Discovered in 1951, alpha lipoic acid is an important antioxidant that performs many functions in the body. Read on to find out what it is and why it is of benefit to you.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid that is naturally found inside every cell in the body. It is necessary to produce energy for the body’s everyday functions as it converts glucose into energy. ALA is also an antioxidant that works in both water and fat, unlike some other antioxidants. It can also recycle antioxidants such as vitamin C and glutathione after they have been used up by the body. Glutathione is an important antioxidant and ALA increases the formation of glutathione. It also enhances the antioxidant functions of vitamins C and E.
ALA directly supports detoxification within the liver. It can prevent cell damage, regulate blood sugar levels, chelate toxic metals from the blood, and enhance mental function and muscular energy production.
Sources for ALA include the following:
• naturally made in the body
• Brewer’s yeast
• Brussels sprouts
• rice bran
• organ meats
ALA has a number of uses in the body. These include:
• Peripheral neuropathy – ALA can improve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy as it works as an antioxidant in water and fatty tissues, allowing it to enter all parts of the nerve cell and protect it from damage.
• Brain function – because ALA can cross the blood-brain barrier, its antioxidant qualities protect brain and nerve tissues from damage.
• Age related conditions – because of its potent antioxidant qualities, ALA is excellent for protecting from free radical damage that contributes to aging and chronic illness.
• Diabetes – ALA can be used to reduce the pain, burning, parasthesia, and numbness associated with diabetic neuropathy, to increase glucose transport, and to improve cardiovascular function.
• Weight loss – research has shown that ALA may have benefits in controlling appetite, weight, and metabolism. ALA influences the activity of AMPK, an enzyme that plays an important role in regulating appetite and metabolism.
• Detoxification – ALA increases the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that plays a role in the detoxification and elimination of potential carcinogens and toxins. It is also a chelating agent, binding to heavy metals and assisting their removal from the body.
• Cardiovascular disease – ALA can protect against cardiovascular disease as it has a beneficial action on the oxidation of bad cholesterol, blood lipid profiles, plaque formation, and high blood pressure.
• Cognitive decline – because ALA can easily cross the blood-brain barrier, it may have an effect on improving memory and slowing age-related cognitive decline.
• Liver disease – ALA can help with the treatment of chronic hepatitis as it relieves stress on the liver and helps to rid the body of toxins.
In some people, side effects of ALA may include headache, tingling or a feeling of pins and needles, skin rash, or muscle cramps. The safety of ALA in pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, or people with kidney or liver disease is unknown.
ALA may improve blood sugar control so people that have diabetes and that are on medication to lower blood sugar should only take ALA under medical supervision in order to avoid hypoglycaemia. ALA may also alter thyroid hormone levels so people with thyroid issues that take thyroid medications should be closely monitored by a medical professional.