Lipoic acid (also referred to as alpha lipoic acid, or ALA) is a powerful antioxidant produced, in small amounts, by the human body. Ongoing research into this newly discovered antioxidant seems to indicate that it is more powerful that those antioxidants found in vitamins C and A. Scientists are continuing to research both the perceived benefits and possible side effects of ALA – new discoveries concerning its function are being made on an almost daily basis.
Lipoic acid is essential for the production of enzymes involved in maintaining healthy cells in the body and for the production of glutathione – another antioxidant. Antioxidants work by neutralising the potential dangers of free radicals in the body.
Alpha lipoic acid is also referred to as thioctic acid and, in addition to being produced by the body, is found in yeast products and red meat.
The human body converts any lipoic acid ingested into the antioxidant glutathione – this is the only way glutathione levels can be raised, the digestive process destroys glutathione when it is ingested as a supplement or in another substance – it is therefore necessary it increase the intake of ALA in order to increase and improve the levels of glutathione in the body and enjoy the many benefits of this powerful antioxidant.
Supplements containing alpha lipoic acid have been proved to be more beneficial than those eating foods containing ALA – which do not appear to increase the quantity or quality of either cells or plasma in the body.
ALA supplements are known to increase the effects of antioxidants in the body and to significantly reduce symptoms caused by diabetes – in particular diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy causes a loss of sensation in the extremities of an individual with diabetes – this may, at its worst, result in amputation of the affected area. ALA has also been shown to improve utilising of blood sugar and increase sensitivity to insulin in diabetics.
Laboratory studies involving rats seem to indicate that consuming ALA prior to the onset of a stroke improved the outcome of the stroke. Studies also indicate that ALA, due to its antioxidant characteristics, reduces the damage to tissue and cells during a cardiac arrest.
Ongoing research into the benefits of ALA in individuals suffering major diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s have so far remained inconclusive, however, it is believed that not only does ALA have its own antioxidant properties but it also helps in re-generating antioxidants as they are used up when dealing with free radicals – effectively recycling antioxidants. If this is the case then ALA will be a powerful factor in maintaining good health.
There are currently few known side effects connected to ALA usage – other than hives or a rash in those who are allergic to the supplement. Individuals taking large doses of the supplement have reported incidence of abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea. Any individual considering starting a regime of any supplement should always consult their medical practitioner first.
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