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Carnitine Supplement for Kids with Heart Defects

A recent laboratory study suggests that a common health supplement called carnitine may help improve the survival of children born with heart defects. Dr. Stephen M. Black, cell and molecular physiologist at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University reports that carnitine may play a role in normalizing blood vessel dysfunction associated with in-born heart defects.

Studies show that about one in 125 babies is born with a heart defect annually in the United States. Half of these babies suffer from a complication related to the increase in pressure in the pulmonary blood vessels, which may persist even after early corrective surgery for the heart defect. The new study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, suggests that carnitine speeds recovery and can prevents the damage, as shown in a lamb model of human heart defects.

The new study used lamb models, whose four chambered hearts are similar to humans, and which were developed to simulate heart defects, by study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Fineman, a whole-animal physiologist and physician at the University of California, San Francisco. The scientists found that even without repairing the heart defect, high daily doses of carnitine given in the first four weeks of life can prevent dysfunction of the blood vessel lining.

Carnitine is a compound that helps transport fat inside the mitochondria or powerhouse in cells where it can be used for producing energy and is currently used as a supplement to promote weight loss and to reduce chest pain. Black believes that the new findings may have a major impact on the survival of babies born with congenital heart disease.

The scientists are now pursuing additional funding to learn more about the optimal dosage and timing for giving carnitine in future clinical trials.


Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. Carnitine supplement may improve survival rates of children with heart defects. ScienceDaily.


Posted in: Kid's Health, News Briefs

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