You’ve heard of antioxidants and how they neutralize harmful chemicals called free radicals in the body. You may not be aware of an antioxidant that occurs naturally inside every cell of the body and is found in some green vegetables, organ meats, rice bran and Brewer’s yeast. Alpha lipoic acid (or ALA) is produced in small amounts by our bodies. Used in nutritional supplement form, it treats such ailments as diabetic neuropathy, coronary heart disease and other serious illnesses.
What makes ALA unique and gives it nutritional value is that it is both water and fat soluble, unlike the more common antioxidants vitamins C and E, and it appears to be able to recycle and extend the metabolic lifespan of antioxidants such as of vitamin C, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10, and it indirectly renews vitamin E. Vitamin C lessens oxidative stress while glutathione helps detoxify the liver. Coenzyme Q10 helps convert food energy into energy inside every cell while vitamin E helps with nerve conduction.
Alpha lipoic acid helps treat the symptoms of a common complication of diabetes called peripheral neuropathy. By speeding the removal of glucose from the bloodstream, ALA enhances insulin function and reduces insulin resistance. A large number of cases of coronary heart disease and obesity are a direct or indirect result of those two factors. Symptoms such as prickling sensations, numbness, burning and sharply cutting pain are relieved by this very useful nutritional supplement.
Free radical damage is thought to contribute to aging and chronic illness. ALA helps neutralize those harmful chemicals. ALA can cross the blood-brain barrier; a wall of tiny vessels and structural cells, and pass easily into the brain. It is thought to protect brain and nerve tissue by preventing free radical damage and is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Because of those reasons, ALA is also used to treat a myriad of other illnesses and diseases like cataracts, hardening of the arteries, hepatitis, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, high cholesterol levels, and even human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Though very few, a small number of side effects have been reported when using alpha lipoic acid as a nutritional supplement. They include muscle cramps, skin rash, tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation, or headache. Because ALA can improve blood sugar control, diabetics who take medication to lower their blood sugar should be monitored by their health care provider when taking ALA. People on thyroid medications should also be under the supervision of their healthcare provider if they take this supplement as it can alter thyroid hormone levels.