By Michael A. Smith, MD
What does this mean to you? First and foremost, it means that you need to supplement daily with a variety of antioxidants. One of the most important for your health is lipoic acid, and below we’ll take an in-depth look at this very unique antioxidant.
What Makes Lipoic Acid So Unique?Widely known as a potent and effective antioxidant, lipoic acid demonstrates a multitude of health benefits directly related to its chemical structure. While most antioxidants are either water-loving or fat-loving, lipoic acid is actually both.
Unlike vitamins C and E, which are confined to water and fat environments respectively, lipoic acid can scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in both environments. The distinctive chemical structure of lipoic acid is what makes it one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature.
The body makes lipoic acid although in very small amounts. Food is also not an abundant source of the antioxidant. Unfortunately, very little lipoic acid is contained in the following foods:
- Brewer's yeast
- Brussels sprouts
- Rice bran
- Organ meats
Lipoic Acid Protects Against Oxidative Stress
But wait, there’s more. Not only is lipoic acid active in both water and fat, it also regenerates other antioxidants like vitamins C, E and CoQ10.2,3 This makes it the veritable workhorse of antioxidants. It scavenges free radicals and helps other antioxidants do the same.
There’s yet another reason to supplement with lipoic acid: It works synergistically with B-vitamins. The result of this “tag-team” effort is enhanced carbohydrate metabolism for healthier energy production throughout the body. Lipoic acid does this by helping to protect mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, from oxidative damage.
Probably the most crucial relationship to highlight is the one between lipoic acid and glutathione — one of the most potent antioxidants in the human body. Glutathione inhibits the activity of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-kappaB), a pro-inflammatory transcription factor. In one animal study, lipoic acid increased glutathione levels significantly, particularly in the lungs, liver and kidneys.4
Lipoic Acid and Metabolic Syndrome & DiabetesOverwhelming evidence now suggests that lipoic acid may play a role in protecting against metabolic syndrome — a constellation of risk factors that often precedes full-blown type 2 diabetes. According to an exhaustive review of experimental studies, lipoic acid reduces blood pressure, reverses insulin resistance, improves lipid profiles, and improves weight.5
Another study showed dramatic effects of administering lipoic acid in improving insulin sensitivity in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes. Lipoic acid produced significant improvements in weight and insulin sensitivity after just four weeks of supplementation.6 The results of this study may have important implications in treating metabolic syndrome and diabetes moving forward.
Choosing the Right Lipoic AcidAlpha-lipoic acid is what’s commonly sold in most vitamin stores. It is a 50:50 mixture of two forms of lipoic acid, called S and R. The R-form is what’s active in the body. For this reason, we feel that it’s probably better to go with a product that is 100% R-lipoic acid.
Lipoic acid offers unique antioxidant properties that just can’t be found in other vitamins or minerals. For this reason, you should probably consider adding R-lipoic acid to your regimen today.
Are you supplementing with lipoic acid yourself? If not, will you consider it now that you’ve read this post? Please let us know in the comments.
- Curr Drug Targets. 2005 Jun;6(4):503-9.
- Free Radic Biol Med. 2002;33(1):83-93.
- Arch Biochem Biophys. 1998;349(2):281-289.
- Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2000 Jul 28;112(14):610-6.
- Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007 Mar;16(3):291-302.
- Hormones (Athens). 2006 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-8.
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