Nutrition Market

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid, also known as ALA, is an antioxidant that plays important roles in energy production and antioxidant protection. Our bodies produce small amounts of ALA naturally, but supplementation can boost levels and provide additional benefits. Keep reading to learn all about the uses and benefits of alpha lipoic acid supplements.

What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid that functions as a potent antioxidant in the body. It's made in small amounts in the mitochondria and is found in every cell, where it helps turn glucose into energy.

ALA exists in both lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA) forms in the body. ALA can be converted to DHLA and vice versa depending on the body's needs. DHLA is the more bioactive form that's responsible for many of ALA's antioxidant effects. However, the amount made in the body or obtained from food is often not enough to significantly raise ALA levels. This is why many people take ALA supplements.

Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid

Some key benefits of alpha lipoic acid supplements include:

Powerful antioxidant activity: ALA is both fat- and water-soluble, which allows it to quench free radicals throughout the entire body. Its antioxidant capabilities can help reduce oxidative stress.

Supports healthy ageing: The antioxidant properties of ALA are believed to slow the ageing process in skin and organs through neutralising cell-damaging free radicals.

Boosts energy metabolism: ALA plays a central role in energy production. It helps turn carbs and other nutrients into cellular energy.

Helps reduce blood sugar levels: Multiple studies show ALA can mimic the effects of insulin to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar markers, especially in people with diabetes or metabolic disease.

Supports brain health: ALA can promote healthy inflammation levels in the brain and may improve memory or thinking skills, especially when paired with vitamin E. More research is underway.

May ease nerve pain: Early research shows ALA can reduce burning, pain, tingling and numbness in people with nerve damage or neuropathy.

Supports skin health: When applied topically, ALA seems to protect collagen in skin by fighting enzymes that break it down. This may benefit visible skin ageing signs.

Supports eye health: ALA's antioxidant abilities may defend delicate eye tissues. Some early research shows it may benefit certain eye conditions like glaucoma or age-related vision loss.

Who May Benefit From Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Supplementing with ALA may provide advantages for the following groups:

  • People with diabetes, metabolic syndrome or obesity
  • Older adults looking to support healthy ageing
  • Those eating high-carb, high-calorie, processed food diets
  • People concerned with skin ageing or collagen breakdown
  • Anyone with circulation issues that cause leg/foot tingling or numbness
  • People taking medications that deplete natural antioxidants
  • Those exposed to toxins through environment or occupation
  • People concerned with eye issues like cataracts or glaucoma
  • Adults looking to stay sharp and support brain function
  • Anyone seeking an affordable general antioxidant supplement

Of course, talk to your healthcare provider before taking ALA supplements if you take medications or have any underlying health conditions. ALA is considered safe for most people when used appropriately.

How Do You Take Alpha Lipoic Acid?

The recommended alpha lipoic acid dosage can vary based on your age, health status and reason for taking it. The maximum daily dose for adults is generally 600-1,200 mg per day, spread into several smaller doses throughout the day for optimal absorption.

ALA supplements are available in several forms:

  • Capsules: Most commonly available, easy to swallow. Range from 50-600 mg per capsule.
  • Tablets: Also contain binders to form tablet shape. Range from 100-600 mg each.
  • Liquid drops: Concentrated liquid ALA measured with a dropper. Easy to mix into drinks.
  • Topical creams: Applied directly to skin for antioxidant protection against UV rays and collagen breakdown.

Timing your dosage about 30 minutes before your meals can improve ALA absorption. Taking smaller doses multiple times per day is preferred due to the short half life of alpha lipoic acid.

Speak to your naturopath or nutrition specialist to determine the optimal ALA dose and form for your individual needs. It’s also smart to cycle your dosage, such as taking ALA supplements 5 days on, 2 days off.

Is Alpha Lipoic Acid Safe?

ALA is considered very safe when taken at recommended dosages. The maximum daily recommendation is 600-1,200mg per day.

Some minor side effects are possible at higher doses and may include headache, skin rash, or upset stomach. Rarely, hypoglycaemia may occur in people also taking diabetes medications.

ALA is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women due to lack of safety research. It should also be avoided in children unless prescribed by their healthcare provider for a specific condition.

Certain medication interactions are also possible with alpha lipoic acid. Drugs that are impacted include chemotherapy agents, thyroid hormones and medication changed by the liver. If taking any medications, check with your pharmacist prior to using ALA supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alpha Lipoic Acid

How long does it take for ALA to work?

The effects and benefits of alpha lipoic acid are dose- and condition-dependent. Minor benefits, like increased energy, may be noticed within a few days or weeks. However, more therapeutic benefits can take 4-12 weeks to become apparent at the cellular level. Consistency with your dosage is key.

When should I take alpha lipoic acid?

The best time to take your dose of ALA is about 30 minutes before meals for optimal absorption. It can be taken with food as well, but taking it on an empty stomach may allow more of it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Spreading out smaller doses 2-3x daily is ideal to maintain steady levels.

Does alpha lipoic acid lower blood pressure?

Some research shows ALA can help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow, which may gently lower blood pressure levels back toward a healthy range in those with prehypertension or mild hypertension. However, it does not seem to significantly drop BP levels in normal healthy adults. More research is still needed.

Can I take alpha lipoic acid long term?

Long term daily use of alpha lipoic acid for up to two years appears to be well tolerated by most healthy adults. There’s also some evidence showing ALA may help mitigate age-related cognitive decline when taken for extended periods as part of a healthy lifestyle. As always, consult your healthcare provider about long term supplement use.

Does alpha lipoic acid cause weight loss?

ALA is not considered an effective weight loss aid on its own. However, ALA can help regulate blood sugar response and reduce cravings for carbohydrate foods that may promote fat storage. Some early evidence suggests ALA aids weight loss results when combined with exercise. More data is still needed to confirm effects on body weight specifically.

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