Antioxidants are nutrients that counteract the natural deterioration of cells. Raw, organic fruits and vegetables provide a wide array of antioxidants. Antioxidants are also present in herbs like astragalus root and Tibetan Rhodiola. In recent years, antioxidant supplements like CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) have gotten significant attention. In the case of ALA, it’s no surprise, as ALA is an important nutrient that offers many positive health benefits. It promotes healthy aging, organ function, cardiovascular health, and brain and nervous system health. ALA also strengthens your body’s network of antioxidants stronger by boosting cellular production of other antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes. Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at alpha lipoic acid and all that it has to offer.
Top 10 Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Encourages normal thyroid hormone levels
- Supports healthy nerves
- Promotes normal heart health
- Protects muscles from exercise-related stress
- Supports the liver
- Promotes a strong brain and sharp memory
- Encourages healthy skin
- Promotes graceful aging
- Maintains healthy blood glucose levels
- Supports a healthy body weight
What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Alpha lipoic acid, abbreviated ALA and also called thioctic acid or just lipoic acid, is an omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is a coenzyme necessary for the Krebs cycle, which is the sequence of chemical reactions by which a cell produces energy. In the body, it’s actually produced in small amounts by the mitochondria, which, you may remember from science class, is the “powerhouse” of a cell.
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ALA occurs in two forms that are mirror images of each other, called R- and S-lipoic acid. Only R-LA is synthesized naturally in the body and naturally occurs in food. It may also exist in a form called Na R Lipoic acid; the Na refers to the sodium (Na) salt that stabilizes the R-lipoic acid. The sodium keeps each molecule separate and more readily available for the body.
Where Do You Get Alpha Lipoic Acid?
There are several ways you can obtain alpha lipoic acid. First and foremost, the cells in your body naturally produce it. Many foods contain alpha lipoic acid, and it’s also available as a nutritional supplement. Additionally, alpha lipoic acid is an ingredient in anti-aging skin care creams and, in some situations, administered by injection.
Cells produce a small amount of alpha lipoic acid. However, the amount of ALA your body produces declines as you age or when your immune system is compromised. Numerous scientific studies have found that supplementation provides substantial therapeutic benefits, suggesting that supplemental ALA can complement a healthy lifestyle.
Foods That Contain Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid is naturally present in many foods. Animal tissue, especially organ meats like the liver, kidneys, and heart, contains the largest amounts of this nutrient. To a lesser degree, alpha lipoic acid is found in vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, flaxseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts.[2, 3]
Nutritional & Therapeutic Supplements
If your body doesn’t produce enough ALA or you don’t get enough in your diet, which is especially true in Western culture where people consume processed foods and are exposed to environmental toxins, a nutritional supplement that contains ALA can help.. Supplemental servings of ALA typically range from 50 to 600 mg, which is up to 1000 times more than naturally occurs in food.[1, 2, 3] Most supplements contain 50-50 combinations of the mirror image isomers, while the highest quality supplements only contain pure R-LA. Studies show that the body absorbs ALA best on an empty stomach.
What Are the Top Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid?
“Alpha lipoic acid is a strong antioxidant, and the bulk of its benefits arise from that fact.”
Alpha lipoic acid is a strong antioxidant, and the bulk of its benefits arise from that fact. Being uniquely fat and water-soluble permits this antioxidant fatty acid to work in a broader range of body tissues than other antioxidants, like fat-soluble vitamin E or water-soluble vitamin C.[4, 5]. ALA can also bind with toxic metal ions such as mercury, copper, iron, and others so they can be expelled from the body.
ALA plays a role in energy metabolism in every cell’s mitochondria. Research has shown that ALA’s antioxidant properties support liver health, cardiovascular health, the nervous system, brain, skin, and muscle recovery following intense exercise.[2, 4] Additionally, ALA supports a healthy weight and normal blood sugar levels.[3, 4, 7, 8]
ALA Is a Powerful Antioxidant
Most of ALA’s therapeutic properties arise from its status as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals, which are unstable molecules that produce oxidative stress and damage cells. During oxidation, O2 splits into two oxygen atoms, each of which has a single electron. Because electrons prefer to occur in pairs, these “free radicals” — the single electrons — look for and scavenge other electrons so they can pair up, thus damaging cells in the process. Not only does alpha lipoic acid defend against free radicals, but it also helps boost the efficacy of other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E.[1, 4, 5]
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Encourages Normal Thyroid Hormone Levels
At the front of your throat, sitting like a little bowtie above your collarbone, the thyroid gland is a crucial part of the endocrine system. One of its most important functions is to produce the hormones that regulate maturation, growth, and metabolism. When thyroid health is compromised, hormones are thrown out of balance. A 2016 study found that alpha lipoic acid, when taken with quercetin and resveratrol, helped promote normal thyroid hormone levels and temper hormone-induced weight gain.
Supports Healthy Nerves
The nervous system has two primary components: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system includes your spinal cord and your brain. The peripheral nervous system, which is the larger of the two, consists of the nerve cells outside of your brain and spinal cord.
When the peripheral nerves are unhealthy, they may tingle and cause numbness, especially in the legs and feet. This can impair a person’s balance and affect their ability to grab and hold objects. Over time, this can progress and become severe and debilitating. Research suggests that alpha lipoic acid’s oxidative stress-relieving qualities may support normal nervous system health, particularly in the peripheral nervous system.