Meet Alpha Lipoic Acid, the Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidant
By Taz Bhatia, MD
By now, you’ve probably heard a ton about the benefits of antioxidants for everything from heart health to skin health. It’s true—these tiny oxidative molecules found in food are pretty powerful, but what do they do exactly? Well, as it turns out, this antioxidant has multiple roles including fighting inflammation and warding off a myriad of different diseases. They also reduce the risk of depression and mental decline. They do this by protecting our body from harmful free radicals in the environment that essentially break down our cells one by one.
There are many antioxidants, but one of them that you should know—and know well—is alpha lipoic acid (ALA). Although it’s naturally occurring in the body, we mostly acquire our fair share of alpha-lipoic acids in the vegetables we eat, including broccoli, spinach and potatoes.
What Do Alpha-lipoic Acids Do?
Considering the fact that alpha-lipoic acid is present in every single one of our body’s cells, you can only imagine just how important it really is. Its main task is to help the body turn glucose, or sugar, into energy. Because our body doesn’t always produce the right amount of alpha-lipoic acids we need, it is vital that we get our supply from a healthy and nutritious diet. In addition to helping provide us with energy, alpha-lipoic acids also fight the effects of free radicals in the environment, which essentially cause aging. I know what you’re thinking—everyone ages. Yes, this is true, but the kind of aging caused by free radicals is considered an advanced aging—a breakdown to the point where our cells degenerate.
What Are the Health Benefits of Alpha-lipoic Acids?
Like other antioxidants, lutein, carotenoids, beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acids help slow down this cellular damage caused by free radicals, thereby preventing degenerative diseases from setting up shop. Research has even found alpha-lipoic acids to be a natural Alzheimer’s treatment since one of the main characteristics of the disease is oxidative stress.
Additionally, we know that antioxidants boost skin health, which is why the term is such a buzzword used to sell everything from face washes and serums to eye creams and even hair products.
It’s also no surprise that additional studies have found a link between alpha-lipoic acids and protection against diabetes since we’ve known for quite some time that there’s a strong link between the nutrients (or lack thereof) we’re fueling our body with and our risk for the disease. The theory is that alpha-lipoic acids help enhance the body’s ability to utilize the insulin it produces naturally, thus lowering blood sugar. Other studies have found alpha-lipoic acids to even be helpful in treating symptoms of diabetes, such as pain, burning and tingling, among others.
In addition to getting as many antioxidant-containing foods as you can in your daily diet, my recommendation is to take 200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid as part of your diabetes-preventing—or -treating— supplement regimen, along with 2 to 3 g of omega-3 fatty acids and 500 mcg of chromium picolinate daily.