Alpha Lipoic Acid

10Alpha lipoic acid is a fatty acid found naturally inside every cell in the body. It’s needed by the body to produce the energy for our body’s normal functions. Alpha lipoic acid converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy. Other names for it include lipoic acid, thioctic acid, and ALA. Alpha lipoic acid is also an antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes potentially harmful chemicals called free radicals. What makes alpha lipoic acid unique is that it functions in water and fat, unlike the more common antioxidants vitamins C and E, and it appears to be able to recycle antioxidants such as vitamin C and glutathione after they have been used. Glutathione is an important antioxidant that helps the body eliminate potentially harmful substances. Alpha lipoic acid increases the formation of glutathione. Alpha lipoic acid is made by the body and can be found in very small amounts in foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas, Brewer’s yeast, brussel sprouts, rice bran, and organ meats. Alpha lipoic acid supplements are available in capsule form at health food stores, some drugstores, and online. For maximum absorption, the supplements should be taken on an empty stomach.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by injury, nutritional deficiencies, chemotherapy or by conditions such as diabetes, Lyme disease, alcoholism, shingles, thyroid disease, and kidney failure. Symptoms can include pain, burning, numbness, tingling, weakness, and itching.

Alpha lipoic acid is thought to work as an antioxidant in both water and fatty tissue, enabling it to enter all parts of the nerve cell and protect it from damage.

Preliminary studies suggest that alpha lipoic acid may help. In one of the largest studies on the use of alpha lipoic acid, 181 people took 600 mg, 1200 mg or 1800 mg of alpha lipoic acid a day or a placebo. After 5 weeks, alpha lipoic acid improved symptoms. The dose that was best tolerated while still providing benefit was 600 mg once daily.

Brain Function

Alpha lipoic acid can cross the blood-brain barrier, a wall of tiny vessels and structural cells, and pass easily into the brain. It is thought to protect brain and nerve tissue by preventing free radical damage.

Age-Related Conditions

As an antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid can neutralize free radicals which can damage cells. Free radical damage is thought to contribute to aging and chronic illness.

Other Conditions

Alpha lipoic acid has also been suggested for cataracts, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, burning mouth syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, but large, well-designed studies are needed to see if it’s effective for these conditions.

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