Alpha Lipoic Acid
Other names: ALA, α-lipoic acid, thioctic acid
Used for: Improved memory, learning, brain health; treating Alzheimer’s; younger looking skin; increased cellular energy
Known side effects: skin rashes, insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea; may promote weight loss
Dosing: 50 to 100 mg per day (up to 1200 mg for various purposes)
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a unique fatty acid that’s both fat- and water-soluble. This sulfur-containing compound is mainly known for energy metabolism and antioxidant properties. It aids in enhancing cognition, improving physical performance, and boosting overall health and wellness of the users.
The natural fatty acid is a mitochondrial compound that has a massive role in the conversion of fuel into energy. Lipoic Acid is produced in the body; some of it is also absorbed from the fruits, vegetables, and meat we eat.
The potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of ALA works for effective functioning and defense of mitochondria. In addition, these properties – the ability of the supplement to fight free radicals and reverse the damages of oxidation – also make Alpha Lipoic Acid one of the best anti-aging compounds.
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Why Do We Need Alpha Lipoic Acid?
What’s the effect of aging on the body? If the answer is ‘it becomes a less efficient chemical machine’ then you’re not far from the truth. As we age, the shortage of lipoic acid and other chemical compounds and the gradual change in metabolism affects the body in many ways.
Our brain has to face its share of changes such as accumulation of heavy metals in the cells, oxidative damage, and drop in acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters. These are just some of the factors associated with gradual age-related cognitive degeneration that leads to disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, etc.
Taking Alpha Lipoic Acid might not treat all the factors of age-related cognitive decline, but it sure can boost acetylcholine, prevent oxidative damage to neurons, and flush out heavy metals from cells.
How Does Alpha Lipoic Acid Work?
You’ll learn in the proceeding sections the many health benefits of the Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement. But, the actions of ALA that deliver those benefits are dealt with in this section. We’ll also see how these functions in one way or the other optimize brain performance and reduce the risks of age-related cognitive degeneration.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Antioxidants: We’ll learn a lot about the powerful antioxidant properties of ALA and how it neutralizes free radicals and protects the brain cells. The Alpha Lipoic Acid is unique because of its ability to reactivate other antioxidants. That’s right; ALA boosts the antioxidant activities in the body by rejuvenating the spent and inactive antioxidants.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Mental Energy: What does reactivating other antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E, and recycling CoQ10 do? Well, these actions can prevent oxidative stress from severely damaging the neurons, tissues, and organs. Besides, the antioxidant activities also increase energy release at the cellular level by reducing inflammation and removing heavy metals from the cells.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Neurotransmitters: Several studies show administering ALA can influence the functioning of the many neurotransmitters including acetylcholine (1), glutamate (2), dopamine (3), serotonin (3), and noradrenaline (3). It’s also believed that ALA boosts glucose uptake. Studies show that ALA’s actions on neurotransmitters, specifically acetylcholine, can treat cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s (4).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Protects Neurons: Oxidative stress can be counted as one of the main contributing factors of cognitive decline. Over time the free radicals damage the neurons leading to symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, lethargy, aggression, depression, etc. Alpha Lipoic Acid uses its powerful antioxidant properties to neutralize free radicals and protect the brain cells (5).
The Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha Lipoic Acid Improves Memory, Learning, and Overall Brain Function
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter associated with memory, learning, mood, and a long list of cognitive functions and faculties. Increase in acetylcholine levels is known to boost several key mental abilities. Researchers believe that ALA raises the levels of this crucial neurotransmitter by increasing glucose uptake and activating choline acetyltransferase. These actions result in increased Acetyl-CoA supply, which in turn leads to the production of the neurotransmitter (6).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Treats Alzheimer’s Disease
Experts are quite confident that Alpha Lipoic Acid has all the properties to wage an effective war against dangerous Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders. They are counting on the antioxidant properties of ALA to neutralize oxidative stress to protect the brain cells.
The scientists hold a strong opinion that ALA could be used in neuroprotective therapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This conclusion was reached after a four-year study in which 600 mg of ALA was given to 43 patients diagnosed with dementia (7).
Alpha Lipoic Acid for Younger Looking Skin
Alpha Lipoic Acid prevents the effects of aging on cognition, but, what about the rest of the body? Well, ALA can give a youthful look by removing facial lines, skin wrinkles, and fine lines. In an experimental trial, a topical medication with ALA was applied to the faces of one group of participants. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the ALA solution improved the texture and color of the skin (8).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Fights Against Chronic Disease
The term chronic disease is not well known to many people, but this group of disorders is one of the leading causes of disability and death. Scientists believe that the shortening of telomere (found at the end of each chromosome) is a key factor associated with chronic diseases.
According to a study, the nootropic Alpha Lipoic Acid can lengthen telomeres by stimulating the synthesis of PGC-1alpha. The scientists believe that they are one step closer to finding an effective treatment against chronic diseases (9).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Boosts Cellular Energy
Energy drives our body; we need it to move, speak, and even think. Our brain alone consumes 20 percent of the energy the body produces. Our body also uses energy to heal wounds, manufacture new cells, etc.
Inside every cell, we have tiny power plants called mitochondria that produce energy through the Krebs Cycle. The whole energy-producing process will collapse without the presence of Alpha Lipoic Acid, which acts as a cofactor in a couple of reactions (10).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Improves Mitochondrial Function
The buildup of free radicals could affect brain cell mitochondria and lead to cognitive degeneration. In a study involving rats, the researchers found that the use of Alpha Lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine improved mitochondrial function and reduced oxidative damage, which resulted in improved memory and cognitive function (11).
Alpha Lipoic Acid Dosage
For its many functions, our body conjures up small amounts of lipoic acid; the rest is sourced from foods such as organ meat, beef, broccoli, greens, and spinach. Like thousands of other enzymes and functions, with age, the production of lipoic acid takes a hit; as a result, affecting the numerous tasks that depend on the fatty acid.
Empirical statistics show that dosages between 50 – 1200 mg are taken for various purposes. The standard dosage for improving cognitive performance is between 600 – 1200 mg, taken once or twice a day.
The recommended intake of ALA for treating diabetic neuropathy is between 800 – 1200 mg per day, divided into two dosages. A daily dose of 50 – 100 mg is considered enough to experience ALA’s antioxidant benefits. For some the composition of the supplement (S-LA and R-LA isomer ratio) doesn’t make a difference. But, many believe that R-LA is better soaked up than the other isomer.
Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement can be taken orally and intravenously. It’s believed that ALA supplement taken with food losses its bioavailability. So, before taking the supplement, consult a doctor as regards the dosage, and how and when to take the nootropic supplement. ALA is both water- and fat-soluble. So, you don’t need to consume the supplement with fat for it to be absorbed by the body.
Possible Adverse Effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Concerning the adverse reactions to the supplement Alpha Lipoic Acid, the feedback of the users has been positive so far. The ALA supplement is considered safe and well-tolerated by its users. Although the side effects are rare, there is a possibility the users might develop complications that include skin rashes, insomnia, fatigue, and diarrhea.
It’s also believed that the Alpha Lipoic Acid has appetite suppressing properties, which is often used to promote weight loss. According to some medical reports, the use of the supplement could reduce appetite by as much as 30 percent (12) (13).
Any substance that can reduce the blood glucose level should be taken only after consulting a physician. The same advice applies to the use of Alpha Lipoic Acid as well. Similarly, those with a thyroid hormone condition are advised to take the supplement only under the supervision of a medical care provider. That’s because the ALA supplement can lower thyroid hormone.
Sometimes taking too much of the ALA supplement can lead to the deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals, because the supplement is known to reduce levels of vitamin B1 and Biotin in the body. Animal studies show that Alpha Lipoic Acid has metal-chelating properties (14).
There are very many supplements with potent antioxidant properties. So, what makes Alpha Lipoic Acid unique and special? We can go on and on about the many extraordinary properties of ALA. This nootropic can reactivate other antioxidants; it can boost acetylcholine levels, influence other neurotransmitters, helps lose weight, fight chronic diseases, promote energy metabolism, and protect neurons and mitochondria functions. On the whole, Alpha Lipoic Acid is an excellent supplement for your physical and cognitive wellbeing.
- “Lipoic Acid Effects on Monoaminergic System after Pilocarpine-Induced Seizures.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20433896.
- “Presynaptic Mechanisms Underlying the Alpha-Lipoic Acid Facilitation of Glutamate Exocytosis in Rat Cerebral Cortex Nerve Terminals.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16949179.
- “Alterations on Monoamines Concentration in Rat Hippocampus Produced by Lipoic Acid.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20602036.
- “Lipoic Acid as a Novel Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16989905.
- “Alpha-Lipoic Acid Protects against Reperfusion Injury Following Cerebral Ischemia in Rats.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8738270.
- “Modulatory Effects of Vitamin E, Acetyl-L-Carnitine and α-Lipoic Acid on New Potential Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease in Rat Model.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183322.
- “Alpha-Lipoic Acid as a New Treatment Option for Alzheimer’s Disease–a 48 Months Follow-up Analysis.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17982894.
- “The Clinical Efficacy of Cosmeceutical Application of Liquid Crystalline Nanostructured Dispersions of Alpha Lipoic Acid as Anti-Wrinkle.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24056055.
- “PGC-1α Modulates Telomere Function and DNA Damage in Protecting against Aging-Related Chronic Diseases.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549794/.
- “The Citric Acid Cycle Oxidizes Two-Carbon Units.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22427/.
- “Memory Loss in Old Rats Is Associated with Brain Mitochondrial Decay and RNA/DNA Oxidation: Partial Reversal by Feeding Acetyl-L-Carnitine and/or R-Alpha -Lipoic Acid.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11854529.
- “Alpha-Lipoic Acid Increases Energy Expenditure by Enhancing Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase-Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-Gamma Coactivator-1alpha Signaling in the Skeletal Muscle of Aged Mice.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20015518.
- “Prevention of High-Fat Diet-Induced Muscular Lipid Accumulation in Rats by Alpha Lipoic Acid Is Not Mediated by AMPK Activation.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19690335.
- “Postmitotic Tissue Selenium and Manganese Levels in Alpha-Lipoic Acid-Supplemented Aged Rats.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17996229.
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