Alpha-Lipoic Acid – The Universal Antioxidant
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring compound that’s made in the body. It’s essential for vital functions and reactions at a cellular level, where it helps convert nutrients into energy for your system to use, and aids in preventing damage to your cells caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.
Also known as Thioctic Acid or Lipoic Acid, be careful not to confuse ALA with Alpha-Linolenic Acid, which is a completely different micronutrient: an Omega-3 fatty acid found in nuts and seeds.
What Are Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress?
Free radicals are atoms with one or more unpaired electrons floating around them. An atom wandering around with free electrons is going to want to bond them up by easily reacting with other things, thus getting rid of them. However, by reacting with other atoms or molecules, free radicals can often set off large chain reactions. These reactions are known as oxidation.
Antioxidants can combat the oxidising effect of free radicals by absorbing harmful by-products of the reactions they cause, and cutting off chain reactions. This is called reduction.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the prevalence of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Such an imbalance can cause damage to vital molecules in your cells, including your DNA, proteins, and fatty tissues. This damage can cause cell malfunction or cell death, increasing the risk of developing various types of potential medical conditions over time. These may include:
- Chronic inflammation and pain
- Premature ageing
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Neurodegenerative diseases e.g. Alzheimer’s
Oxidative stress can be exacerbated by several factors, such as: poor diet, alcohol, stress, illness, pollution, age, and even too much exercise.
This is where antioxidants such as ALA come to the rescue.
The Universal Antioxidant
ALA is unique, because it produces its antioxidative effects in both water-based and fat-based environments. This means that ALA, being present in all of your cells, is effective throughout the entire body – unlike other antioxidants that are only soluble in either water (e.g. Vitamin C) or in fatty tissues (e.g. Vitamin E).
Another important role of ALA is that it participates in the regeneration and recycling of other antioxidants in the body, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Glutathione, supporting its reduction (the opposite of oxidation) potential.
Due to these powerful properties, ALA has been dubbed the ‘universal antioxidant’ by scientists, researchers and nutritionists across the globe.
How Can I Benefit From Taking Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
ALA’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can help support areas such as:
- Brain function
- Nervous system
- Muscle recovery
- Cardiovascular (heart) health
Several studies have been conducted investigating the effects of ALA on nervous health and blood sugar regulation – particularly for research into diabetes management. In fact, since 1966, ALA has been approved in Germany as a non-prescription pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy – nerve damage that can include numbness, pins and needles and weakness, particularly in the extremities (peripheral neuropathy).
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog article, you’ll have realised that Alpha-Lipoic Acid has been criminally underrated in the mainstream supplements market. Fortunately, the ‘universal antioxidant’ has been growing in popularity during recent years, supported by a continually growing body of scientific research, highlighting its powerful properties as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
As always, antioxidant supplements should never be used to replace a healthy, varied and antioxidant-rich diet (lots of fruits, vegetables and legumes!), or conventional medical care. But if you are looking to support your overall wellbeing and maintain well-rounded nutrition – Alpha-Lipoic Acid is well worth adding to your supplement regime.
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