Nutrition seems to be an ever-changing industry. As more research is conducted, more and more nutrients and their benefits are being discovered. One such nutrient that has been gaining popularity over the last few years is alpha lipoic acid (ALA). From metabolic support to brain health, ALA can impact several aspects of health and everyday life.
What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant, or a natural, vitamin-like chemical. Known as the “universal antioxidant,” ALA is found naturally inside every cell of the human body. The mitochondria produce this antioxidant in small amounts, but that amount tends to decrease with age. ALA is both a water and fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it can make its way into and function in any part of the body. This potent antioxidant can be found in red and organ meats (liver, heart, kidney, etc.), potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, and rice bran.
What Does Alpha Lipoic Acid Do for the Body?
As a potent mitochondrial antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid helps produce energy for normal bodily functions by converting blood glucose. Often, damaged and defective mitochondria are the first sign of health issues, and ALA helps protect these cell powerhouses from free radical damage. Most commonly, practitioners use ALA to help patients with blood glucose control issues with nerve damage-related symptoms like extreme pain, tingling, and/or numbness. Moreover, it has been shown to improve blood glucose control and microcirculation in the limbs and reduce insulin resistance and risk of eye health concerns caused by poorly-controlled blood glucose.
Beyond poor blood glucose control and the issues that come with it, ALA can help reduce damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress in several areas of the body, including the brain, eyes, and heart. It recycles and helps restore levels of other vitamins like Vitamins C and E and CoQ10, helps prevent certain kinds of cell damage, and plays a role in:
- Reducing signs of aging on the skin
- Weight loss
- Improving fat metabolism
- Reducing blood pressure
- Reducing migraines
- Improving cholesterol
- Lowering risk of heart disease
- Alleviating pain
Are There Any Known Side Effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Alpha lipoic acid is considered generally safe for adults to consume, but the most common negative reaction from supplementing ALA is a skin rash. Other reactions include:
- Tingling or pins and needles sensation
- Muscle cramps
Patients with blood glucose control issues may need to adjust other medications as ALA reduces blood glucose levels. Though rare, other interactions include medications that manage under and over-active thyroid issues and the actions of the vitamin biotin.
Although the body does produce alpha lipoic acid on its own, it may be a good idea for patients to include this nutrient in their daily vitamin regimen, especially if they have blood glucose control issues or other health concerns improved by ALA. Scientists need to conduct more research to confirm all the potential benefits of this powerful antioxidant.
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