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Alpha Lipoic Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

April 16, 2017
Updated May 15, 2020

Everyone knows superfoods like broccoli and spinach should be included in a nutritious diet, but what makes them so so healthy? Fiber, vitamins and minerals are the obvious choices, but their secret weapon is an important chemical compound called antioxidants. One such antioxidant is alpha lipoic acid (ALA).

Odds are you’ve discovered the many benefits of one or multiple antioxidants and high-antioxidant foods, such as fighting inflammation, warding off cognitive decline, and so considerable more, but have you ever thought about what effect they have on your body?

Alpha lipoic acid, one antioxidant, is found in plant foods we commonly eat that defends against free radicals and fights inflammation.

A small amount of ALA is produced in the human body naturally, but the amount existing in our body goes up extensively when we practice maintaining a healthy diet, but what is ALA and how can we benefit from it.

What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an organosulfur compound crucial for aerobic metabolism. ALA supports cellular integrity by interacting with vitamin C and glutathione, allowing the production of Vitamin E.

Small amounts of lipoic acid are found in green vegetables such as broccoli. However, supplementation provides a readily available amount that may not be obtainable solely by eating green vegetables or other foods as part of a daily diet.

ALA may also help the body decrease the formation of Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs). Elevated levels of AGEs, which form naturally from certain methods of cooking, are thought to contribute to oxidative stress.
The Benefits Of Regular Alpha Lipoic Acid Intake

Formed naturally in various meats, green veggies, tubers and several types of yeast, lipoic acid is comparable to a vitamin in that it can also be man-made in a lab so it can be taken as an anti-inflammatory supplement (which is then called alpha lipoic acid).

Based on evidence from animal and human studies, lipoic acid offers the following essential health benefits:

● Helps reduce oxidative stress in the body via powerful antioxidant activity
● Helps reduce insulin resistance
● Helps improve the lipid profile
● Helps increase insulin sensitivity
● Helps prevent bone loss, possibly through an anti-inflammatory effect
● Helps remove toxic metals from the body
● Helps improve skin texture

In supplement form, it has shown benefits against various forms of oxidation and inflammation. It is a potent antioxidant compound. It works with mitochondria and the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.

It is also seen as an anti-aging compound since it can reverse some of the oxidant damage related effects of aging.

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.

Studies have shown that oxidative damage is seen throughout various portions of the brain cells in memory loss patients.

Antioxidants have been shown in numerous studies to halt or reduce oxidative damage in cells and, in many cases, stabilize and even reverse the cell damage.

There have been multiple studies in medical literature indicating that antioxidants can have beneficial effects in slowing down and perhaps even helping reduce the likelihood of developing memory loss.

More recent experimental studies have shown that ALA can reverse the damage in aging cells of the brain. This was a study published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science from February of this year.

Recommended Usage & Natural Sources Of Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects
Although a healthy body produces enough of this antioxidant, but a deficiency may lead to weakened immune functions, impaired brain functions and reduced muscle mass.

Some of the natural sources of alpha lipoic acid include meat products and organ meats, vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, chard, potato, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and peas. Brewer’s yeast is also a good source alpha lipoic acid.

All amounts below are measured in lipoyllysinem, which is the protein-bound form alpha lipoic acid, as per Nutritional Ergogenic Aids. Be aware that it is not known exactly how much antioxidant activity the protein-bound form has (versus isolated ALA as a supplement) since a conversion process must take place for it to serve as a source of “free” alpha lipoic acid. The amount converted may vary by person based on the unique factors of their body.

Top 10 Foods Highest In ALA (as lipoyllysine, the protein-bound form)
Food mcg/g Dry Weight
ng/mg Protein
1. spinach 3.15 92.51
2. bovine (cow) kidney 2.64 50.57
3. bovine (cow) heart 1.51 41.42
4. broccoli 0.94 41.01
5. tomato 0.56 48.61
6. green pea 0.39 17.13
7. brussel sprouts 0.39 18.39
8. bovine (cow) spleen 0.36 5.69
9. bovine (cow) brain 0.27 4.85
10. rice bran 0.16 4.44

 

Although ALA can be introduced into the body through diet, the effectiveness of dietary ALA is minimal because dietary ALA is bound to lysine and protein that prevents it from circulating as free ALA.

Therefore, the most effective way to introduce alpha lipoic acid in the body is through dietary supplements. Daily alpha lipoic acid dosage can range from 20 to 50 mg and supplements are available with dosage ranging from 30 to 100 mg.

Get your daily dose of antioxidants and improve your bone health, eye health and brain functions with the help of alpha lipoic acid (ALA). Utilize its benefits either from foods or dietary supplements in the form of tablets.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Side Effects

Alpha Lipoic Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Side effects from using ALA supplements appear to be rare and mild, such as skin rash. However, little is known about the possible effect of long-term use of ALA supplements.

And there are no dosage recommendations and little data on the potential effect of large doses taken over time.

ALA should not be used without a recommendation from your doctor if you take insulin or other medications to lower blood sugar. It’s possible that it can enhance the effect of these drugs, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Discuss the use of supplemental ALA with your doctor first. Your doctor may recommend that you increase monitoring of blood sugar levels. The doctor may also want to make an adjustment in your medication.

Because no studies have been done on the effect of using ALA during pregnancy, you should not use it if pregnant. Also, there are no data about its use by children, so children should not take ALA supplements.

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