therapeutic concentration of L-Carnosine in the aqueous humor and the lens of the treated eye.

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