Alpha Lipoic Acid also known as thioctic acid is found naturally in all cells and acts as a powerful antioxidant. It has the ability to scavenge free radicals and thereby protecting cells from harmful oxidative damage. This antioxidant has been used in Europe for many years but has only become popular in the U.S. recently. It is also involved with making ATP from the breakdown of glucose in the mitochondria. Alpha Lipoic Acid has a rather unique property in that it is soluble in both water and fats. Vitamin C for example is water soluble only and therefore cannot act as an antioxidant within plasma membranes. On the other hand, vitamin E is fat soluble and can only work in a fat environment. Before Alpha Lipoic acid can work it is converted into Dihydrolipoic acid in the body. From the molecular structures to the left, you can see where it gets it antioxidant properties.
This powerful antioxidant is used to promote liver health, reduce aging, control diabetes, generate energy and combat heart disease. Alpha Lipoic Acid has been administered to patients who have mushroom poisoning as well as radiation poisoning with great success. It also protects from free-radical formation from alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, drugs and from the fast foods we eat. Since it is naturally occurring, this antioxidant is readily available from many foods we eat such as meats and vegetables, however it is also available in supplemental form.
Be informed that Alpha Lipoic Acid comes in two forms known as the S and R form. S means it is a left handed molecule and R means it is a right handed molecule. In other words, they are mirror images of themselves. Only the R form is used by the body so when you purchase Alpha Lipoic Acid it is best to buy the all R form. Some manufacturers sell a mix of the two which means you're only getting half of what you paid for.
Alpha Lipoic's main concern is the production of glutathione a tripeptide produced in the liver that is an antioxidant, immune booster and detoxifier. Alpha Lipoic Acid is also known to protect mitochondrial membranes by inducing the expression of frataxin. Frataxin is a mitochondrial protein that has both antioxidant and chaperone properties. A chaperone protein assists the molecular folding of a protein to its proper configuration and can also help to reconfigure a protein that is damaged. When the mitochondrial membrane is damaged during oxidative processes, this causes the mitochondria to lose membrane potential and form autophagic vacuoles. Alpha Lipoic Acid comes to rescue by acting as a free radical scavenger and inducing the production of fractaxin which can restore the abnormally folded proteins hence restoring overall mitochondrial integrity and membrane function.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is also known for reducing aging and diminishing wrinkles. This involves the process of glycation. Glycation involves sugars interacting with certain proteins such as collagen found in connective tissue and skin. Sugar molecules such as glucose can attach themselves to certain amino acids in proteins causing them to function improperly. This is not only an aging problem but also is acquired from fast foods we eat like french fries and hamburgers. With time glycation of collagen and other proteins accumulate causing connective tissue and vascular problems. The presence of Alpha Lipoic lowers blood glucose levels decreasing the potential for making glycated proteins providing for longevity and nicer looking skin.
Lipoic Acid can help control diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels as well. Lipoic lowers blood sugar levels by increasing translocation of glucose transporters known as glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) to the cell membrane from the cytosolic space increasing the rate in which glucose is brought into the cell. Lipoic Acid can also prevent some aspects of heart disease. This powerful antioxidant supports healthy coronary vessels. Lipoic Acid does this by keeping endothelial cells of the vasculature functioning properly by causing them to vasodilate. The presence of Lipoic Acid activates the enzyme endothelial nitric oxide synthase which makes nitric oxide which in turn causes vessels to expand. This allows for proper blood perfusion to heart muscle.