As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big advocate of taking nutritional supplements – I tend to believe that a healthy diet should provide you with all the nutrients you need. But, every so often I come across something that seems to have significant health benefits, and is not readily available from food sources. Alpha Lipoic Acid may be one of those things.
Here’s the result of my initial investigation into Alpha Lipoic Acid (primary information sources: Linus Pauling Institute, and University of Maryland Medical Center).
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is made by the body and is found in every cell, where it helps turn glucose into energy. Antioxidants are substances that attack “free radicals,” waste products created when the body turns food into energy. Free radicals cause harmful chemical reactions that can damage cells in the body, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. They also damage organs and tissues.
Alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels, and its ability to kill free radicals may help reduce pain, burning, itching, tingling, and numbness in people who have nerve damage caused by diabetes (called peripheral neuropathy). Alpha-lipoic acid has been used for years for this purpose in Europe.
Brain Function and Stroke
Because alpha-lipoic acid can pass easily into the brain, it has protective effects on brain and nerve tissue. Scientists are investigating it as a potential treatment for stroke and other brain disorders involving free radical damage.
Feeding high doses of Lipoic Acid to mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a model of multiple sclerosis (MS), has been found to slow disease progression.
Cognitive Decline and Dementia
Lipoic Acid, alone or in combination with other antioxidants or L-carnitine, has been found to improve measures of memory in animal models of age-associated cognitive decline.
In general, LA supplementation has been found to have few serious side effects – those include allergic reactions, generally skin rashes, and gastrointestinal issues. The amounts of LA available in dietary supplements (200-600 mg) are likely as much as 1000 times greater than the amounts that could be obtained in the diet. Since taking LA with a meal decreases its bioavailability, it is generally recommended that LA be taken on an empty stomach (one hour before or two hours after eating).
NOTE: if you have diabetes, you should consult with your doctor before starting to take Lipoic Acid supplements, and monitor blood glucose levels very carefully.