Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that is soluble in both fat and water and is easily absorbed and transported across cell membranes. This offers protection against free radicals both inside the cells and outside the cell unlike many other antioxidants which only provide extracellular protection.
Inside the cell, alpha lipoic acid is readily reduced or broken down to dihydrolipoic acid. Dihydrolipoic acid is even more potent than alpha lipoic acid, neutralizing free radicals, preventing them from causing harm. It directly destroys damaging superoxide radicals, hydroperoxy radicals and hydroxyl radicals. We encounter these oxidants every day through exposure to cigarette smoke, car exhaust, irradiation, polluted air, alcohol, sunshine, etc. We also continuously form superoxides as a natural part of respiration and metabolism. We create free radicals as we convert the food we eat to energy.
Free radicals damage cell membranes creating capillary fragility, are associated with cardiovascular disease, damage proteins creating cataracts, and breakdown elastin and collagen, which are associated with aging, wrinkles and cancer.
Research in the last decade has strongly implicated oxidative damage within the cells, caused by free radicals, as the cause of many of the degenerative disorders of aging. Included in this group is Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a host of other conditions.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, alpha lipoic acid has a number of unique applications leading to its great health promoting abilities. ALA is one of the very few substances that can actually cross the blood/brain barrier to enter the brain and go directly where it is needed most. ALA supplementation causes increased levels of glutathione, which helps the body disposes of toxins. This is important as glutathione protects the brain from free radical damage, and low levels of glutathione in the brain are associated with brain disorders such as stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
ALA is also known as a network antioxidant. Normally once most other antioxidant has eliminated a free radical, it is lost forever. Lipoic acid is the only antioxidant with the unique ability to regenerate/recycle itself, and other antioxidants such as vitamins C & E, so that they can continue destroying free radicals.
Alpha Lipoic Acid has benefits for all types of people and particularly those with diabetes or higher than normal blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, some vision conditions, (i.e.. macular degeneration) cardiovascular problems such as hardening of the arteries and other conditions associated with the aging process.
Alpha Lipoic Acid increases glucose uptake in the cells and appears to reduce weight gain and symptoms of diabetic complications including cataract formation, vascular damage and even polyneuropathy (nerve damage).
For well over 30 years physicians in Germany have been clinically treating Diabetics with ALA. Studies worldwide have shown ALA’s ability to normalize glucose uptake and utilization. In one study, ALA was also shown to prevent diabetes in 70% of the animals tested. In another study type II diabetics were given 500mg of ALA daily and in 10 days saw a 30% increase in insulin stimulated glucose disposal.
Nerve damage or neuropathy affects over 50% of diabetics and is one of its most damaging complications. A published study has shown that supplementing with ALA can partly restore diabetic nerve function after only four months of high-dose oral treatment.
ALA is also a strong antiviral agent and prevents viral replication in many kinds of viruses including HIV. ALA is a natural reverse transcriptase inhibitor. A pilot study showed that ALA increased plasma ascorbate levels in 90% of the patients, glutathione in 100%, plasma sulfur in 89%, and t-helper and t-helper/suppresor ratios in 60%, while the lipid peroxidation product, maldonaldehyde, decreased in 89% of the patients studied.
ALA prevents kidney stone formation, chelates (binds to) and removes toxic heavy metals from the body and strongly protects the liver from many toxins.
Because of the beneficial recycling effects on glutathione and other antioxidants, Alpha lipoic acid is the perfect antioxidant for drinkers and smokers because it neutralizes these toxins and also protects us from secondhand smoke. Alpha lipoic acid actually protects the liver from damage from alcohol.