Alpha Lipoic Acid Monograph

Alpha Lipoic Acid Monograph II

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Alternative Medicine Review 2006 (Sep);   11 (3):   232–237

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA – also known as thioctic acid) was discovered in 1951 as a molecule that assists in acyl-group transfer and as a coenzyme in the Krebs cycle. In the 1980s, the scientific community realized alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant. Several qualities distinguish alpha-lipoic acid from other antioxidants: ALA can be synthesized by animals and humans; [1] it neutralizes free radicals in both the fatty and watery regions of cells, in contrast to vitamin C (water soluble) and vitamin E (fat soluble); and, ALA functions as an antioxidant in both its reduced and oxidized forms. [2]

Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant in both fat- and water-soluble mediums. Furthermore, its antioxidant activity extends to both its oxidized and reduced forms. DHLA is capable of directly regenerating ascorbic acid from dehydroascorbic acid and indirectly regenerating vitamin E. [7] Researchers have also found ALA increases intracellular glutathione [8] and coenzyme Q10 [9] levels.

Alpha-lipoic acid appears capable of chelating certain metals. It forms stable complexes with copper, manganese, and zinc. [10] In animal studies, it has been found to protect against arsenic poisoning, [11] and, in both animal and in vitro studies, ALA reduced cadmium-induced hepatotoxicity. [12] In vitro, ALA chelated mercury from renal slices. [13]

Mechanisms that may account for lipoic acid’s benefit in preventing diabetic complications include prevention of protein glycosylation [14] and inhibition of the enzyme aldose reductase, the latter of which subsequently inhibits conversion of glucose and galactose to sorbitol. [15, 16] Accumulation of sorbitol has been implicated in the pathogenesis of various diabetic complications, including “sugar cataracts” where sorbitol accumulates in the lens.

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