Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an important natural mitochondrial compound for your brain! ALA is an antioxidant and can protect against free radicals that are roaming thoughout your body before they cause trouble. It protects against cell damage and this helps your brain since it reduces cell damage in the brain too. Let’s talk more about Alpha-Lipoic Acid and the brain.
There are things you need to know about Alpha-Lipoic Acid and why you might want to add it to your brain arsenal. Studies have shown there are no contraindications for taking Alpha-Lipoic Acid and you may have little to no side effects. But you should know it can lower blood sugar, which is great if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Controlling blood glucose is important to everyone, as you’ll see below.
Featured in: The Top 10 Brain Supplements
Oxidation in the body means that cells split and create free radicals (a normal occurrence). Free radicals are just split cells that go in search of other split cells, to put it simply. They are part of our immune system and so are necessary for health. The problem occurs when there are too many. Free radicals, which cause oxidation of good cells, affect our health greatly when they overtake the healthy cells. Oxidation can also affect our memory. Too many free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, which is a contributor to many illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
This is where antioxidants come in. Our bodies make some antioxidants and they are in some of our ‘healthy’ foods like fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals before they get out of control. Antioxidants come in two forms: fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Vitamins E and C are great antioxidants. Vitamin C is water-soluble while Vitamin E is fat-soluble. The body does make a small amount of Alpha-Lipoic Acid, which is both water and fat-soluble. Also, we can get it from animal products like red meat and organ meats as well as some plant sources like broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. Being both water and fat-soluble means ALA can permeate more cells in our bodies, making it pretty effective as an antioxidant.
Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Here are some benefits of ALA:
- Lower blood sugar levels – Studies have shown that ALA lowers blood sugar levels in animals tested by up to 64%. In humans, scientists found that ALA reduces insulin resistance, making it easier for insulin to do its job. Nice! It also helps remove fat from muscle cells (which is what causes insulin resistance). If you have diabetes, ask your doctor before adding ALA to your regimen.
- Reduced inflammation – Part of the way it helps with inflammation is restoring vitamin C and E levels in the body. This seems to help prevent some kinds of cell damage.
- Slows skin aging – A lot of people are using Alpha-Lipoic creams to reduce lines and skin roughness and help general skin elasticity.
- Improved nerve function – ALA has been proven to help with symptoms of nerve damage (neuropathy) from diabetes. Neuropathy can be a consequence of high blood sugar in diabetes. Also, it has been found to help with carpal tunnel syndrome in the early stages, helping the numbness and tingling in the hand.
- May Help With Weight Loss – ALA does seem to help with weight loss. Studies have shown only a one to two-pound increase in weight loss compared with people who weren’t taking it. It seems to work with the brain to help feelings of hunger as well as the reduction of fat in muscles we talked about earlier. The effect on the brain is accomplished by suppressing AMPK activity in the brain, thus reducing feelings of hunger.
- May Lower Heart Disease Risk Factors – Raman of Healthline mentions that ALA may also reduce the risk of heart disease, due to its antioxidant factor. Not only that, it’s been shown to lower the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels in adults. I’m in.
- May Slow Memory Loss – ALA is sometimes used as a supplement for people with Alzheimer’s due to its neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation. It seems it would be good for brain health in general! It’s listed among the top brain supplements you can take.
Related Article: Side Effects of Low Vitamin D
Another Word on Blood Sugar and the Brain
Friends, Dr. David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist and author of Grain Brain, has studied extensively on what causes dementia and Alzheimer’s. He mentions that people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s and of course, diabetes, are shown to have insulin resistance. There seems to be a connection between glucose (blood sugar) and brain degeneration. People with diabetes have a higher risk. Even spikes in blood sugar in people without a diabetes diagnosis are affected. You can read more about this in the Gluten and Inflammation article here.
This isn’t the sole cause of brain diseases but it does seem to be a factor. Knowing this, it’s even more important to do what we can to keep our glucose levels in check. ALA is one way to help accomplish this.
Experts say that we only need to take 300-600 mg per day for benefits from Alpha-Lipoic Acid. (Toxicity occurs at around 2400 mg.). Anything beyond 2400mg might actually have the reverse effect. Take as directed on the bottle or as your physician recommends.
People with diabetes complications or cognitive disorders might require more. Ask your doctor.
Keep In Mind…
Since alpha lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels, be cautious about taking it with other supplements that also reduce blood sugar if you have low blood sugar.
Also, ask your doctor or a pharmacist if you have a thyroid disorder or liver disease or if you drink large amounts of alcohol. And certainly, if you have diabetes, for guidance.
Bringing It Together
The antioxidant properties of Alpha-Lipoic acid make it an excellent supplement and addition to your brain arsenal. While the body produces a small amount, the addition of ALA in supplement form provides some extra insurance against free radicals wreaking havoc in your body.
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Drugs.com. (2018). Alpha-Lipoic Acid. https://www.drugs.com/npp/alpha-lipoic-acid.html
Perlmutter, D. (2013, 2018). Grain Brain. [Book]. Published by Little, Brown Spark, Hachette Book Group.
Raman, R. (2018). Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Weight Loss, Other Benefits and Side Effects. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alpha-lipoic-acid
WebMD. (2018). Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosing. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-767/alpha-lipoic-acidAl