Alpha Lipoic Acid may not be as well known as other antioxidants, but this is bound to change as medical research reveals the enormous benefits of this important nutrient.
While it is possible to make Alpha Lipoic Acid in the body, production decreases as we age, and reduced quantities may worsen a range of conditions.
Alpha Lipoic Acid was originally discovered in the early 1950’s at a time when scientists were researching how the body creates energy from food. Energy production is a fascinating sequence of chemical reactions called the Krebs or Citric Acid cycle. This cycle occurs on tiny, tiny organs within cells known as mitochondria (Mite-o-kond-ree-ah). As Alpha Lipoic Acid is integral to the citric acid cycle, lower levels mean lower energy production. Along with Co-Enzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid may be helpful in the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
It doesn’t end there. As an effective antioxidant, Alpha Lipoic Acid protects the mitochondria itself from being damaged by free radicals, thereby increasing the amount of energy each cell can produce.
In the scientific world, Alpha Lipoic Acid is known as the ‘universal antioxidant’ due to its rare ability of being both fat and water soluble. For instance vitamin C only works in a water-based environment e.g. blood, and vitamin E only works in fat based- environment e.g. hormones. This dual capacity means Alpha Lipoic Acid can act pretty much anywhere in the body, including inside cells and across the blood brain barrier, where many other substances are blocked. In addition to its own powerful antioxidant role, Alpha Lipoic Acid is able to regenerate vitamins C and E, increasing the length of their useful lives.
For some years German physicians have been using Alpha Lipoic Acid to assist in the treatment of diabetes (type 2), a disease reaching almost epidemic proportions in Australia. High levels of Alpha Lipoic Acid appear to improve the ability of glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream, a core symptom of diabetes. Due to its antioxidant powers, Alpha Lipoic Acid also reduces the damage caused by high sugar levels in the blood — the main reason for the complications of diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy, neuropathy, foot and leg ulcers, cataracts, kidney damage and erectile dysfunction.
Alpha Lipoic Acid helps protect nerve and brain cells from damage by free radicals, something that increases with age. While research is still advancing in this area, there is reason to believe that Alpha Lipoic Acid may help to prevent age related cognitive decline and possibly dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Sports performance and Weight Loss
Anything that enhances energy production will increase athletic performance. As mentioned previously, Alpha Lipoic Acid reduces damage to mitochondria. Cells requiring more energy, especially muscle cells, contain more mitochondria. Additionally, Alpha Lipoic Acid increases the amount of glycogen and creatin absorbed by muscle cells, thereby increasing strength and stamina. A fundamental of weight loss is that the more energy produced, the more calories are burned. There is some early research showing that Alpha Lipoic Acid may increase the rate at which fat cells break down fatty acids.
Heavy metal detoxification
Alpha Lipoic Acid is able to ‘chelate’ or join together with and excrete certain heavy metals that in excess may cause damage to the body including cadmium, mercury, copper and iron. Alpha Lipoic Acid also increases levels of another potent detoxifier, glutathione.
In the last decade or so, the role of antioxidants has assumed greater importance in the treatment and more importantly the prevention of life threatening illness diseases; including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In combination with a healthy lifestyle and good diet, Alpha Lipoic Acid is a major antioxidant in the fight against these debilitating conditions.