You may know that antioxidants are necessary for maintaining good health and staying youthful longer. They fight free radical damage and oxidative stress – a kind of internal “rusting” – that weakens your DNA and causes you to age faster. Yet, you may not know much about this particular antioxidant – alpha lipoic acid (ALA) – that protects several key body systems and has over 1300 separate research studies on it. Allow me to tell you about it.
ALA: THE ALL-AROUND ANTIOXIDANT
Alpha-lipoic acid acts as a “trigger” to your body’s own repair mechanisms, spurring your immune system to repair your body. It is believed to do this by stimulating glutathione – one of your body’s master antioxidants – into greater, more youthful production. This has an added benefit of slowing down the aging process, making you look and feel more youthful.
Alpha-lipoic acid is such a potent antioxidant; it’s actually regulated as a drug in several European countries. Life Extension Foundation magazine cites that, in Europe, ALA is approved as a treatment for diabetic complications, alcoholism, and certain liver problems. In the U.S. it’s available as a supplement that according to research, has valuable benefits in helping several conditions. These include the following.
Diabetes. ALA helps decrease the over-production of insulin and relieve components of metabolic syndrome –a group of conditions that precedes developing type 2 diabetes. These include improving insulin resistance after just 4 weeks of supplementation, improving blood cholesterol profiles, blood pressure, and reducing weight. It has been shown to keep blood sugars stable, protect the endothelium (lining) of the vascular system, and improve diabetic neuropathy (numbness, tingling, burning in the feet and extremities) a condition common to diabetics.
Eye health. Research has shown that ALA offers significant antioxidant protection against cataracts in lab animals. Cataracts form from the damage of oxidative stress within the eye, which builds up into cloudy opacities on the lens that obscures vision. Your eyes use a lot of antioxidants to stay healthy. If you’re deficient in them, your eyes may be the first to show it. Research has also shown that 75-150 mg of ALA a day was helpful in improving visual function and pressure associated with glaucoma – a common cause of vision loss in older people. ALA also significantly benefits retinitis pigmentosa – an inflammatory condition of the retina.
Migraine headaches. In ALA research, migraine headache sufferers received 600 mg a day for 3 months. They reported suffering fewer and decreased intensity headaches.
Bone health. Bone density research has shown ALA to be promising in stopping bone loss associated with osteoporosis. ALA also suppressed the formation of bone-destroying cells and inflammation-induced bone loss.
Liver health. ALA has been shown to improve liver function and, in some cases, reverse it. Liver disease, particularly hepatitis, from too much alcohol, or recreational drug use, is on the rise in the United States today. There is also another form of liver disease, affecting more and more people, which can be life-threatening – NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). This is a fatty overgrowth of the internal liver caused by diabetes or insulin resistance. It eventually stops the liver from working properly as your body’s major filter.
Skin health. ALA applied to the skin in a 5% solution in cream resulted in diminishment of photoaging (brown spots, lines, wrinkles) and improved skin softness in middle aged women.
Neuroprotective. Because of its strong antioxidant, anti-oxidative stress properties, ALA is being researched extensively for its benefit in preventing free radical damage to the brain. Early studies showed that ALA reduced damage from a stroke, and lab animals on ALA survived 3 times longer than those who did not take it. ALA helps regenerate another major antioxidant – glutathione and increases acetycholine – a neurotransmitter found lacking in Alzheimer disease. Other research shows that it may also provide benefit to people suffering with MS – multiple sclerosis.
Heavy metal protection. ALA research has shown that it may also protect your body from absorption and damage from heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, lead, and mercury. ALA neutralizes them so your body can naturally eliminate them.
What Else Should You Know About ALA?
If you want to reap the benefits of alpha lipoic acid, there are several things you should know about where to get it and how to use it. First, ALA is a natural substance which you can find in certain foods which include: green leafy vegetables and organ meats (liver, kidney) of animals. Secondly, many people opt to take ALA in supplement form to ensure getting the optimal daily dose of it. However, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Choose a water soluble R form ALA which seems to give the most benefits. Keep it in a cool place after opening though.
- Some ALA supplements include silymarin (a liver detoxifying herb), and selenium (another powerful antioxidant). If you buy this form, stick to the recommended daily dose because too much selenium can be harmful.
- ALA can burn a little on an empty stomach. Take ALA with heavier fatty foods.
As you can see, alpha lipoic acid is a workhorse amongst antioxidants. It fights the damaging results of oxidative stress in several systems of your body at once. It helps keep your vision and memory stay sharp, your weight down, your vascular system healthy, your liver working properly, and help you stay vibrant and youthful well into your older years.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Lipoic Acid: A Multitude of Healthy Benefits, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/oct2007_nu_lipoic_acid_01.htm
Gain a Wealth of Health Benefits with Alpha Lipoic Acid, http://www.majon.com/articles/health-products-health-vitamins-dieting/alpha_lipoic_acid_1381.html
photo credit: diabetescenter.blogspot.com