Lipoic acid or alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid found naturally inside every cell of the body. It is a powerful antioxidant; a substance that neutralizes potentially harmful chemicals called free radicals in the body. Our bodies produce it in very small amounts and it is also found in foods such as spinach, Brewer’s yeast, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, organ meats and rice bran. It converts glucose (or blood sugar) into energy. Let’s take at look at this widely touted supplement.
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.
Used to treat a common complication of diabetes called peripheral neuropathy, Lipoic acid speeds the removal of glucose from the bloodstream. It enhances insulin function and reduces insulin resistance, which are the basis of most cases of obesity and coronary heart disease. ALA quickly and greatly reduces the severity and incidence of symptoms like burning and sharply cutting pain, numbness and prickling sensations felt in diabetic neuropathy.
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 as a nutritional supplement 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).
Very few side effects have been reported when taking lipoic acid. A small number of people reported a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation, muscle cramps, headache or skin rash. People with diabetes who are taking medication to lower their blood sugar should take ALA under the supervision of a qualified health professional and have their blood sugar levels monitored as ALA may improve blood sugar control. Some studies have shown that ALA used as a nutritional supplement may alter thyroid hormone levels, so those taking thyroid medications and ALA should be monitored by their healthcare provider.