What Is Lipoic Acid?
Scientists have dubbed lipoic acid the “universal antioxidant,” because this yellowish, sulfur-containing compound not only recycles water-soluble vitamin C in the aqueous parts of the body, including blood serum and urine, it also recycles lipid-soluble vitamin E plus coenzyme Q-10 in fatty tissues such as the brain’s gray matter and even in our so-called “love handles.”
That means it helps guard against deficiencies of all three nutrients while helping to protect the whole body from free radical damage. What’s more, lipoic acid also plays a key role in glycolysis, the conversion of sugar to energy in the cell, as well as greatly boosting levels of glutathione, the body’s most important antioxidant and detoxification enzyme, high levels of which seem to correlate strongly with good health and longevity.
What Are Food Sources Of Lipoic Acid?
For all intents and purposes there aren’t any good food sources of lipoic acid. True, lipoic acid is found in muscle and organ meats, and in leafy green vegetables, but only in vanishingly small amounts. Our bodies must manufacture this vital substance themselves. The only practical source of lipoic acid for those who wish to raise their own levels is in supplement form.
What Is Lipoic Acid Used For?
Lipoic acid is used for a great many things. For instance, too much free iron or copper in the body can cause chemical reactions that produce damaging free radical compounds that speed up aging and promote degenerative conditions such as heart disease and perhaps even cancer.
But lipoic acid has been shown in both test-tube and animal studies to block these harmful reactions, and also to remove excess amounts of these minerals from the body. Its chelating effects also appear to extend to mercury, a very toxic heavy metal now widespread in our environment due to emissions from coal-fired power plants.
In a now-famous experiment the highly respected scientist Bruce Ames combined lipoic acid with the amino acid acetyl L-carnitine to produce significant improvements in learning ability as well as to promote more youthful behavior and appearance in senescent (that is, old) lab rats. Interestingly, he advocates the use of these nutrients in human beings for these same purposes. He suggests taking it with biotin, since both substances compete with each other for absorption.
Easily-damaged polyunsaturated fats make up a high percentage of brain tissue, which means that our central nervous systems are vulnerable to the same kind of free-radical chemistry that make leftover fish spoil quickly. Many scientists believe that this process lies behind much of the deterioration that can take place over time in aging human brains.
Some studies, both animal and human, hint strongly that lipoic acid may, because of its strong antioxidant and neuro-protective effects, play an important role in slowing the progression of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
Due to our modern habits of lack of exercise and heavy consumption of processed junk foods, diabetes and its attendant complications are now a leading cause of death and disability, but here too lipoic acid might be able to help. Research indicates that in as little as four weeks lipoic acid increases cellular intake of glucose, which in turn can decrease insulin resistance, a major problem for diabetics and the overweight.
Diabetics also often suffer from damage to the endothelium, the artery’s inner lining. This often leads to poor circulation other serious complications, including amputation. But studies show that lipoic acid can improve endothelial health, and lead to improvements not only in circulation but even in blood pressure. This is in addition to lipoic acid’s demonstrated benefits against the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, such as decreased numbness and pain.
Other possible assorted benefits of lipoic acid include (but are not limited to) increased bone density, reduction of glaucoma-related eye pressure, lessened inflammation, and even fewer migraines. It is likely that more benefits of lipoic acid will emerge in the near future, particularly in the area of anti-aging medicine.
How Is Lipoic Acid Taken?
Because lipoic acid has a very, very short half-life in the body, scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute and elsewhere suggest that lipoic acid be taken in timed-release form two or three times a day. Typical dosages range from 50 mg to 300 mg and up.
Is Lipoic Acid Safe?
Possible side effects might include heartburn in some individuals. If this occurs simply reduce the amount you take. Diabetics who begin to take lipoic acid should, as always, be diligent about checking their blood glucose levels, since this nutrient alters insulin sensitivity. Otherwise lipoic acid appears to be quite safe.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.