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Alpha Lipoic Acid Super Antioxidant

Updated on December 29, 2012

Think of alpha lipoic acid as a super antioxidant. If there was any antioxidant that can be called "super", it is alpha lipoic acid. It also is sometime referred to as thioctic acid. The terms may sound intimidating and acid sounds like a scary element to be taking. But alpha lipoic acid is an naturally occurring substance in the body and is very safe to take as a supplement.

Although vitamin C and Vitamin E are great, they can not be called super, because alpha lipoic acid is 400 times strong than both of them combined! That's how super it is. It is more powerful than virtually any other antioxidant. Alpha lipoic acid comes up again and again in health books -- from skin health books, to brain health books, to general health books.

Most Powerful Antioxidant

The Antioxidant Miracle says alpha lipoic acid "was perhaps the most powerful of all the antioxidants."[2]

Dr. Perricone calls it "the universal and metabolic antioxidant" in his book The Perricone Prescription and says (and I quote) ...

"One of the most powerful antiaging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatories available." [page 77]

It was also in Dr. Perricone's book on page 78 that said that alpha lipoic acid is 400 times stronger than vitamin E and C combined. Sounds astonishing. But Dr. Perricone says "The importance of alpha lipoic acid ... is hard to overstate" [page 79]

There are entire books devoted just to alpha lipoic acid. One such book by Dr. Burt Berkson is "Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough: The Superb Antioxidant That May Slow Aging, Repair Liver Damage, and Reduce the Risk of Cancer, Heart Disease, and Diabetes".

Perhaps the reason why Dr. Berkson is so enthusiastic about alpha lipoic acid was because he had saved a couple of lives with it when he was a young doctor. He tells of his story in his book of multiple patients who were in liver failure due to eating poisonous mushrooms and who other doctors thought would die. He used alpha lipoic acid to treat them and they recovered. He also tells of how he successfully used alpha lipoic acid in conjunction with regular diabetes medication to treat another patient.

The back cover of the book says ...

"there may be no stronger antioxidant than alpha lipoic acid. This remarkable coenzyme, which occurs naturally in younger bodies but gradually diminishes with age, may very well be one of our best defenses against disease and aging."

As Close to Perfect As You Can Get

Another book that is devoted entirely to alpha lipoic acid is Alpha Lipoic Acid: Nature's Ultimate Antioxidant where it says ...

"Although there is no one single, perfect antioxidant, Alpha Lipoic Acid is a candidate which approaches that ideal." [page 50]

Many other health related books makes good mention of alpha lipoic acid. In UltraPrevention, it says ...

"is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Research shows it can augment the body’s healing mechanisms, as well as prevent and improve symptoms and disease for a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, neuropathy (nerve damage), liver disease, hypertension, hearing loss, and nerve damage in the brain associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease." [Liponis, Mark; Hyman, Mark, M.D. (2003-09-16). Ultraprevention (p. 86). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.]

Role of Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid is both a water-soluble and fat-soluble anti-oxidant. This means that it can work at the fatty cell membrane level, as well as the watery cell interiors. Its can easily pass through cell membranes and access the mitochondria (the power-plants located in the interior of the cells.)

Alpha lipoic acid can boosts levels of glutathione, and appears to be the only antioxidant that can significantly do so. Glutathione is another major antioxidant and detoxifier.

Unfortunately both alpha lipoic acid and glutathione levels decreases as we age. And at the same time we have higher levels of free radicals. So alpha lipoic supplementation becomes more important the older we get.

Alpha lipoic acid recycles glutathione so that you have more of it around. If Alpha Lipoic Acid is present along with glutathione, and vitamin C, then together they can also help recycle vitamin E. These network of antioxidants work synergistically to protect us from oxidative stress.

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a cofactor for many of the enzymes that convert food into ATP energy.

Some of the many things that alpha lipoic acid do is to assist in energy production, protect DNA, reduce cellular inflammation, inhibits glycosylation, and protect the mitochondria.

Alpha Lipoic Acid for Brain Health

Alpha lipoic acid is neuro-protective. As an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals and reduce oxidative stress and protects neurons.

This small molecule is the one of the few antioxidants that can most easily pass the blood-brain barrier into the brain.

Dr. Hyman writes on page 249 of The UltraMind Solution ...

"That is why so many "neuroprotective" strategies are under investigation and have shown promise, including lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, and NADH. All help repair the damage to your mitochondria -- damage from any source -- and protect your neurons. The result is improved brain function."

In supplements, sometimes you will see alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine combined in one pill due to the fact that they are both neuroprotective.

Other Alpha Lipoic Uses

Alpha lipoic acid is also hepato-protective (where hepato means liver). It protects the liver and is sometimes used to treat liver diseases. Hepato-protective may be an understatement. Recall Dr. Berkson's story.

Alpha lipoic acid (in conjunction with regular treatment) is also used to treat some eye diseases. HIV, AIDS, autoimmune disease, skin disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiac disease and other conditions.

Datis Kharrazian writes ...

"Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a sulfur-containing substance that seems to improve insulin resistance by increasing the activation of glucose transporters (GLUT1 and 4) that enhance glucose disposal..." [from Book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests are Normal page 193]

How To Get More Alpha Lipoic Acid

Lipoic acid can synthesized by the body. Although there are some alpha lipoic acid in potatoes, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, and red meats (like the liver and the heart), it is quite difficult to get optimal amounts of it from food.

You can do what the author of Antioxidant Miracle does. On page 33 it says ...

"That is why I take alpha lipoic acid supplement and recommend that you do the same"

Alpha lipoic acid helps recycle the glutathione, another highly important anti-oxidant.

If you shop for alpha-lipoic supplements, look of the natural form that is labeled as "R Alpha-Lipoic Acid" or "R-Lipoic Acid". Often it comes in the "stabilized" form. Your body can absorb the natural form better than the synthetic S alpha lipoic form.

Article from the Linus Pauling Institute, says that oral lipoic acid is has more bio-availability when taken on empty stomach. But oral lipoic acid effects may be transient ...

"Following oral administration, both isomers are rapidly metabolized and excreted. Plasma LA concentrations generally peak in one hour or less and decline rapidly"

Alpha Lipoic Acid May Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Alpha lipoic acid have been used in Europe for over three decades in treating complications of diabetes.[2]

Dr. Bernstein in page 238 of Diabetes Solution says that R-alpha-lipoic acid studies in Germany has shown that it can act like insulin in mobilizing the glucose transporter in muscles and fat cells, but without the negative the fat-storing effect of insulin. Hence alpha-lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity. The cells can more efficiently take in glucose and reduce blood glucose levels.

However, he did mention that alpha lipoic acid can impede glycoslyation and glycation of proteins and reduce biotin levels. Biotin is vitamin B7. So you may also want to consider taking a B vitamin complex or a biotin supplement at the same time as alpha lipoic. If you have a medical condition or are taken insulin, consult with your doctor before using Alpha Lipoic Acid. Because your insulin prescription may need to be adjusted if you are also using Alpha Lipoic Acid.

Acetyle-L-Carnitine with Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid Works Synergistically with Acetyle L-carnitine

Alpha Lipoic Acid and Acetyle L-carnitine makes a good combination and there are supplements that combine the two into one capsule.

The book The Chemistry of Calm says ...

"I would recommend beginning with the first three supplements listed (alpha-lipoic acid, acetyle L-carnitine, and coenzyme Q10) because they work synergistically and together may address many of the causes for energy depletion." [page 116]

Co-enzyme Q10 is another excellent supplement in its own right. Read about the benefits of Co-Q10.

Caution about Alpha Lipoic Acid and insulin autoimmune syndrome

In some rare cases with genetically susceptible individuals, alpha lipoic acid may insulin autoimmune syndrome:

"... it is important to be aware that the ingestion of this compound may trigger insulin autoimmune syndrome in East Asians and in some North American natives, among whom the prevalence of HLA alleles that confer predisposition to this syndrome is relatively high" [reference]


Not all supplements are suitable for all individuals of conditions. Check with your doctor first (especially if you are pregnant or breast feeding). Alpha lipoic acid may lower blood sugar which may require you to readjust your diabetes or insulin medication. It may have interactions with thyroid and cancer medications. Problems can occur if you take alpha lipoic acid when you are thiamine-deficient or drinking excessive alcohol.

This is opinion at the time of writing and not medical advice. Author is not a medical professional. Author takes alpha lipoic acid regularly and may receive revenue from the display ads and links within article.


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