Lipoic acid or alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerhouse antioxidant that is widely used as a weight-loss aid. This antioxidant helps prevent excess fat storage and improves glucose utilization. Recent studies have also made it a popular anti-aging nutrient, known to help prevent against heart disease, stroke and memory loss. Lipoic acid prevents free radical damage like no other antioxidant, acting both within the watery cell interior and the fatty cell wall. It can also “recycle” vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q-10.
At the Department of Medical Rehabilitation and Geriatrics in Hannover, Germany, researchers tested the effects of ALA on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Nine participants with Alzheimer’s were given 600 mg of ALA daily for nearly a year. At the end of the study, patients exhibited more balanced mental functions during cognitive testing.
At the University of Madras in India, researchers at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences measured the effects of ALA on the mitochondria—the cells’ “power producers.” Laboratory rats were given ALA and then tested for antioxidant status and signs of oxidative (free radical) damage in the mitochondria. After the supplementation period, researchers noted that cell damage from free radicals had decreased, while the level and activity of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, as well as glutathione, increased. These results led researchers to conclude that ALA could prevent free radical damage and thereby protect the mitochondria.
Sources: Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2001 Jun;32(3):275-282; Chem Biol Interact 2001 Nov 28;138(2):189-98; Fat Wars by B King, Macmillan:2000