ALPHA LIPOIC ACID
Alpha lipoic acid is a sulfur containing substance that, like some vitamins, is a vital cofactor for some energy producing reactions making ATP in the cells. Being soluble in both fat and water, it is a very important antioxidant that can restore antioxidant functions of vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10. These vital reactions occur in the mitochondria of the cell, the power house for all of our cells. Lipoic acid is synthesized within the mitochondria by the enzyme lipoic acid synthase.
In diabetes, it reduces the glycosylation reactions and promotes nerve healing. Several studies have recently shown benefit of ALA for diabetes, particularly with prevention of neuropathy and cardiovascular disease.
SYMPTOMS OF DEFICIENCY
There is no known syndrome specifically related to deficiency of ALA. Because oxidative stress depletes glutathione and other antioxidants, and ALA is so important in replenishing the antioxidants, those who are deficient in ALA and happen to get HIV-AIDS, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s seem to benefit from replacing ALA. This makes a case for the fact that alpha lipoic acid is necessary for the proper function of our antioxidant system and vital in the prevention of most diseases of civilization. The poor diets and added stress from toxins and stressful environments have combined to challenge our health today. ALA may just be one of those nutrients to keep at an optimal level to promote wellness and avoid these diseases.
The first symptoms of deficiency would probably be a weakened immune system, decreased muscle mass, or memory problems like those seen with aging.
Alpha lipoic acid is formed as part of photosynthesis by plant chloroplasts. It is thus naturally found in green plants. The highest food sources include broccoli and spinach, with lesser amounts in peas, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. Organ meats (kidney, heart, and liver) contain the most lipoic acid at about 1-3 micrograms per gram of dry weight. The lipoic acid in food is bound to lysine. In supplements, the lipoic acid is free. Supplements containing 200-600 mg would contain as much as 1000 times the lipoic acid available from food. This is one supplement best taken on an empty stomach (an hour before a meal or two hours after a meal) to improve absorption.
Humans make their own lipoic acid, but perhaps in the toxic world we live in, our needs have increased and we now could benefit from supplementing this nutrient.
SAFETY AND TOXICITY
No contraindications are listed for lipoic acid. High doses (over 600 mg a day) have been reported to contribute to thiamin deficiency and minor side effects rarely might include rash or itching, headache, and muscle cramps. Doses of 200-300 mg a day have been used for years to treat those with diabetic neuropathy and IV doses of up to 600 mg a day have been tolerated for a few months at a time.
TOLERABLE UPPER LIMITS
These have not been established, but a dose of 50-100 mg a day in children and 200-400 mg a day for adults should be optimal and safe.
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