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Last updated: 21 Jun 2018

Alpha Lipoic Acid Overview

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that reduces blood sugar, helps regenerate damaged nerves, increases other antioxidants, fights viruses, prevents kidney stones, and helps remove toxic heavy metals.

Alpha Lipoic Acid is unique in being effective as both a water soluble and also a fat soluble antioxidant. Unlike most other antioxidants, it is effective inside the cells as well as outside and it is also effective in reduced form. This means that after it has donated an electron to stop a free radical, it is still effective. ALA is also a coenzyme in the metabolic process that generates energy in the body. It has a host of beneficial and therapeutic effects.

In Europe it is used to treat complications associated with diabetes such as neuropathy, macular degeneration and cataracts. ALA actually regenerates damaged nerves. It speeds the removal of glucose from the bloodstream, at least partly by enhancing insulin function, and it reduces insulin resistance, an underpinning cause of many cases of coronary heart disease and obesity. ALA prevents glycation which causes most diabetic complications and has been implicated in aging. It also normalizes and stablizes blood sugar levels.

ALA helps weight loss by preferentially shunting glucose to muscle cells and away from fat cells.

As an antioxidant, ALA increases glutathione dramatically, one of the body's most important antioxidants and it recycles vitamins E and C to make them last longer and avoid oxidation themselves. The antioxidant properties of ALA are so powerful that it even protects against radiation. Glutathione is invariably low in those who become sick and high in those who stay healthy, according to findings at the University of Michigan.

ALA is a strong antiviral agent and prevents replication of many kinds of viruses including HIV; ALA is a natural reverse transcriptase inhibitor. A pilot study showed that ALA increased plasma Vitamin C 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 including Amanita mushroom poisoning.

Alpha-lipoic acid also plays an important role in the synergism of antioxidants, what has been called the body's "antioxidant network." It directly recycles and extends the metabolic lifespans of Vitamin C, glutathione, and CoQ10, and it indirectly renews Vitamin E.

ALA exists in two different forms, or stereoisomers, called R-ALA and S-ALA. Each stereoisomer has somewhat different chemical properties. ALA that exists in nature is the R-ALA form, and R-ALA seems to be considerably more potent than S-ALA. Although S-ALA doesn't exist in nature, most ALA supplements, unless labeled otherwise, use S-ALA. In part due to the fact that R-ALA has only recently become readily available as a supplement, most of the research done on ALA used the S form. For this latter reason, and in spite of current marketing efforts to the contrary, I suggest using the S form.

CAUTION

At higher doses, diabetics may experience hypoglycemia from increased glucose utilization. Very high doses may also cause gastrointestinal upset. ALA also competes with biotin and a source of biotin should be taken with ALA. High doses of biotin are also excellent for diabetes.

People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and related conditions, should be careful when taking high doses of ALA. Its chelation abilities can also remove some beneficial minerals, which are often low in conditions like MCS and CFS.

DOSE

Typical doses range from 150mg once or twice a day, to 300mg once or twice a day, to 600mg once a day. Clinical studies have been done using as much as 1800mg per day. Most people without a significant disease will do fine on 150mg once a day.

BRANDS

Doctor's Best has a good quality, well-priced product for both 150mg and 300mg. For biotin, Now Foods has a good 1000ug product. Biotin is also available in B-complex caps, such as B-Right by Jarrow.

References:
  • ALA helps people with genetic defects leading to muscle myopathies (Barbiroli B, et al., Journal of Neurology, 1995;242:472-7)
  • ALA reduces ischemia/reperfusion injury to the heart and brain. (Schonheit K, et al., Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1995;1271:335-42; and Cao X and Phillis JW, Free Radical Research, 1995;23:365-70)
  • ALA inhibits the activation of "nuclear factor kappa-B," a protein complex involved in cancer and the progression of AIDS. (Suzuki YJ, et al., Biochemical & Biophysical Research Communications, 1992;189:1709-15)
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