Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-Lipoic acid (ALA) is an anti-oxidant that is needed by our body to convert glucose into energy. It is soluble in fat as well as water which suggests that it is effective in all parts of the body and is found in varying concentrations in all your muscles and internal organs.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is able to deactivate both fat and water soluble free radicals (build-up of excess minerals underneath the surface of your skin) and thereby protect both lipoproteins and membranes; no other anti-oxidant can do this. When in "free" state, ALA deactivates a wide variety of free radicals, such as heavy metals, circulating through your body. ALA also activates other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E to destroy free radicals from the body. Alpha lipoic acid also increases the formation of glutathione which is also an important antioxidant that helps the body eliminate potentially harmful substances.

Alpha-lipoic acid is also found to be an effective agent for people with nervous disorders. It is believed to support normal functioning of nerves and prevent nerve damage that may be produced in certain diseases such as diabetic neuropathy. ALA is also known to cross the blood-brain barrier preventing brain from free radical damage.

Our body produces this anti-oxidant in small quantity that is sufficient to carry out the important functioning. However, by increasing the amount of Alpha Lipoic Acid through dietary supplementation one can obtain optimal antioxidant benefits. Because we produce less ALA as we age, taking a supplement may also be crucial as we grow older. ALA, combined with acetyl-L-carnitine, has been touted as an anti-aging and vitality supplements.

Some of the important benefits of alpha-lipoic acid are discussed here:

Studies done at the University of Maryland Medical Center and show that it is effective in treating the diabetic neuropathy. It helps in reducing the numbness of hands and feet by effectively strengthening the nerves. It is also shown that it reduces the blood sugar level by improving the use of insulin by the body. One should consult a doctor as dosage is adjusted as per requirement. Your doctor can judge the safe dosage for your body according to your requirements.

Studies have been done at The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the efficacy of alpha-lipoic acid in restricting the growth of cancer cells. It induces apoptosis, which is a process where self destruction of cancer cells takes place. If you are taking chemotherapy, you should consult your physician because some drugs may interfere with the intake of alpha-lipoic acid.

A study was published in the journal “Free Radical Biology and Medicine” for suppressing the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) by the action of alpha-lipoic acid. In another study on animals, it is found that alpha lipoic acid decreases the deposition of bad cholesterol in white blood cells.

Reversal of plaques in Arteries
A study was published in the journal “Life Science” according to which intake of alpha-lipoic acid help to reverse the plaques in the arteries. A study was conducted on the laboratory animals; diet rich in high cholesterol was given for six weeks followed by administration of 20mg per kg body weight of alpha lipoic acid given for a period of twelve weeks helped in reducing the size of plaques present in the main artery of the heart. It also helps in reducing the inflammation.

Alzheimer’s disease
Studies are being conducted to find the efficacy of alpha-lipoic acid in Alzheimer’s disease. It is coming up as a new treatment option for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists are doing continuous research to find new treatment options that are safe and effective for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other brain related disorders such as dementia.

Alpha lipoic acid has also been suggested for cataracts, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, burning mouth syndrome and stroke.

Food sources
Some important food sources of alpha lipoic acid are:
Organ meats: Found in liver, kidney and heart
Green leafy vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots are good sources.
Yeast is another good source of alpha-lipoic acid.
Other sources include Brussels sprouts, beets, and rice bran.

Generally, it is safe to take recommended dosage of alpha-lipoic acid. In very high doses given consistently to humans in excess of 500mg per day or more, slight blood glucose lowering effects have been observed. Some mild reversible allergic skin reactions have also been reported in a few subjects at these high dosages.

Generally, you should supplement your diet with 200-400 mg per day. 

It is not recommended for children and pregnant women.
It is reported that alpha-lipoic acid may interact with some cancer drugs; therefore, it is advised to consult your physician before taking any supplementation.
Alpha-lipoic acid may lower the sugar level in the blood; therefore, diabetic people should take alpha-lipoic acid after consulting with their physician only.

Always consult your health care provider before starting a supplement therapy