Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has been getting a lot of attention lately. Making more and more people try it. From what I read and what other people have told me, ALA sounds like a great supplement. So I decided to look into it for myself. It is important to research for yourself before jumping onto the latest trend. This allows you to fully, or at least try, to understand what you are taking. With that said, let's look in ALA.
The History of ALA
ALA was isolated in 1950 by Dr. Lester Reed of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Texas. From 1950 until the late 1980's, ALA was only looked at for its effect on glucose. But in the late 1980's, researchers discovered its powerful antioxidant properties. ALA as a Antioxidant. ALA is also known as "The Universal Antioxidant". It is known as this, because it is both water and fat soluble and can pass the brain blood barrier. This means it can be used throughout the body: muscles, fat, organs, brain. It also works on the inside and outside of cells, allowing it to destroy free radicals before the get into cells and once they are already in (1).
Other Names of ALA
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron. This gives them a strong electro-negativity or want to fill their electron shell. To complete their shell and become positive, free radicals will take an electron from another molecule or give an electron to another molecule. The molecule that gained or loss an electron is now a free radical. This is called oxidation. The new free radical now looks to make itself positive. It finds another molecule and completes oxidation. This sets off a chain reaction which can harm many molecules. Antioxidants stop this chain reaction from taking place. Some antioxidants give the free radicals an electron. Others destroy the free radical. Free radicals can cause a variety of negative effects, so it is important to get rid of them. Fruits and vegetables are known for their antioxidants.
Not only is ALA a powerful antioxidant itself, but can also enhance the effectiveness of other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, glutathoine, and coenzyme Q10. Antioxidants are either in reduced or oxidized form. An antioxidant is in its reduced form when it has an extra electron to give. Once an antioxidant has come into contact with a free radical, they return to their oxidized form. ALA gives up its extra electron to oxidized glutathoine or vitamin C, returning them to their reduced form where they can fight off free radicals. Vitamin C in turn can regenerate vitamin E to its reduced form. The process is known as the redox cycle. Adding ALA as a supplement greatly enhances your body's overall ability to fight off free radicals. That in itself makes it an excellent supplement!
ALA how been shown to stop the HIV virus from replicating in test tubes. Testing is still be done to see how the supplement effects HIV positive patients. It is known though, that people who are HIV positive have a weaken immune system. ALA's powerful antioxidant properties make it a must for HIV patients. Studies show that glutathoine levels were greatly increased in HIV patients who supplemented with ALA.
ALA has been shown to prevent cataracts in rats, improve visual functions of people with Glucoma, and prevent the eyes from degeneration.
Nervous System Diseases
ALA is a protector of the nervous system. It might also be involved in nerve regeneration. Because of this, studies are being done to see how ALA affects patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
ALA and the LIVER!
Two "hopeless" patients lay in hospital beds. Both are diagnosed with incurable liver disease. One doctor thought to try a "new" product that had not really been tested. As a result, the patients made full recoveries. What was this magical drug? ALA! (2). ALA has been used to cure liver damage caused by poisonous mushrooms, alcohol, metal detoxification, and other poisonings. All this is possible because ALA can remove toxic minerals from the body (3).
Dietary Sources of ALA
ALA is found in:
Red meats (The richest of all food sources in ALA)
Spinach (Popeye knew what he was doing)
Potatoes (Particularly the skin)
Well, I hope this wet your appetite to the world of Alpha Lipoic Acid. In part two of this series, you will explore why ALA has become popular with bodybuilders.
- Bustamante J; Lodge JK; Marcocci L; Tritschler HJ; Packer L; Rihn BH. Alpha-lipoic acid in liver metabolism and disease. Free Radic Biol Med 1998 Apr, 2:1023-39