If you want to give yourself the best antioxidant defense, alpha lipoic acid (or ALA) is the way to go. Most of us are unaware of this particular compound, but everyday foods like spinach and broccoli are replete with it.
Want to protect yourself from everyday pollution and its detrimental effects? How about combating cancer and inflammation and even diabetes before they set in and wreck your life? Or have better vision? ALA is the key. This post tells you a lot more about ALA. So, why don’t you keep reading?
Table Of Contents
- What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
- ALA – The Free Radical Scavenger
- What Are The Benefits Of Alpha Lipoic Acid?
- What Is The Recommended Dosage Of ALA?
- What Are The Side Effects Of ALA?
- A Note On ALA Supplements
What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
ALA is one antioxidant that is commonly found in plant foods. We humans also synthesize a small amount of ALA, and this amount drastically increases when we follow a healthy diet regularly. In fact, the natural form of this acid is lipoic acid (the one found in plants and synthesized in our bodies). When this acid is prepared in the lab, it is called alpha lipoic acid.
But why are we even reading about it? Why is it important? To know that, you need to understand the science behind free radicals.
ALA – The Free Radical Scavenger
The science is simple. Our bodies are made of atoms. And atoms are surrounded by electrons, in layers called shells. Each shell has a set number of atoms. If a shell is vacant, the atom bonds with other atoms to get electrons.
Such incomplete atoms are called free radicals. They are unstable and seek other atoms to bind with. In the process, they set off a chain reaction that is called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a killer. It damages the body’s cells and is responsible for most of the deadly diseases that plague humanity today. Some of them include cancer, arthritis, inflammation, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cataracts, and other genetic diseases.
Antioxidants lend electrons to these incomplete atoms and help them stabilize. They stop oxidative stress. ALA is an antioxidant. In fact, we can say it is the most powerful of all antioxidants. This is because it is both water and fat-soluble – which means it can be properly absorbed by either of them, unlike other antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E. This is what makes ALA unique.
ALA also binds with heavy metals in the body (like mercury, arsenic, and lead) and flushes them out of your system. Heavy metals cause deadly diseases and, in worst cases, even death. ALA stops all of this.
Which is why it is important you know about it. If you pay some attention, ALA can save your health and life in several ways. We will discuss all of them now.
What Are The Benefits Of Alpha Lipoic Acid?
1. ALA Aids Diabetes Treatment
ALA protects the cells and neurons involved in hormone production, and this is how it can aid diabetes treatment and prevent related complications. Studies show how this antioxidant can help prevent diabetic neuropathy, a common diabetes complication (1).
ALA can lower blood glucose levels, thereby alleviating diabetes complications. There is strong evidence that ALA, even in the supplemental form, can help with type 2 diabetes (2). In addition, it can also protect the retina from damage that might occur in certain diabetes individuals.
2. Fights Inflammation
Given it is a potent antioxidant, ALA can fight inflammation in the body. More interestingly, it even restores the levels of other antioxidants like vitamins C and E (3). The antioxidant was also found to reduce inflammation in several patients with heart disease.
3. Prevents Cancer
As per studies, ALA can prevent breast cancer – thanks to the strong influence it has on cell growth. It even induces programmed cell death in cancer cells. ALA also inhibits a compound called matrix metalloproteinase that breaks down the cell structure and allows cancer cells to proliferate.
In animal studies, daily treatment with ALA had halted cancer growth – and this makes ALA all the more promising as an effective cancer treatment (4).
4. May Help With Weight Loss
Some research states that ALA may help with weight loss. Obese patients treated with the antioxidant showed some weight loss compared to those on a placebo (5). However, we need more research here.
5. Promotes Liver Health
ALA was used to treat liver disease in various instances, and the results were positive. Whether it was alcohol-induced liver damage or heavy metal poisoning, ALA aided treatment and offered relief from symptoms (6).
Even liver cells damaged by excess polyunsaturated fatty acids undergo regeneration, thanks to ALA (7).
6. ALA Improves Vision Health
Oxidative stress can damage the eye nerves and lead to long-term vision ailments. But thanks to the antioxidant properties of ALA, these can be prevented. ALA was used in several occasions to prevent retinal damage, cataracts, and even macular degeneration. Studies show that ALA can even be used to prevent diabetic retinopathy (8).
7. Can Treat Migraines
8. Assists In Muscle Growth
ALA achieves this in different ways. ALA has an insulin-mimicking effect. It increases glucose uptake in a way that allows more of glucose to travel to the muscle cells and only some of it to the fat cells. This way, ALA lowers blood sugar levels as well – thereby creating a conducive atmosphere for fat burning.
9. May Help Treat Fibromyalgia
ALA is known to reduce diabetic nerve pain, which is why it might also be effective in reducing pain in individuals suffering from fibromyalgia.
10. Promotes Brain Health
ALA seamlessly passes through the blood-brain barrier and helps protect the brain tissue. It can be used to prevent and even treat neuron damage, memory loss, and impairment in older adults and even improve cognitive functioning – thanks to its antioxidant activity (11).
11. Boosts Skin Health
Since ALA fights inflammation, it can work wonders in treating acne. In fact, some popular acne-fighting creams have ALA as their primary ingredient – that explains a lot, doesn’t it?
There is some evidence that ALA might also heal scars. The acid enables the skin to activate certain collagen-digesting enzymes that work to break down the damaged collagen, which is what constitute scars and wrinkles and even fine lines.
These are the ways the potent antioxidant properties of ALA can make your life better. So, how do you take this power antioxidant? Simple – consume more of the foods that have it.
The foods containing ALA include:
- Red meat (including organ meat)
- Brussels sprouts
- Brewer’s yeast
But hold on – how much ALA do you need in a day? Knowing that can help you plan your diet better, right?
What Is The Recommended Dosage Of ALA?
The ideal dosage varies from person to person. It depends on several factors. But from a general sense, this is how the average dosing of ALA looks like:
- If you are a healthy adult who wants to take ALA for its antioxidant benefits, your daily dosage is 50 to 100 milligrams.
- In the case of diabetes, your dosage is 600 to 800 milligrams (divided into two doses).
- And in the case of more severe diabetes (like diabetic neuropathy), you would need 600 to 1,800 milligrams.
In case you are taking ALA for any specific health issue, we suggest you consult your doctor or health care provider as well.
But hold on. What happens if you exceed the dosage? Anything to keep in mind?
What Are The Side Effects Of ALA?
Taking too much alpha lipoic acid can lead to undesirable conditions – as discussed below:
- Issues With Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
We don’t have enough information here. Hence, stay safe and avoid ALA if you are pregnant or breasfeeding.
- Possibly Unsafe For Children
ALA might cause severe issues in children and infants if taken in large amounts. A few such symptoms include vomiting, unconscious, and even seizures. Please consult a pediatrician if your child exhibits any of these symptoms.
Yes, ALA is beneficial for diabetes. Which is why the dosages of your diabetes medications need to be adjusted accordingly in case you are making ALA a part of your regular routine. Please talk to your doctor before you consume ALA for this purpose.
- Issues During Surgery
ALA can interfere with blood sugar control during and post surgery. Hence, stop its intake at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
- Issues With Thiamine Deficiency
Don’t take ALA if you have thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency as it might cause serious problems. The same holds true if you take too much alcohol, as excess alcohol also reduces levels of thiamine. (In fact, if you consume excess alcohol, we suggest you cut back on that first!)
- Interference With Thyroid Disease Treatment
If you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, stay away from ALA (unless approved by your doctor). ALA might interfere with thyroid medications and treatment.
A Note On ALA Supplements
ALA supplements are a safe way to ensure you get enough levels of this antioxidant. This is because though common foods contain this compound, they only do so in low amounts. Unless you regularly take multiple servings of fruits and veggies, you may not be getting adequate levels of ALA. Make sure you consult your nutritionist or doctor before going for supplements.
Antioxidants are key. They are the defense mechanisms that shield your body from threats. And ALA is the most potent of them. Include it in your diet today. Do this for yourself, and for your family.
And tell us how this post has helped you. Simply leave a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How to take ALA?
You can take it through foods or even supplements. In case you are particular about getting the adequate amounts of ALA, we recommend you go for supplements as well. Consult your health care provider, though.
What is the difference between alpha lipoic acid and R-lipoic acid?
R-lipoic acid is nothing but the natural form of lipoic acid, found in plant foods and also synthesized by the body. S-lipoic acid is the unnatural form.
Where can you buy ALA?
You can go for the plant foods listed in this post. Or you can go for supplements as well. You can get your supplements here.
Why does ALA make your urine smell?
This is one harmless side effect of ALA. If you find it causing other issues (like burning), do consult your doctor.
1. “Alpha lipoic acid and…”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Diabetes and Alpha Lipoic Acid”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “Lipoic Acid: its antioxidant and…”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Lipoic acid inhibits cell…”. US National Library of Medicine.
5. “ALA as a supplementation for weight loss”. US National Library of Medicine.
6. “Alpha-lipoic acid in liver metabolism and disease”. US National Library of Medicine.
7. “The effects of alpha lipoic acid on liver cells…”. ScienceDirect.
8. “Effect of long-term administration…”. US National Library of Medicine.
9. “Alpha Lipoic Acid”. University of Michigan.
10. “Foods and supplements in the management…”. US National Library of Medicine.
11. “Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on memory…”. US National Library of Medicine.
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