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Alpha Lipoic Acid—antioxidant, blood sugar balancing and more!

Diabetes, Skin Conditions | May 11, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Nervous system, Skin conditions, diabetes

Alpha Lipoic Acid—antioxidant, blood sugar balancing and more!

We all know the importance of antioxidants in providing protection against chronic degenerative diseases and in maintaining good health. Alpha lipoic acid is one such example that defends against diabetes, scavenges free radicals, reduces inflammation and slows the ageing process. It is a one of a kind nutrient that’s present inside every cell—helping in the production of energy and preventing cellular damage.

What is alpha lipoic acid?

First discovered in 1937, alpha lipoic acid was first classified as a vitamin. Shortly after this time it was found that humans could manufacture their own alpha lipoic acid from octanoic acid (caprylic acid) and the sulphur residue of cysteine.

Alpha lipoic acid is a cofactor for at least 5 different enzyme systems—including the citric acid cycle in which humans convert nutrients into energy

Food sources

What is alpha lipoic acid?Alpha lipoic acid is found in various food sources in the form lipoyllysine.

The best food sources are organ meats and spinach. Lesser amounts are found in broccoli floral buds, tomato, garden peas, brussels sprouts, rice bran and yeast extract.

Even though these foods are healthy to include as part of a balanced diet, the lipoyllysine content is present in very low amounts and is poorly bioavailable.

It has been found that dietary supplementation provides the main source of exogenous lipoic acid.

The many benefits of alpha lipoic acid

Antioxidant

Alpha lipoic acid is a unique antioxidant due to ability to neutralise free radicals in both water and fat-soluble tissues—while also acting as a ‘metabolic antioxidant’. It has been found to enhance the activity and levels of other important antioxidants in the body such as glutathione and vitamins C and E. As a heavy metal binder, alpha lipoic acid has the ability to attach itself to dangerous toxic metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic and help in their removal from the body.
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Alpha lipoic role as an antioxidant and involvement with other antioxidant systems underlie its many observed actions in the human body.

Blood sugar regulation

Blood sugar regulationDiabetics or pre-diabetics have problems with regulating their blood sugar levels.

Glucose (sugar) concentrations in the blood are elevated and don’t move efficiently into the cells for energy.

Alpha lipoic acid is known to promote the efficiency of glucose uptake—moving the sugar from the bloodstream into cells and subsequently reducing blood sugars.

It also improves insulin sensitivity and provides protection against insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

In diabetics, alpha lipoic acid provides protection against complications such as nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, eye-related disorders, pain and swelling.
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Nerve protection

Various studies have found that alpha lipoic acid has a potential role in several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, burning mouth syndrome, seizures, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome and diabetic neuropathies.

Nerve protectionA double-blind clinical trial has found that alpha lipoic acid can help improve the symptoms and pain associated with acute backache and moderate sciatica associated with a herniated disc.

It is believed that alpha lipoic acid protects our nerves by preventing damage to our DNA. In the brain alpha lipoic acid is able to cross the blood brain barrier where it prevents oxidative damage, promotes new nerve growth, inhibits inflammation and decreases cell death.
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Skin health

When taken internally alpha lipoic acid had shown to accelerate wound healing and improve skin health. When used topically, a cream containing 5% alpha lipoic acid can reduce the visible signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, enlarged pores, under-eye bags and puffiness.
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Other benefits

Additional benefits from alpha lipoic acid supplementation include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome—improves insulin sensitivity, triglycerides and cholesterol levels Click Here
  • Hypertension—animal studies have found a decrease in blood pressure Click Here
  • Weight loss—studies have found a significant difference in body mass when compared to placebo
  • Migraine prevention—reduces attack frequency and severity Click Here
  • Glaucoma—improves visual function and protects retinal neurons
  • Age-related macular degeneration—prevents macular damage by boosting serum antioxidant levels of superoxide dismutase Click Here 
  • HIV/AIDS—improved glutathione levels and components of the immune system

Dosage ranges

According to clinical studies higher doses of 600-1200mg per day should be taken in diabetics and those with peripheral neuropathies. Lower doses of 600mg/day have been found beneficial in people with PCOS, those who suffer from migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, burning mouth syndrome, hypertension, wounds, Alzheimer’s disease and sciatic nerve pain. The benefits on glaucoma were seen in a much smaller dose of 150mg per day.

As alpha lipoic acid absorption decreases with food it is recommended that the supplement be taken 30-60 minutes before food or 2 hours after. However, side-effects are more likely to occur on an empty stomach.

Adverse reactions

Overall alpha lipoic acid is a safe supplement to consume that is well tolerated.

The many benefits of alpha lipoic acidSide effects that may occur include nausea, vomiting, rashes, nausea, vomiting, rashes, tingling, itching sensations and headaches. These adverse reactions tended to occur when the dose exceeded 1200mg per day.

Topical alpha lipoic acid side effects may include mild rash and local irritation with stinging and burning sensations.

If you are taking medications for thyroid disorders, blood sugar regulation or blood thinners it is important to check with a health professional first before supplementing.

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References

Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs and natural supplements: An evidence-based guide vol. 2. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Park S, et al. Physiological effect and therapeutic application of alpha lipoic acid. Curr Med Chem. 2014;21(32):3636-45

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25005184

Rochette L, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential in diabetes. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 Dec;93(12):1021-7

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26406389

Gomes MBNegrato CA. Alpha-lipoic acid as a pleiotropic compound with potential therapeutic use in diabetes and other chronic diseases. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2014 Jul 28;6(1):80

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25104975

Beitner H. Randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind study on the clinical efficacy of a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid related to photoageing of facial skin. Br J Dermatol. 2003 Oct;149(4):841-9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14616378

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