What is Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)?
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a sulfur-containing fatty acid naturally found in your body. Lipoic acid is unique among other antioxidants because it is both water- and fat-soluble.
You get small amounts of lipoic acid in your diet from spinach and collard greens, broccoli, beef, and organ meats.
Lipoic acid declines in your body as you age, so it is essential that you supplement with Alpha-Lipoic Acid to achieve the levels your body needs to run optimally.
What Are The Health Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid?
You need alpha-lipoic acid’s antioxidant power. Because it regenerates other antioxidants that were depleted by the ongoing fight with free radicals in your cells. It allows you to use the antioxidants Vitamin C & E, glutathione, and CoQ10 already in your body over and over again.
Alpha-lipoic acid is so efficient at what it does, it boosts the energy in your cells while reducing inflammation and getting rid of heavy metals.
In your brain, alpha-lipoic acid boosts the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. And even increases glucose uptake in brain cells. Providing you with a boost of mental energy.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is used throughout your body. It helps increase insulin sensitivity which reduces the threat of diabetes. And ALA reduces the chances of metabolic syndrome which is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and weight gain.
A dominant antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid fights harmful free radicals and enhances the functions of other antioxidants. Athletes are keen on its ability to heighten performance. It builds brain power, sharpens mental focus, improves skin, and aids weight loss. Effective treatment for diabetes and neuropathy.
Lipoic Acid is also known as Alpha-Lipoic Acid or ALA, and Thioctic Acid. Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a powerful free radical scavenger and a potent antioxidant made by the body and found in every cell. One of its most important characteristics is that, unlike most anti-oxidants, it is both fat-soluble and water-soluble. This enables it to provide protection in a much wider range of physiological environments throughout the body. There is naturally very little free circulating ALA in the body, meaning that supplementation is necessary in order to experience ALA’s full benefits.
Unlike many other antioxidants, Alpha-Lipoic Acid is both lipophilic & hydrophilic (fat-soluble and water-soluble), and evidence suggests that it may help to regenerate other well-known antioxidants such as Vitamin C, and Vitamin E and also raise intracellular levels of Glutathione.
In addition to its antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects, Alpha-Lipoic Acid has demonstrated neuroprotective, cytoprotective, antihyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral activities.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a unique, vitamin-like antioxidant that can combat radiation sickness, repair damaged livers, treat diabetes and diabetes-related conditions (polyneuropathy) and protect against oxidative processes that promote premature aging and degenerative diseases. ALA is becoming increasingly recognized as a ‘mitochondrial antioxidant.’ Now a more potent form of ALA – R-lipoic acid – is available to health consumers. Research shows that (R)-lipoic acid is a more biologically active form of ALA that offers greater antioxidant and neuroprotective benefits at substantially lower doses than the synthetic forms of lipoic acid currently available.
Water and Fat Soluble Antioxidant
Although lipoic acid is produced naturally in the body, researchers were unaware of its existence until the 1930s. When pure samples were isolated in the 1950s, ALA was first believed to be a new vitamin. Later, researchers discovered that ALA is, in fact, an essential coenzyme with a vital role in mitochondrial electron transport reactions involved in converting glucose into ATP to produce energy.
By 1988 researchers had also learned that ALA is a powerful biological antioxidant, although one with some very unique health properties. What most impressed researchers was the discovery that ALA functions as fat and water-soluble antioxidant that can easily cross cell membranes. Thus, ALA can confer free radical protection to interior and exterior cellular structures.
Regenerating Vitamins E and C With Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Human aging is marked by a decline in the concentration, synthesis, and recycling of central antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, co-enzyme Q-10, and glutathione. This loss of antioxidant function seriously impairs the body’s ability to control free radicals. L
eft unchecked, free radicals – dangerous, unpaired electrons – proliferate throughout the body, damaging cell membranes and organs, impairing immune function, disrupting DNA strands, and contributing to the progression of cancer and other degenerative diseases. In recent years researchers have shown how alpha-lipoic acid recycles vitamins E and C to stave off free radical damage.
One of the central components in the antioxidant cycle is vitamin E, a potent biological antioxidant that stabilizes highly reactive free radicals in lipid (fatty) tissues and membranes (lipoproteins). In quenching fatty free radicals, such as lipid peroxyl and lipid alkoxyl radicals, vitamin E becomes a free radical itself, though one that is far less reactive or damaging than the original radical.
The vitamin E radical is regenerated by vitamin C (ascorbic acid). This process recycles vitamin E from a radical back into an antioxidant again but results in a new free radical in the form of unstable vitamin C – a semiascorbyl radical.
Vitamin C is next recycled by glutathione, a thiol (sulfur-containing compound). Up to this point, vitamins E, C, and glutathione work in concert to control free radicals and prevent cellular damage.
But this is also an important stage where the antioxidant regeneration cycle runs into a limiting factor determined by the availability of glutathione.
Alpha Lipoic Acid to Raise Intracellular Glutathione Levels
Alpha Lipoic Acid can raise intracellular glutathione levels. ALA is easily absorbed when taken orally, and once inside cells, it is quickly converted to its most potent form, dihydrolipoic acid, an even more potent free-radical neutralizer.
Because both alpha-lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid are antioxidants, their combined actions give them greater antioxidant potency than any other natural antioxidant now known.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Clinical Research
Alpha-lipoic acid plays an essential role in mitochondria. The heart of energy-generation in the human cell. Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine found ALA can stimulate telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres.
The effects of many chronic diseases can be traced back to telomere shortening. (Telomeres are the ‘caps’ on the end of each chromosome in your DNA).
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Critical for Cellular Energy
Cellular energy is behind every single action that happens in your body. Including your brain. Cellular energy is required for muscle movement, producing new cells, wound healing, and thinking.
The mitochondria in each of your cells are the source of this energy. This ongoing energy production process is called the Krebs Cycle. Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a cofactor in two key enzymatic reactions within the Krebs Cycle.
In the simplest terms, without ALA, cellular energy is not possible. And without cellular energy, well… life is not possible.
Any treatment that can restore healthy telomeres has great potential in the fight against chronic disease.
In another study, scientists showed Alpha-Lipoic Acid boosted the production of PGC1-alpha. The telomerase lengthens telomeres. And they did it in just one day of treatment.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid vs. S-Lipoic Acid vs. R-Lipoic Acid
Lipoic Acid is also known as Alpha-Lipoic Acid, ALA, and Thioctic acid. The Alpha-Lipoic Acid you get as a supplement is usually a 50/50 mixture of R-(natural) and S-(unnatural) enantiomers. They are mirror images of each other and are called a ‘racemic’ mixture.
Most commercially available forms of Alpha-Lipoic Acid include the ‘S-form,’ or unnatural form of lipoic acid. Chemically synthesized in 1952 and not found in nature.
It is thought that the two enantiomers differ biologically. But much of the research over the last 30 years has been on the racemic version of Alpha-Lipoic Acid because the R-form was not commercially available.
S-Lipoic Acid (the enantiomer not found in nature) may not produce the essential properties of Lipoic Acid. Including interactions with proteins, enzymes, and genes.
R-Lipoic Acid is the form of lipoic acid occurring naturally in the human body, animals, and plants. This is the only form that functions as a co-factor for mitochondrial enzymes involved in energy production.
Be aware that most commercially available forms of Alpha-Lipoic Acid include both S- and R-forms of lipoic acid.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is produced as a mixture because R-Lipoic Acid is very unstable when separated from the S-form. And deteriorates very quickly, making it unusable as a dietary supplement.
Very few companies go through the complicated, expensive process required to remove the synthetic S-ALA from R-ALA. So unless the bottle states 100% R-ALA, you get a 50/50 blend.
Know that R-ALA may be up to 12 times more effective than S-ALA.
How does Alpha-Lipoic Acid Work in the Brain?
Alpha-Lipoic Acid boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two, in particular, stand out.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid boosts acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter tied to memory and overall brain function.
ALA increases acetylcholine production by activation of choline acetyltransferase and increases glucose uptake. This process supplies more Acetyl-CoA for the production of acetylcholine.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a promising weapon in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Oxidative stress plays a key role in cognitive disorders because neurons are highly vulnerable to free radical damage.
A recent study showed that lipoic acid might help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. An area where the big pharmaceutical companies have produced no known cure.
In this study, 43 patients with dementia were given 600 mg of Alpha-Lipoic Acid daily for four years. Researchers concluded from this study that “alpha-lipoic acid might be a successful ‘neuroprotective’ therapy option for Alzheimer’s disease.”