Alpha Lipoic Acid: More than Just a Powerful Antioxidant

Posted on May 19th, 2009 by Dr. Mercola  |  4 Comments »

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that is found in every cell and occurs naturally in the body. As we know, antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals, the organic molecules responsible for accelerating aging, cell damage and some diseases.

Alpha lipoic acid is one of the most effective free radical scavengers because it is both water and fat soluble, meaning it can easily access all parts of the cell to trap free radicals wherever they may be. It is also one of the few substances that can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Normally, an antioxidant is depleted once it has neutralized a free radical but alpha lipoic acid has the unique ability to regenerate or recycle itself and other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, coenzyme Q10 and the coenzyme NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).

This is important because glutathione is another powerful antioxidant that helps the body expel toxins. Increasing the levels of other antioxidants is just the tip of the iceberg.

Alpha lipoic acid provides other amazing health benefits, including:

  • used to treat hepatitis C
  • modifies gene expression to help reduce inflammation • functions as a very potent heavy metal chelator
  • enhances insulin sensitivity • used in Russia to reverse ischemia reperfusion injuries (damage to tissues or organs caused when blood flow is restored to an area that was previously deficient in blood flow) by injecting it right after a heart attack or a stroke
  • used in Germany to treat peripheral neuropathy (a painful nerve condition associated with diabetes and other diseases)
  • may help restore T cell function (T cells are a type of white blood cells that play an important role in your immune system because they form the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors your body’s immune response to specific pathogens)

Dr. Burt Berkson, MD, PhD, was one of the first doctors to conduct human clinical studies on alpha lipoic acid. He found that using ALA together with a prescription drug called low dose naltrexone helped patients suffering from serious health conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and dermatomyositis (an inflammatory muscle disease) get back to normal after a month.

Low dose naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug used to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Studies show that naltrexone at very low doses has immunomodulating properties that may be used to help treat cancer malignancies and a wide range of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, and even HIV/AIDS.

Additionally, Dr. Berkson shared that alpha lipoic acid can help provide energy for athletes and people who exercise but the guidelines on dosage and timing have not yet been clearly set so this benefit requires a bit of trial and error to get it right.

Red meat and spinach are good sources of alpha lipoic acid. When taking alpha lipoic acid supplements, the recommended daily dose is between 50 to 100mg. Despite the accumulation of studies showing its vast benefits, research on alpha lipoic acid is still in its early stages. Though alpha lipoic acid appears to be safe and has few, if any, side effects, the long term effects of larger doses have not yet been determined, so it’s best to consult your doctor on the proper dosage.

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