Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant used in Europe to promote liver and nerve health, and confer protective benefits against oxidative processes. Alpha lipoic acid has been called the “universal” antioxidant because it boosts glutathione levels in cells and has potent antioxidant actions.
Research in the last decade has strongly implicated cellular oxidative damage caused by free radicals as a cause of many degenerative disorders. What makes alpha lipoic acid so effective as an antioxidant is that it works on both water and fat-soluble free radicals, which are the cause of damaging oxidative processes. Alpha lipoic acid also plays a critical role in energy production within the cell’s mitochondria, as proven in rat studies.
Besides boosting glutathione levels in cells, alpha lipoic acid has potent antioxidant action in almost all the tissues of the body, and is a co-factor for some of the key enzymes (alpha keto acid dehydrogenases) involved in generating energy from food and oxygen in mitochondria.
One of the most unique and important qualities of alpha lipoic acid is its ability to quench free radicals in both aqueous and lipid environments. This means that the antioxidant activity of alpha lipoic acid is working in the extracellular fluid and also within the cell. It also has metal chelating ability, helping the body rid itself of accumulated ingested toxins.
One of the most beneficial effects of alpha lipoic acid is its ability to regenerate other essential antioxidants such as vitamins C & E, coenzyme Q10, and glutathione. The evidence is especially strong for the ability of DHLA (dihydro-lipoic acid, a reduced form of alpha lipoic acid) to recycle vitamin E. This is apparently achieved directly by quenching tocopherol radicals or indirectly by reducing vitamin C or increasing the levels of ubiquinol (a derivative of CoQ10) and glutathione, that, in turn, helps to regenerate tissue levels of vitamin E.
In clinical studies to date with alpha lipoic acid, there have been no reported serious adverse side effects, even at the high doses. Among the mild, reversible side effects found in some patients have been allergic skin reactions and possible hypoglycemia in diabetics.
Please note that the R-dihydro-lipoc acid provides a more biologically active form of lipoic acid than alpha lipoic acid at only a slightly higher cost.