Alpha lipoic acid is also known as lipoic acid, thioctic acid, dihydrolipoic acid, r-lipoic acid, and several other structural-based chemistry names.
It is sometimes called the Universal Antioxidant, but more on that later on.
When you see alpha in front of lipoic acid that means it’s made in a lab. If it’s made by your body it’s called lipoic acid.
When something is made in your body it’s called endogenous. Due to endogenous production, ALA has not been listed as an essential nutrient, let alone given vitamin status.
For a nutrient to be deemed essential your body must need it for proper functioning, but be unable to produce it on its own. Thus it’s essential that you get it from your diet. This little distinction has saved more than one nutrition major from flunking tests.
Recent studies are showing alpha lipoic acid stands out because of its unique beneficial effects that may help the biggest health problems facing Americans – diabetes, stress-related health issues, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
- In 2014 The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry published a study showing alpha lipoic acid supplementation decreased intrahepatic and serum triglyceride levels[*]. This is important as excess triglycerides turn into LDL cholesterol, AKA “bad” cholesterol.
- A 2016 animal study showed that alpha lipoic acid supplementation decreased signs and symptoms of salt induced hypertension[*].
- Another 2016 animal study showed that alpha lipoic acid supplement improved both hippocampus and amygdala dependent memory[*].
Let’s dive into why alpha lipoic acid is about to become the next nutrient superstar:
Alpha lipoic acid supplementation is showing great promise in boosting memory, lowering blood sugar and keeping free radical damage at bay. Definitely worth learning more about, especially in a nation that’s chronically stressed and overweight. If you’re looking to boost your health, get control of your blood glucose and get your memory on point, read on.
A few select food sources of ALA have been found – broccoli, organ meats, potatoes, spinach and yeast. But consuming ALA rich foods has not been shown to show an increase in free/circulating ALA levels. However, eating a health overall diet and living a healthy lifestyle has been shown to increase ALA levels. Gym-sleep-keto anyone?
Alpha lipoic acid supplementation on the other hand has been shown to increase circulating ALA levels. Scientific studies are stacking up in support of the benefits of ALA supplementation.
It could be said that ALA plays well with others. One of ALA’s functions is to restore both vitamin C and vitamin E in your body to active forms. Both vitamin C and E are also antioxidant nutrients. ALA also helps with the digestion and utilization of carbohydrates to yield energy.
ALA works synergistically with the B-vitamins and acts as a cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes. Mitochondria are literally, not figuratively, the powerhouse of your cells. That’s where ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is made. ATP is the molecule that your body uses for energy.
5 Amazing Health Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid has a pretty sweet nickname of Universal Antioxidant. It gets this name because it is both water and fat soluble, which is rare. Alpha lipoic acid helps eliminate free radicals directly and replenish other antioxidants so they can continue to get rid of free radicals.
Free radicals are compounds that cause oxidative damage to tissue in your body and, over time, this leaves you susceptible to everything from progressed/premature aging to cardiovascular disease to cancer.
Antioxidants are compounds that are well, anti oxidation. By preventing oxidative damage these nutrients help prevent early signs of aging and serious health conditions. Because of this ALA is often sold as anti-aging, like most antioxidant supplements are.
The universality of alpha lipoic acid comes from its dual hydrophilic-lipophilic nature, ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and because it replenishes other antioxidants such as, but not limited to, vitamins C and E. It also replenishes glutathione, a compound nicknamed the Master Antioxidant[*].
And then on top of all of that, ALA has been found to chelate metal. Contrary to how it sounds, chelation is not a fancy cooking method. Metal chelation is the process of pulling excess and/or harmful metals from your body such as lead, mercury, and excess iron and copper.
This prevents those harmful metals from causing damage to your body, especially your neurological system. Metal chelating compounds can help prevent, stave off or lessen the severity of neurodegenerative diseases, which are disease states that affect your nervous system.
As you can imagine with ALA being able to both cross the blood brain barrier and to act as an antioxidant in several different ways, it’s good for the brain.
Cognitive function is a term that gets thrown around a lot — like at the same rate middle management loves to use the word synergy. Cognitive function is an all encompassing form that means your brain is operating at maximum potential and thus able to learn better. You learn better when you think clear, are mentally stable and have minimum damage to your neurons.
When your cognitive function is on point so is your job performance, test scores and quality of life. Clinical trials are underway to explore all the potential ways ALA supplementation may help with cognitive function both in the short-term and as a preventative measure.
For now, it’s understood that ALA’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects do seem to improve overall cognitive function. This seems especially true when ALA supplementation is in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Few things are as frustrating as struggling with your memory. For some it is a short-term issue stemming from stress or acute injury. For others it’s age related or a disease state such as Alzheimer’s disease.
ALA’s antioxidant properties combine with its anti-inflammatory effects have been found to have a positive impact on individuals suffering from memory issues – short-term and/or long-term.
An animal study published in the Journal of Alzheimer Disease found that alpha lipoic acid supplementation improved memory, significantly boosted brain levels of glutathione and reduced and reversed oxidative stress damage[*].
A 2016 animal study found that alpha lipoic acid found that ALA supplementation has potential in the treatment in humans with neurodegenerative disorders[*].
Research is still ongoing to prove/disprove these same potential benefits in humans. If you’re looking to improve your day to day memory, alpha lipoic acid supplementation may have a protective effect.
Type 2 diabetes is about so much more than difficulty maintaining health blood sugar levels. Excess sugar leaves damage in its wake and one of the outcomes of this is a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. This is nerve damage, predominantly peripheral nerves, that causes intense pain, numbing, itching, burning, tingling and numbing.
Intravenous ALA supplementation has been used for years across Europe to alleviate neuropathy symptoms in diabetic patients. It’s key to note that predominantly it has been intravenous ALA that has shown benefits for neuropathy. Research is still being done on dietary supplements of ALA and impact on neuropathy.
The earliest and most common neuropathy associated with diabetes is called peripheral neuropathy. That means it affects your fingers and toes first.
A 2013 study found that diabetic patients, both with good and poor glycemic control, saw improvement in their signs and symptoms of neuropathy when alpha lipoic acid was added to their treatment plan[*].
As far back as 2006 research showed ALA’s potential benefits regarding diabetic neuropathy. One study showed that 5 weeks of 600 mg of oral ALA daily improved symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy[*]. Polyneuropathy means neuropathy that affects many parts of the body.
Given the extreme discomfort associated with neuropathy, it’s definitely worth discussing alpha lipoic acid with your health care provider if you are currently dealing with this condition. If you have a family history of diabetes, preventative alpha lipoic acid supplementation — in addition to a healthy diet and exercise — may be a good idea.
This is as good of point to discuss what insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance mean. They are both sides of the same difficult coin known as type 2 diabetes.
Insulin sensitivity is how sensitive your cells are to blood glucose regulation hormone insulin. In this case sensitivity means responsive – how responsive the cells in your body are to insulin. In healthy individuals the level of sensitivity varies, but it substantially lower than individuals with both pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The lower a person’s insulin sensitivity, the higher their insulin resistance, et vice versa.
A 2014 animal study found that alpha lipoic acid supplementation improved attenuated (slowed the progression of) insulin resistance and improved glucose metabolism[*].
Because of this is one of many scientific studies showing the potential blood glucose regulation benefits of ALA more studies are being done. This supplement could potentially help individuals struggling with metabolic syndrome, diabetes and prediabetes. Large, long-term, randomized controlled trial studies on humans are both warranted and needed.
Like all nutritional supplements, you’ve got to do your research on the company to assess for quality and reputation. Choose a supplement that has been third party reviewed for quality.
When it comes to alpha lipoic acid specifically, it works best when combined with omega 3 fatty acids and other brain boosting compounds. Our Perfect Keto Nootropic supplement combines 24 vitamins, minerals, herbs and phytochemicals that are known for their ability to improve cognitive function and memory.
Mega-high doses aren’t recommended. The exact amount of ALA you need is dependent on your body weight and composition, gender, age and medical conditions, if any. Question supplements that contain more than 100-400 mg.
Very few side effects have been reported for ALA supplementation. In rare instances a rash was noted. No tests have been done to set safety standards for alpha lipoic acid supplementation by pregnant or nursing women and thus is not recommended.
Not recommended for individuals who have liver disease associated thiamin deficiency, are undergoing metal chelation therapy, have a thyroid disorder or who are receiving chemotherapy.
Speak with your prescribing health care provider before taking an ALA supplement if you are on medication(s) for blood glucose regulation or have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia.
Therapeutic doses are much higher than what is recommended for oral administration as the body can only process so much of anything at a time. High doses are typically giving intravenously under the care of a doctor specific to your health condition. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise proper supplementation for your individual health care plan.
As always, store per the directions on the supplement’s package
Alpha Lipoic Acid Conclusion
If you are currently dealing with frustrating memory and focus problems try to find an ALA supplement that’s right for you and your budget. If you have a family history of diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and/or metabolic syndrome talk with your doctor about ALA.