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Carnosine Protects Against Cardiovascular Disease

Carnosine’s multi-targeted effects are most prominent in the heart and blood vessels. Carnosine has been shown to decrease mortality from strokes as well as mitigate the damaging effects of stroke on the brain itself. Studies in experimental animals show that carnosine, administered before or after a stroke is induced, protects brain cells from the so-called ischemia-reperfusion injury that occurs when tissue is first deprived of oxygen and is then subjected to high oxygen levels when blood flow is restored. That results in marked reduction in signs of oxidant damage to brain cells, and to a real and significant reduction in the size of the stroke area in the brain.

Carnosine also protects heart muscle from ischemia (lack of blood flow), which can ultimately produce a heart attack. This protection derives from carnosine’s antioxidant actions, combined with its ability to trap oxidation-inducing transition metals, its acid-buffering capacity, and acetyl l carnosine influence on inflammatory cell activity. In fact, carnosine has been added to solutions used to protect heart muscle during open-heart surgery, when the heart is intentionally stopped, and there is high risk for ischemic damage.

Carnosine’s actions on blood vessels may even prevent ischemia from occurring in the first place. N-acetyl carnosine protects artery-lining endothelial cells from oxidation and glycation, both of which are early events in development of atherosclerosis. Studies show that carnosine powder prevents formation of dangerous “foam cells,” fat-laden scavenger cells that trigger the inflammatory response that produces deadly arterial plaque.

Excessive muscle tone in arteries raises blood pressure and reduces blood flow to heart muscle and brain cells; carnosine reduces arterial tone by multiple mechanisms. It modulates calcium ion signaling in the smooth muscle cells that control vascular tone and enhances production of beneficial endothelial nitric oxide synthetase (eNOS) that induces arteries to relax.

Given carnosine’s beneficial impact on skeletal muscle and exercise performance, it is hardly surprising to learn that carnosine also enhances heart muscle contractility. This is again a multifactorial effect, produced in part by carnosine’s ability to control calcium flow, and partly by its antioxidant, acid buffering, and anti-glycation activities.

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