Alpha Lipoic Acid—The Universal Antioxidant
Alpha Lipoic Acid, also known as Lipoic Acid or simply LA, is a very unique compound naturally occurring in the body in small amounts. It has been called "the universal antioxidant" since it is both water and lipid (fat) soluble, thereby as an antioxidant able to protect both aqueous-based and fat-based areas of body tissues. This enables it to act both inside the cell and in the intercellular spaces. Most other antioxidant substances are limited to activity in one or the other environment only, such as the water-soluble Vitamin C. This property makes LA unique as an antioxidant, as mentioned, but there are many other benefits to the body as well, which we will explore.
Antioxidant Activity/Liver Protection
Antioxidant nutrients can help protect the body against the damage that can cause many diseases, among them heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Alpha Lipoic Acid has the ability to react with many different free radicals including singlet oxygen, superoxide free radicals, and also the very dangerous peroxynitrate free radical involved in chronic inflammation, such as that associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Not only does it quench these free radical threats, LA has the singular ability to recycle other antioxidants in the body. It directly recycles Vitamin C and indirectly Vitamin E.
Lipoic Acid increases glutathione levels in cells. Glutathione is the body's most powerful master antioxidant and is responsible for protecting cells against various oxidants, free radicals and cytotoxic agents. It is such a powerful glutathione booster that it has been used to successfully reverse Amanita mushroom poisoning. The alpha-amanitin toxin present in Amanita phalloides (death cap mushroom) and other Amanita species causes death in 90% of the cases of human consumption. It is one of the most poisonous of all known mushrooms. The toxins cause total liver and kidney failure resulting in death. In the case of the liver shut-down, the toxin blocks the liver's production of glutathione. Given soon enough after ingestion, LA restores liver levels of glutathione and promotes recovery. Many people are familiar with the herb milk thistle's liver-protective qualities. It accomplishes this protection by raising that organ's glutathione levels.
Along with Coenzyme Q10, Lipoic Acid acts as a co-factor in the two energy-generating cycles in our cells which turn food into energy. The glycolytic (sugar-burning) cycle and the Kreb's (citric acid) cycle use fats, sugars and amino acids as fuel. Lipoic Acid helps convert pyruvate from the glycolytic cycle into Acetyl Coenzyme A which is part of the high-energy Kreb's cycle. LA is also heavily involved in glucose metabolism, and thus has been used for decades as an effective treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related issues. It increases the burning of glucose in a way that is comparable to, but independent of insulin. Studies of adult diabetic patients have shown increases in uptake and utilization (burning) of glucose by 50%. LA reduces insulin-resistance in diabetics and, partly due to its antioxidant effects, reduces, inhibits and improves related neuropathies. Another of its abilities is in preventing glycosylation of sugars and proteins, the damaging and undesirable cross-linking of the two resulting in stiff, inflexible, aging tissues. This process can exacerbate and promote arteriosclerosis, among other deleterious effects.
In a famous study from 1993, Lipoic Acid was shown to improve the long-term memory of aged mice, likely by preventing free-radical damage to cell membranes. A 2001 study of nine Alzheimer's patients found that supplementation with LA for 12 months resulted in a decrease in oxidative stress which led to a stabilization of cognitive function. LA also prevents ischemia (restriction in blood supply causing oxygen deprivation) in both the heart and brain. Other studies are showing promising results for Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
Lipoic Acid supplements range from 100-600 mg dosages. Diabetic patients be aware that by virtue of its insulin and blood glucose activity, it may interfere with diabetes medications. Evergreen Nutrition carries a variety of Lipoic Acid supplements in our Antioxidant Section, and many formulas in our Blood Sugar Section also contain this remarkable substance.
Protect Your Skin with Alpha Lipoic Acid
There are also Alpha Lipoic Acid skin care products so your skin can get the benefits of this powerful and versatile antioxidant which is clinically shown to reduce wrinkles. But that's a topic that deserves its own newsletter.
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