Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid that’s made in the cells of our bodies. ALA helps the body turn nutrients into energy and is a powerful antioxidant that prevents damage to our cells, helps reduce inflammation, and slows aging. It also shows great potential to help chronic conditions that are usually associated with aging.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
Alpha-lipoic acid, (also known as thioctic acid or lipoic acid), is a naturally occurring compound that is synthesized in animals and plants. Our bodies can also produce ALA, so it’s not recognized as an essential molecule. Yet, it’s very important in the production of energy and is a potent antioxidant that protects the body from cellular damage that’s caused by free radicals.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid Used for in the Body?
Alpha-lipoic acid is a unique antioxidant in that it is both hydrophobic and hydrophilic. This means it dissolves in both water and fat, which makes it accessible to every cell and tissue in the body. As far as we know, lipoic acid seems to be used in several cellular processes, but as with many molecules, research is ongoing. Here are some of the ways that our bodies use lipoic acid.
It helps in energy production
As mentioned, our bodies produce small amounts of ALA that’s found in the mitochondria of our cells. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of a cell and, ALA, like CoQ10, is one of the coenzymes that helps in the production of cellular energy. In other words, it helps your body produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
For more on coenzymes, read How Coenzyme Q10 Can Boost Your Healthspan
It activates and inhibits important longevity pathways
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to activate AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) but is also shown to inhibitit in the hypothalamus. AMPK is one of the longevity pathways that controls how the body converts and utilizes energy. When it’s activated, it helps the body turn fat into energy efficiently and prevents it from storing fat. In the hypothalamus, AMPK seems to play a role in governing appetite. When AMPK levels are suppressed in the hypothalamus, it seems to decrease the appetite leading to reduced food intake.
For more on AMPK and how it can help slow aging, watch the video below by Lance Hitchings.
NF-kB is the main pathway that controls the complex inflammatory process in our bodies. Inflammation is good when it fights off infection or is part of healing an injury, but constant high levels of inflammation lead to a number of chronic conditions and premature aging. Alpha-lipoic acid seems to inhibit NF-kB which helps to regulate inflammation, apart from its antioxidant properties that also fight inflammation.
If you’re interested in longevity pathways, read:
Fights inflammation and prevents cellular damage
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that prevents damage to our cells and DNA by scavenging free radicals. It also plays a role in regenerating other antioxidants. As an antioxidant, it fights inflammation and the associated deterioration that leads to chronic diseases.
May help detox the body
It may also help detox the body from heavy metal toxicity and plays a role in the production of glutathione; an important antioxidant that helps the body detox and eliminate potential toxins and carcinogens.
For more on glutathione, read: What is Glutathione and Why Is It Anti-Aging?
It may help regulate blood sugar levels
Because it’s a powerful antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, alpha-lipoic acid seems to play a role in regulating blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Most of the research has been done on patients that suffer from type 2 diabetes, but in several studies, it was shown that those who took ALA showed improved insulin sensitivity.
What Foods Contain Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
Our bodies can naturally produce small amounts of alpha-lipoic acid. It can also be found in small amounts in foods like:
Liver and organ meats
But to keep ALA at optimum levels and experience the health benefits thereof as you age, it’s recommended that you take a high-quality alpha-lipoic acid supplement.
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid Used to Treat?
Due to its antioxidant properties, ALA has been associated with various anti-aging benefits, including improving nerve function, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, and slowing skin aging. Research is ongoing into using this molecule to treat chronic conditions. Here are some of the health benefits:
May help treat diabetes and associated conditions
Alpha-lipoic acid has been in the spotlight as a possible natural remedy for insulin resistance and diabetes. Diabetes is a condition associated with high blood sugar levels that affect 420 million adults worldwide. Undiagnosed diabetes results in blurred vision, rapid unexplained weight loss, and kidney disease.
Insulin resistance is directly linked as a risk factor for diabetes. It’s a condition, also known as prediabetes, whereby there’s increased blood sugar or glucose levels (but not high enough to indicate diabetes).
Notably, insulin is responsible for lowering the blood sugar levels but, with insulin resistance, the pancreas works overtime to produce enough insulin to overcome the body’s resistance and keep sugar levels down. Eventually, the pancreas gives out, producing less insulin that leads to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Also, alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to help with conditions associated with diabetes such as diabetic neuropathy, that occurs when high blood sugar injures nerves in your body and, most often, your legs and feet. These symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, and a burning sensation in your feet, legs, fingers, and arms. Intravenous ALA is a recognized treatment in Germany for this condition.
Did you know that berberine also helps regulate blood sugar and that it can be as effective as metformin? Read Berberine the Super Antioxidantfor more information.
To find out more about alpha-lipoic acid and how it can reduce neuropathy discomfort, watch this video from Dr. Darren Silvester of Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic.
Reduces skin aging
Like the rings on the stump of a tree, fine lines and wrinkles become more visible with age. Even though aging is an inevitable process, nature has gifted us with alpha-lipoic acid. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, it’s an active combatant with the signs of aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, and flaky skin.
Results from a human study revealed using alpha-lipoic acid as a topical cream helped in a significant reduction of facial lines and general improvement in skin color and texture. And to cap it all, there were no associated side effects like irritation and peeling.
Alpha-lipoic acid also exercises its antioxidant properties in the skin’s inner layers harboring us from the sun’s harmful UV radiation.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, ALA increases the levels of glutathione and helps keep this antioxidant at optimum levels, further protecting our skin from damage and reducing signs of aging skin.
Slows memory loss and may help with cognitive decline
Memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease is a condition prevalent among older adults. It’s thought that one of the culprits to this devastating condition is damage from oxidative stress.
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful oxidant that slows the development of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly by counteracting free radicals and inhibiting inflammation. In some studies, combining the supplement with other drugs called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors proved to slow mental degeneration in people with Alzheimer’s disease compared to taking the inhibitors alone.
Interestingly, a small pilot study found that when alpha-lipoic acid was taken with omega-3 fatty acids, the participants experienced no cognitive or functional decline. A larger study is needed to further evaluate this combination, but the researchers deemed it to be a potential treatment for this condition.
Did you know that Krill Oil is a powerful source of omega-3 fatty acids? It also comes without the unpleasant side effect of a fishy aftertaste. Read more in What Is Krill Oil and Why Is It Good For You?
Promotes nerve function
Alpha-lipoic acid does not only help with diabetic neuropathy but also shows potential in slowing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes nerve pain, numbness, and tingling in the arm. It occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it travels through the wrist or carpal tunnel.
Rates of developing carpal tunnel syndrome increase with age. Nevertheless, alpha-lipoic acid may help remedy this condition. The supplement, when taken before and after surgery for the syndrome, has contributed to higher chances of recovery. It’s important to note lipoic acid helps manage the pain and not necessarily nerve recovery. In light of that, the supplement, when used with gamma-linolenic acid, has shown to improve function in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Research is also currently underway to assess if ALA can help sufferers of multiple sclerosis. Pilot studies suggest that it has great potential to help with this condition and further research is needed.
Treats smell dysfunction
Infections in the upper respiratory tract could lead to loss of the sense of smell. Alpha-lipoic acid has been found to have therapeutic effects on olfactory loss.
Making use of its anti-oxidative effects on nerves, the acid could help in the regeneration of olfactory receptor neurons.
In the wake of the COVID-19, recent findings are showing the condition can affect our sense of smell. And, while the remedies for the novel virus remain in development, alpha-lipoic acid may be an option when these symptoms affect our olfactory pathways.
May induce weight loss
Alpha-lipoic acid also shows potential in helping weight loss and managing obesity. This is thought to be because of its role in energy production, regulating insulin, and reducing inflammation.
In a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, it was found that treatment with alpha-lipoic supplements resulted in a significant 1.27 kg mean weight loss compared to placebos. The researchers concluded that ALA showed small, yet significant, short-term weight loss and that further research was needed on varying doses and the use of ALA for long-term management of weight.
In a recent human clinical trial conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute and the Oregon Health & Science University, it was found that ALA helped a moderate weight loss in overweight women compared to those who were in the control group. Those who took lipoic acid, also showed lower levels of inflammatory markers and damage from free radicals.
The trial’s principal investigator, Balz Frei, Ph.D., said:
“These beneficial effects of lipoic acid are remarkably consistent with preclinical findings showing that lipoic acid inhibits weight gain, accelerates fat metabolism, lowers triglycerides, and exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects in laboratory animals.”
Is Alpha-lipoic Acid Safe?
Because alpha-lipoic acid is made by our bodies, it’s considered as generally safe with little to no side effects. Even so, some may experience mild symptoms like rashes, itching, or nausea.
There has not been sufficient research conducted on the use of the supplement for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Small doses may be safe for those in this group, but it’s recommended that you seek medical advice before starting any supplementation.
Additionally, for those with diabetes, seeking medical advice is vital, as alpha-lipoic acid may affect other medicines that help lower blood sugar levels.
If you have a chronic condition, it’s best to consult your healthcare practitioner before starting any supplementation program.
However, no fatal side effects have been reported with adults taking up to 2400 mg.
What Is the Best Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplement?
It’s best to choose a high-quality supplement that has a high bioavailability. Bioavailability is the percentage of a nutrient that enters the bloodstream compared to how much was in the supplement. Intravenous delivery has 100% bioavailability because 100% of the nutrient is injected into the bloodstream. Most traditional oral supplements only have a bioavailability of 10-50%. However, liposomal supplements have a bioavailability that is close to that of IV delivery, and therefore, using a high-quality liposomal alpha-lipoic acid supplement is best.
Youth & Earth has a liposomal R-alpha-lipoic acid supplement. R-alpha-lipoic acid is a potent form of ALA that is more biologically active and has stronger antioxidant and brain-protecting benefits. Our supplement is combined with vitamin C for advanced immune support.
To find out more, go to Youth & Earth Liposomal R-Alpha Lipoic Acid & Vitamin C.
As you can see, there are many health benefits to boosting the levels of alpha-lipoic acid in your cells. Apart from it being a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it also activates and inhibits the longevity pathways, helps regulate blood sugar, and protects our nervous system. Although you can obtain small amounts from food, supplementing with a high-quality liposomal ALA product is one of the best ways to boost the levels of this wonderful antioxidant in your cells.
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The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or health provider before starting a new health regime or program. Do not ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you’ve read on this site or any Youth & Earth product.