The Wonders of Lipoic Acid

Increases in lipoic acid, an antioxidant made naturally in the body that helps turn food into energy (and ward off damaging free radicals), has been proven to improve circadian rhythms by resetting the body’s biological clock, and may help maintain optimal glucose levels — even in people with existing diabetes.

A new report that examined closely the positive health effects of increases in lipoic acid (a.k.a. alpha-lipoic acid) were considered by a University of Oregon study published this month in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

Researchers now believe that many positive health benefits may be the result of increases in lipoic acid, especially in aging adults, who may lack the micronutrient. More specifically, increases in lipoic acid may be useful to maintain muscle mass, improve sleep patterns, reduce stress, and restore hormonal balance.

The findings were made by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

“In old animals, including elderly humans, it’s well known that circadian rhythms break down and certain enzymes don’t function as efficiently or as well as they should,” explains Dove Keith, a Linus Pauling Institute researcher and lead author of the Oregon University study. “This is very important, and probably deserves a great deal more study than it is getting,” Keith continues. “If lipoic acid offers a way to help synchronize and restore circadian rhythms, it could be quite significant.”

Lipoic acid has been the focus of many recent studies in the past few years, especially regarding its benefits in slowing the aging process. As it is a compound needed for aerobic metabolism, physicians and scientists are also now looking more closely at its role in maintaining healthful glucose levels in those people with metabolic issues, such as Type II diabetes.

For the Oregon study, researchers looked most closely at the metabolic function of the liver, which often functions less efficiently as we age.

Any dysfunction in the liver’s metabolism can disrupt a person’s energy level and put people at risk for many metabolism-based diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

In that study, researchers fed lab mice with higher levels of lipoic acid than is typically found in a normal diet while also monitoring proteins known to be affected by age, or a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm.

What they found was that the higher the concentrations of lipoic acid (about 600 milligrams for a 150 lb. human — more than may be consumed by diet alone), the better the liver function. Lipoic acid is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli.

Lipoic Acid and Peripheral Neuropathy

Further research also suggests that people already dealing with chronic metabolic conditions like Type II diabetes could benefit in other ways from increases in lipoic acid, namely to help reverse some of the side effects of the disease, such as nerve damage.

Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage due to years of uncontrolled high levels of glucose, can really become a crisis for individuals with Type II diabetes.

Numbness, tingling sensations, and worse, a complete loss of feeling in fingers and toes, can lead to unattended cuts and infections as well as the potential need for amputations later in life.

For instance, lipoic acid (delivered intravenously) has been used with success in treating patients with significant nerve damage in Germany for decades.

While intravenous lipolic acid is far from a typical treatment here in the United States, lipoic acid is currently available in capsule form. (Up to 800 mg. of lipoic acid is recommended for Type II Diabetics, but it should not be taken without a physician’s guidance, as doing so could dramatically lower blood glucose, especially in patients who are already taking other medications. Just 20 to 50 mg. per day is recommended for healthy adults.)

Anyone already taking medications to regulate thyroid function, such as Levothyroxine, or undergoing chemotherapy treatments, or who is pregnant or breastfeeding, should avoid supplementing with lipoic acid unless advised to do so by a physician. Lipoic acid is also available naturally in spinach, broccoli, and yeast, especially Brewer’s yeast.



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