Since the 1950’s, it has been known that alpha-lipoic acid stimulates body enzymes and thus accelerates processes associated with energy production. Much later, in the late 80s, it was proven that this vitamin-like substance also acts as a powerful antioxidant, a substance that cancels the action of endogenous, highly active molecules – free radicals.
Although alpha-lipoic acid in the organism is produced in small quantities, it is mainly found in food; mostly in spinach, meat, liver and brewer’s yeast. It is very difficult to get the therapeutic amount of this substance with just food. Some people take alpha-lipoic acid supplements to benefit from its healing properties.
How does it work?
Alpha-lipoic acid affects on almost all cells in the body. Together with group B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin) helps transform carbohydrates, fat and proteins from food into the energy that the organism can later use. This substance has a protective antioxidant effect on the cells and can stimulate regeneration, and thus enhance the performance of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. Due to the unique chemical properties, alpha-lipoic acid easily penetrates into many tissues including the brain, nerves and liver, so it is very helpful in treating various disorders.
MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: one of the main uses of alpha-lipoic acid is the treatment of nerve damage, including diabetic neuropathy – a long-term complication of diabetes with pain and loss of sensations in the limbs. Nerve damage is at least partly caused by the effect of free radicals on nerve cells as a result of uncontrolled glucose levels in blood. The beneficial effect of alpha-lipoic acid could result from its antioxidant activity.
In addition, it can improve the response to insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose levels. In one study, 74 people with type II diabetes took 600 mg or more of alpha-lipoic acid per day, and blood glucose levels were reduced in all of them. Animal studies suggest that this substance increases blood flow to nervous tissue and improves nerve impulses. Therefore, many patients, and not just diabetics, may benefit from alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of impaired sensation, stroke, and other symptoms of nerve damage.
Alpha-lipoic acid also helps liver by protecting it from the action of free radicals and helping to remove toxins from the body. It is sometimes used in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis and other liver diseases, as well as lead poisoning and poisoning with other heavy metals or industrial chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: there are other potentially beneficial effects of alpha-lipoic acid, but this is still to be tested. According to some research, there are convincing results that show that this substance can prevent the development of cataracts. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid on improving memory (which can, for example, be useful for people who have Alzheimer’s disease) and brain cell damage damage caused by insufficient blood supply, which occurs during brain surgery and stroke, are also tested on animals.
There are evidences suggesting that alpha-lipoic acid, due to its antioxidant properties, might suppress duplication of the virus. In one study, the use of this substance has led to the strengthening of the immune system and liver function in most patients who had AIDS. It is also possible that this substance helps to fight malignant tumors, especially those associated with free radicals, and also suggests a potential slowing down of atherosclerosis (which greatly endangers all people with diabetes). In some studies, the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is studied. Finally, due to its general antioxidant activity, alpha-lipoic acid could be effective in a variety of disorders that, at least partially, deteriorate by the action of free radicals. These are various diseases, from chronic fatigue syndrome to psoriasis.
How to take it?
To treat a specific disorder: generally, a dose of 100 to 200 mg is taken, three times a day.
General antioxidant support: smaller doses, 50 to 150 mg per day, can be taken.
USE GUIDELINES: food supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid can be taken with or without food.
Possible side effects
Using alpha-lipoic acid has no serious side effects. Occasionally, dietary supplements can cause a slight feeling of tension in the stomach, and allergic rashes rarely occur. If you experience any side effects, reduce the dose or stop taking this supplement.
IMPORTANT: people with diabetes should take supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid only under medical supervision.