When it comes to health, there are some powerful molecules that remain relatively unknown by the general population. Alpha-lipoic acid is just one of these important molecules, acting as an antioxidant and playing an integral role in cellular energy metabolism. There are two forms of alpha-lipoic acid: r-lipoic acid and s-lipoic acid. R-lipoic acid is the biologically-active form the human body prefers. The Na refers to the sodium salt that stabilizes the R-lipoic acid. The sodium makes it less likely to bind, keeping each molecule separate and more readily available for the body.
What Does R-lipoic Acid Do?
R-lipoic acid contributes to mitochondrial energy creation in cells. As part of the cellular energy process, it also has the ability to neutralize free radicals. Both mitochondrial function and cellular health are associated with the aging process, so it comes as no surprise that poor mitochondria and cellular function are also associated with accelerated aging. In addition to protecting against aging, lipoic acid also interacts with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and glutathione, to protect cells.
Here are a few of the potential benefits of lipoic acid:
Alleviates Symptoms of COPD
Studies show lipoic acid improves overall vascular function associated with COPD. A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients suffering from COPD found lipoic acid contributed to better blood flow when compared to control.
Encourages Muscle Recovery
If you've ever engaged in strenuous exercise, you're probably familiar with the soreness that follows the next day. Muscles are sore and tender after a workout because exercise breaks down muscle tissue. Although that may not immediately sound desirable, it's necessary for the muscle to grow. The good news, however, is that studies have found that lipoic acid may make the post-exercise recovery period easier by soothing the body's responses that produce soreness.
Protects the Brain
Antioxidants like lipoic acid are known to protect the brain from oxidative damage associated with aging and neurological disease. Lipoic acid has an added benefit in that it can cross the blood-brain barrier and neutralize free radicals, protecting the brain and nerve tissue. One study explored the effect of lipoic acid on a small group of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They observed that those taking the lipoic acid and fish oil combination experienced a slower cognitive decline over the 12-month period of the study.
Improves Symptoms of Neuropathy
Lipoic acid has a long history of use treating diabetic neuropathy, especially in Europe. A 2006 study found it reduced symptoms when compared to the control group who took placebo.
The Best Sources of Lipoic Acid
Dietary sources include organ meats such as liver and kidney as well as spinach, broccoli, and yeast extract. Lipoic acid supplements are also available. When looking for supplements, many contain both r-lipoic acid and s-lipoic acid to keep production costs low. For maximum benefit, look for supplements that use only the bioactive form of r-lipoic acid. I use and highly recommend Ultimate Cellular Health. This potent proprietary formula contains a bioavailable form of r-lipoic acid that helps protect and energize your cells’ mitochondrial function.
Do you use alpha-lipoic acid? What changes have you noticed since you started taking it?
- Carlson DA1, Smith AR, Fischer SJ, Young KL, Packer L. The plasma pharmacokinetics of R-(+)-lipoic acid administered as sodium R-(+)-lipoate to healthy human subjects. Altern Med Rev. 2007 Dec;12(4):343-51.
- Ives SJ1, Harris RA, Witman MA, et al. Vascular dysfunction and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the role of redox balance. Hypertension. 2014 Mar;63(3):459-67. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02255.
- Zembron-Lacny A1, Gajewski M, Naczk M, Dziewiecka H, Siatkowski I. Physical activity and alpha-lipoic acid modulate inflammatory response through changes in thiol redox status. J Physiol Biochem. 2013 Sep;69(3):397-404. doi: 10.1007/s13105-012-0221-8.
- Shinto L1, Quinn J, Montine T, et al. A randomized placebo-controlled pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid in Alzheimer's disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;38(1):111-20. doi: 10.3233/JAD-130722.
- Ziegler D, Ametov A, Barinov A, et al. Oral treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: The SYDNEY 2 trial. Diabetes Care. 2006;29:2365-70.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.