What makes foods like broccoli and spinach so healthy? These foods naturally contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but they also contain another essential ingredient called an antioxidant – like alpha-lipoic acid (ALA).
You’ve probably heard a lot about foods rich in antioxidants and the many beneficial effects of antioxidants – fighting inflammation, fighting cancer, and heart disease, preventing depression and cognitive decline, and many other things. Have you ever wondered what antioxidants are?
Alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant, is a compound found in plant foods that binds free radicals, fights inflammation, and slows down the aging process. But perhaps its most famous use is in the natural treatment of diabetes.
People themselves produce smaller amounts of ALA, but its concentration in the bloodstream is significantly increased in a healthy diet rich in vegetables, potatoes, and yeast. Lipoic acid is similar to the vitamin in that it can be created in laboratory conditions, but it can also be taken as an anti-inflammatory dietary supplement.
How alpha-lipoic acid works
Lipoic acid is found in our bodies and synthesized by plants and animals. It is present in every cell of our body and helps glucose metabolism, which gives our body energy. Is it “necessary” to take a certain amount of alpha-lipoic acid every day? Not really.
Even if we can produce it ourselves independently of dietary supplements and food sources, consuming foods full of antioxidants and ALA supplements can increase the amount of this compound in our body.
The best beneficial effect of ALA is that it fights free radicals, which are harmful by-products of the oxidation process. ALA is converted to dihydrolipoic acid in our cells, which has a protective effect above normal cellular reactions.
Oxidation occasionally occurs in the body due to natural chemical processes such as eating or movement. When exposed to environmental pollutants and harmful substances, certain compounds can become very reactive and harmful to cells. Sometimes this can lead to abnormal cell growth and proliferation or other effects, slow down metabolic processes and alter neuronal signaling.
Like other antioxidants, alpha-lipoic acid can help slow cell damage, which is one of the leading causes of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It restores essential vitamins in our body, such as vitamin E or vitamin C, helping our body digest and use carbohydrate molecules while converting them into useful energy.
In addition, alpha-lipoic acid interacts with vitamin B, which is needed to convert trace elements from food into energy. Synthesized in the human body and bound to protein molecules, it acts as a cofactor of many important mitochondrial enzymes.
ALA is unique because it is soluble in both water and fat, unlike other nutrients (such as vitamin B or vitamins A, C, D, and E) that only one or the other can adequately absorb. There is evidence that ALA is a “chelating agent of heavy metals,” i.e., it binds heavy metals in our bodies (also known as “toxins”), mercury, arsenic, iron, and other forms of free radicals that enter us through water, air, chemicals, and food…
Finally (if that wasn’t enough!) Alpha-lipoic acid can increase the use of an essential antioxidant called glutathione and thus increase energy metabolism – which is why athletes take ALA supplements to improve their physical fitness.
The beneficial effect of alpha-lipoic acid
Because it acts as an antidote to oxidative stress and inflammation, alpha-lipoic acid seems to fight against damage to blood vessels, the brain, and organs such as the heart and liver. This fact offers many possibilities for our whole body through the natural treatment of Alzheimer’s disease to control the liver disease.
Since ALA is not officially a necessary nutrient, the recommended daily dose to prevent deficiency has not been established. However, in general, with the use of few antioxidants, the aging process is accelerated, manifesting itself with symptoms such as a weakened immune system, declining muscle mass, cardiovascular problems, and memory disorders.
A diet rich in alpha-lipoic acid (or supplements for some) can help you stay young and healthy in five ways:
1. Fight diabetes and its consequences
Since alpha-lipoic acid protects cells and neurons involved in hormone production, one of its benefits is protecting against diabetes. ALA is considered an effective drug in treating diabetic sensory neuropathy, which has been observed in diabetics.
ALA appears to help improve insulin sensitivity in a dietary supplement and protect against metabolic syndrome (a term used for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high-weight conditions). There are indications that it can also help lower blood sugar.
ALA is used to relieve complications and symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes, including numbness of the legs and arms, cardiovascular problems, eye, and vision disorders, pain, and swelling. Therefore, a diabetic diet must contain ALA to treat this common nervous disorder. Anyone who has developed peripheral neuropathy as a side effect of diabetes can experience relief from pain, burning, itching, tingling, and numbness with ALA. According to most studies, high-dose intravenous ALA is much more effective than eating foods rich in alpha-lipoic acid.
One of the best effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplements in diabetes is to reduce the risk of neuropathic complications that affect the heart. 25% of people with diabetes develop cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN). CAN is characterized by decreased heart rate variability and is associated with an increased mortality rate in diabetics. Researchers say that adding ALA 600 mg per day for 3 weeks significantly reduces diabetic peripheral neuropathy, although some doctors prefer to increase this dose to 1800 mg per day.
2. Eye health
Oxidative stress can damage the nerves in the eyes and cause vision problems, especially in diabetics and the elderly. Alpha-lipoic acid is successfully used to treat the symptoms of eye problems such as vision loss, macular degeneration, retinal damage, cataracts, or even Wilson’s disease.
The results of several studies show that long-term use of alpha-lipoic acid has a beneficial effect on the development of retinopathy (non-inflammatory retinal lesions) because it stops oxidative damage that can result in retinal DNA modification. As we age, people’s vision becomes more and more compromised, which is why it is important to eat a nutritious diet long before aging to prevent eye tissue degeneration or even early vision loss.
3. Prevents memory loss and cognitive decline
We know that a diet rich in nutrients full of foods that promote brain function helps preserve memory. Many healthcare professionals use alpha-lipoic acid supplements to help their patients prevent nerve damage, memory loss, impaired motor skills, and changes in cognitive function due to antioxidant functions. It seems that ALA can easily enter the brain through the blood-brain barrier, where it can protect the nervous tissue. It is also used to prevent stroke and other brain problems such as dementia in old age.
Recent experiments on rats have shown that ALA can help reverse brain damage, improve memory activity, reduce oxidative damage and improve mitochondrial function.
4. Helps increase glutathione levels
Experts say that glutathione is “the main antioxidant” because it is crucial for the immune system, cell health, and prevention of various diseases. According to some studies, 300-1200mg of alpha-lipoic acid helps increase glutathione’s ability to regulate the body’s immune system and fight diseases such as diabetes/insulin resistance or even HIV / AIDS.
In adults, the dietary supplement of alpha-lipoic acid has a positive effect on patients with immunodeficiency syndromes and infected with serious viruses by restoring the total level of glutathione in the blood and improving the function of lymphocytes and T-cells.
5. It can help protect the skin from injury
In the fight against the physical symptoms of skin aging, some studies have shown that topical creams containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid can help reduce fine lines caused by sunlight. Skin damage is one of the side effects of high levels of free radicals, so consuming antioxidant fruits and vegetables can preserve a youthful appearance.
As needed? And what are the best sources of alpha-lipoic acid?
The best way to get any nutrients is through real food sources because our body can best absorb and use various substances. ALA is found in many plant and animal sources because it binds to protein molecules (especially lysine).
The concentration of ALA in different foods can vary depending on where the plant is grown, what the quality of the soil is, how fresh it is or how it is prepared. So it is quite difficult to determine the amount in each food. Not much research has been conducted to conclude alpha-lipoic acid levels in a particular food. Still, in any case, it seems that most of the alpha-lipoic acid can be found in vegetables and certain organic meats.
Here are some food sources that contain alpha-lipoic acid:
- Red meat
- Offal (such as liver, heart, beef, or chicken kidneys)
- Brussels sprout
- beer yeast
Recommendations for the use of alpha-lipoic acid
If you opt for our ALA supplement, keep in mind that you can achieve the best results with it. Although side effects and risks due to overdose are quite rare (since it is a natural substance also found in our body), a small amount like 20-50 mg seems suitable for overall health. Larger amounts, 600-800mg per day, are recommended for diabetes or people with cognitive impairments, but not for the average person.
Dosage amounts will vary depending on who you ask, but you can find help with safety restrictions below.
50-100mg for antioxidant purposes in healthy adults
600-800mg for diabetics
600-1,800 mg for patients with neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy (you should only use such large amounts under medical supervision)
Researchers from Oregon State University say that the amount of alpha-lipoic acid (200-600 mg) in dietary supplements can be 1000 times more than a person can get with an average diet. It is believed that taking ALA with food reduces its usability, so experts prefer to consume it on an empty stomach (or at least 1 hour before a meal) to achieve the best results.
Possible side effects of ALA and its effect on other drugs
Alpha-lipoic acid supplements have not been studied in children, pregnant women, or breastfeeding women, so they are currently recommended only for adults. ALA supplements have infrequent side effects, but some can cause insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea, rashes, or low blood sugar (mostly in people with diabetes or who need to take medication because of low blood sugar).
Here are some circumstances in which you may want to see a doctor before taking an extra amount of alpha-lipoic acid.
- If you lack thiamine (vitamin B1), which is associated with liver disease / heavy alcohol consumption.
- If you are taking any medicine for diabetes, it can increase the risk of hypoglycemia and lower blood sugar.
- If you are receiving chemotherapy or anti-cancer drugs.
- If you have thyroid problems.
Daily dose content
400mg alpha-lipoic acid.
Method of use and dosage
As a dietary supplement, take one capsule once or twice a day with water.
Store in a cool and dry place, out of direct sunlight.
Do not take this product if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult a doctor before use if you are taking prescription drugs.
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