Dr. Ariel Mastrich, ND
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a sulfur-containing fatty acid compound that acts a coenzyme and as an antioxidant. It is called the "universal antioxidant" because of its potential ability to neutralize a wide range of free radicals. Recent studies suggest that ALA may improve situations in the body involving free radicals, such as heart disease, cancer and other disorders involving inflammation and aging.
Alpha lipoic acid is an excellent antioxidant that recycles other antioxidants, such as Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Free radicals are highly unstable electrons that are a normal by-product of oxidative metabolism. When free radicals get out of control, these electrons can cause extensive damage to lipid membranes, organelles, and DNA itself. Unlike other antioxidants, ALA has the unique ability to neutralize free radicals in both aqueous (watery) & fatty membrane portions of both intracellular and extracellular environments. This ability allows ALA to be easily transported across the cell membrane. Vitamin C is only allowed to protect the aqueous portions of cells from free radical attacks, and Vitamin E protects the fatty membranes.
Not only does ALA scavenge free radicals, but it also recycles important nutrients, like Vitamin C and glutathione. When an antioxidant scavenges a free radical, it becomes oxidized in the process and is no longer able to scavenge until it becomes reduced. The reduced form of ALA is able to reduce the oxidized antioxidants, and therefore allowing them to be useful again.
Alpha Lipoic Acid has been demonstrated to increase glutathione. Glutathione synthesis and cellular levels are significantly reduced in older individuals compared to younger individuals. This leads to a decreased ability of older individuals to respond to toxin exposure and oxidative stress. ALA's ability to continually replenish and recycle glutathione allows the body to clean up free radical damage continually and prevent age-related health decline and chronic diseases associated with aging. Free radicals also damage the mitochondria, which regulate energy use & storage. Damaged mitochondria may eventually cause inadequate energy production and the general metabolic decline evident in aging. ALA also prevents this mitochondrial dysfunction that occurs with age.
ALA has the ability to protect the liver from poisons in addition to the ability to regenerate the liver if it has already been damaged. ALA treatment is good therapy for viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease.
Autoimmune conditions arise when the body's inflammation is high and the cells do not make the distinction between self & non-self. Transcription factors, like nuclear factor kappa beta, which is an inflammatory messenger that turns on inflammation, are one such factor. ALA can stabilize and regulate a number of genes related to inflammation and cell cycle control, which are involved in the pathology of diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. ALA is an excellent treatment modality for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lupus, and all other autoimmune disorders.
ALA also employs anti-hyperglycemic effects, which aids in increasing glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and improving insulin sensitivity. ALA works against insulin resistance by increasing the permeability of the cell membranes, which is decreased in hyperglycemia.
ALA can be given in the form of an oral supplement, but the breakthrough research that has been made available recently is through IV infusions. Prior to infusions, a metabolic panel is required to assess liver and kidney function, if a metabolic panel has been completed within the year a copy may be provided before the treatment. The therapy takes about 20-25 minutes in total.