Though there is no such thing as the ‘ideal’ antioxidant, newcomer alpha lipoic acid just may about as close as they come.
We’ve all heard that ‘Nobody’s Perfect,’ and while meant to define the human race, the phrase also fits many other things, including antioxidants. Still (as in the case with people), some are better than others, and as-of-yet little known newcomer alpha lipoic acid may be as perfect as they come.
A the editors of Life Services News (Vol. 8, No. 5) point out, “vitamin C deficiency is rare, yet millions of Americans know about its preventative benefits and supplement with vitamin C every day. Similarly,” they note, “most of us have what could be considered adequate levels of a beneficial, vitamin-like, powerful antioxidant known as alpha lipoic acid.”
Supplemental antioxidants are useful to keep free radicals in check and to maintain good health. Although there is no one, single, perfect antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid is a candidate which approaches the ideal.
Discovered in the 1930s and extracted in 1957, alpha lipoc acid is a unique free radical protector for all cells because it is the only such nutrient which is both fat and water-soluble. Therefore, alpha lipoic acid has excellent bioavailability and can easily travel across cell membranes to fight free radicals both inside and outside the cells.
This is unlike many other antioxidants. Most antioxidants like vitamin C and E are too large to pass through the cell membrane and thus offer protection only on the outside of the cell. Alpha lipoic acid, on the other hand, is a very small molecule which can easily pass through the cell membrane, providing free radical protection both inside and out.
Because alpha lipoic acid works both inside the cell and at the membrane level, any free radicals that make it past the first line of protection are combated right in the cell itself. Furthermore, most antioxidant substances can act as antioxidants only in their reduced forms, whereas alpha lipoic acid possesses antioxidant properties in both its original and reduced form, dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA). This itself is even more aggressive in its antioxidant potency.
What’s really important to antioxidant researchers is alpha lipoic acid’s apparent ability to regenerate and actually prolong antioxidant activity of such important nutrients as vitamin C and E and glutathione, offering enhanced protection.
In fact, many of the beneficial effects of alpha lipoic acid may be due to its ability to regenerate glutathione, a potent amino acid antioxidant which, in turn, is a powerful immune enhancer, liver protector and heavy metal detoxifier.
Alpha lipoic acid’s benefits expand far beyond its antioxidant activities. Most notably, alpha lipoic acid is first a coenzyme in the metabolic process and is necessary for the conversion of glucose to energy.
Furthermore, because it’s a sulfur compound, it can bind and help eliminate heavy metals such as copper, iron and mercury; risk factors for a wide range of degenerative diseases.
For example, alpha lipoic acid has been used throughout Europe to treat and prevent complications associated with diabetes including neuropathy, macular degeneration and cataracts.
More than 60 studies on alpha lipoic acid demonstrate that it significantly reduce the risk of many diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Animal experiments shows that alpha lipoic acid use can reverse age-related memory loss. And there is also some evidence that it may be useful in the treatment of epilepsy.
Other promising research has also shown the ability of alpha lipoic acid to inhibit the replication of HIV and other viruses, protect the liver and other organs, remove heavy metals and also prevent damage from radiation. Not to mention, its usefulness in any situation in the body involving free radicals, such as heart disease and even aging.
Alpha lipoic acid is probably the most potent naturally occurring antioxidant known to man. Research into the beneficial effects of alpha lipoic acid is receiving increasing attention and there is probably substantial experimental and clinical evidence to the effect that it may be useful in the prevention and treatment of such diverse conditions as diabetes, heart attack, HIV and neurodegenerative diseases.
Outside the body, alpha lipoic acid is found in the leaves of plants containing mitochondria and in non-photosynthetic plant tissues, such as potatoes, carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes. Red meats and yeasts also contains the antioxidant. Still, for those of you not getting enough from the foods you eat, it is available in supplemental form at most natural product stores.