Chemical bodybuilders do all sorts of things to their body that make doctors shudder, but most of them are a picture of health. This may be not just because weight training is healthy, but also because of the supplements bodybuilders take. Studies have shown that creatine, glucosamine and BCAAs extend life expectancy.
And, according to British and Russian scientists, the same is true for carnosine.
In 2000 the researchers published the result of an animal study they had done in Biochemistry. They had given short-lived SAMP 1 mice supplements in their drinking water throughout their lives. One group was given a mixture of beta-alanine [structural formula above on the right] and histidine, and the other group got carnosine [structural formula below on the right]. The mice were given 100 mg/kg bodyweight of the mixture or of the carnosine.
Carnosine is a dipeptide with a whole range of interesting properties. In the muscles, it works as a buffer. The more carnosine there is in your muscles, the harder you can train and with better results.
If you take beta-alanine, enzymes in your muscle cells attach a histidine molecule to it, and carnosine is formed. Humans have so much histidine in their body that taking extra histidine has no effect on carnosine synthesis as a result of beta-alanine supplementation. Carnosine used to be prohibitively expensive, which is why only beta-alanine supplements were available.
But carnosine has become cheaper and now it’s possible to buy beta-alanine supplements that also contain pure carnosine.
Carnosine not only has positive effects on muscle tissue. According to studies done in the nineties, carnosine 'rejuvenates' aging cells. It ups the rate of energy processes and makes cells more resilient to the formation of plaques as happens in atherosclerosis or Alzheimer's. In addition, carnosine inhibits the formation of undesirable protein-sugar compounds, and thus helps fight problems related to aging like eye disease and wrinkle formation. [Biochemistry (Mosc). 2000 Jul; 65(7): 869-71.]
Well. Back to the British-Russian study. The researchers, who by the way around the same time announced that fruit flies live longer if given carnosine, discovered that mice live on average 20 percent longer if they are given carnosine in their drinking water [a]. A supplement containing a mix of beta-alanine and histidine [b] was less effective. The mice in the b-group hardly lived any longer than the mice in the control group [c].
The table above reveals that carnosine supplementation reduced the likelihood of visible signs of aging in the mice. "Carnosine acts as a true antioxidant protector rather than as an anabolic drug", the researchers write. How exactly the supplementation made the mice live longer, the researchers didn't study.
Biochemistry (Mosc). 2000 Jul; 65(7): 866-8.