Alpha-lipoic acid (also known as lipoic or thioctic acid) is a particularly remarkable example of the rapid progress that has been made in nutrient science in recent years. Although the structure, chemical properties and physiological functions 70 of this endogenous substance had already been described in the 1950s, but the actual potential of lipoic acid – apart from its occasional use in neuropathies – remained largely undiscovered.
This „Sleeping Beauty sleep“ ended abruptly a few years ago when vitamin researchers discovered the outstanding antioxidative properties of lipoic acid.
Since then, researchers have been raving ever since. One of the world’s leading antioxidant researchers, Dr. Lester Packer, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at the famous Berkeley University, makes a concise statement: „Lipoic acid is the most powerful antioxidant known to man“.
Scientists are known to argue about many things, but on this point they agree: the damage that free radicals cause in our body is the main reason why we age, that normal bodily functions decline over the years and our organism becomes moresusceptible to disorders and degeneration.
Lipoic acid is an outstanding antioxidant in many ways. Unlike other antioxidants, lipoic acid is both fat and water soluble. This means that it can protect the more aqueous cell areas, blood and extracellular space as well as the fatty cell parts (e.g. cell walls, membranes), lipoproteins in the blood or the fatty nerve sheaths from oxidation. For this reason, Dr. Packer considers lipoic acid to be the most versatile and powerful of these substances in the hierarchy of – synergistically acting – antioxidants.
Unique is the ability of lipoic acid to regenerate itself as well as the important antioxidants vitamin C and E, glutathione and coenzyme Q 10, i.e. it restores the full antioxidant power of these protective substances after it has been used up in the defence against free radicals. Lipoic acid is therefore, as Dr Packer says, „the antioxidant of antioxidants.“
Lipoic acid and glutathione
Dr. Packer’s research into the mechanism of action of lipoic acid has led to other important findings. For example, the blood levels of the body’s own glutathione increase after the administration of lipoic acid. Gluthation detoxifies the organism and is regarded by some vitamin researchers as a „key antioxidant“. Low glutathione levels are considered to be a sign of 71 degenerative brain damage and chronic diseases.
Lipoic acid with its ability to easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier, regenerates glutathione.
Lipoic acid and the brain
Lipoic acid is also „the only antioxidant that easily reaches the brain,“ explains Dr. Packer. „Its molecules are so small that they easily cross the blood-brain barrier and can be quickly absorbed by brain tissue.“ This is so crucial because it is precisely the lipoic acid that can render the nitrogen radicals and nitric oxide, which are particularly dangerous for the brain cells, harmless.
Dosage and safety
A daily dosage of 100-300 mg alpha lipoic acid is a good measure for preventive measures for people without major health problems. If additional protection against oxidative stress is required or if metabolic problems exist, especially blood sugar disorders or the difficulty in losing excess weight, between 300 – 600 mg daily is usually administered.
Diabetics are usually given between 600-900 mg of lipoic acid daily as part of their treatment programme, but treatment must be coordinated with the attending physician or alternative practitioner, as it is to be expected that the amount of insulin (or equivalent medication) required will decrease.
Even in higher dosages, side effects are not to be expected when administering alpha-lipoic acid.