Exploring the Health Benefits of Lipoic AcidPrint
By Michael A. Smith, MD
Widely known as a potent and effective antioxidant, lipoic acid demonstrates a multitude of health benefits directly related to its chemical structure. While most antioxidants are either water-loving or fat-loving, this compound is actually both.
Unlike vitamins C and E, which are confined to water and fat environments respectively, lipoic acid can scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in both environments. The distinctive chemical structure of this compound is what makes it one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature.
Lipoic Acid Protects Against Oxidative Stress
One of the leading theories of aging is called oxidative stress, which describes the build-up of free radicals over time. Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that are generated from our environment, our diet, and even from our normal metabolic processes. These compounds react violently with critical body proteins, important cellular fats, and even DNA. Lipoic acid helps prevent this damage by neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress.1
But wait, there’s more. Not only is it active in both water and fat, it also regenerates other antioxidants like vitamins C, E and CoQ10.2,3 This makes it the veritable workhorse of antioxidants. It scavenges free radicals and helps other antioxidants do the same.
There’s yet another reason to supplement with this compound: It works synergistically with B-vitamins. The result of this “tag-team” effort is enhanced carbohydrate metabolism for healthier energy production throughout the body. Lipoic acid does this by helping to protect mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, from oxidative damage.
Probably the most crucial relationship to highlight is the one between lipoic acid and glutathione — one of the most potent antioxidants in the human body. Glutathione inhibits the activity of nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-kappaB), a pro-inflammatory transcription factor.
Lipoic Acid and Metabolic Syndrome & Diabetes
Overwhelming evidence now suggests that this compound may play a role in protecting against metabolic syndrome — a constellation of risk factors that often precedes full-blown type 2 diabetes. According to an exhaustive review of experimental studies, lipoic acid reduces blood pressure, reverses insulin resistance, improves lipid profiles, and improves weight.4
Choosing the Right Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is what’s commonly sold in most vitamin stores. It is a 50:50 mixture of two forms of lipoic acid, called S and R. The R-form is what’s active in the body. For this reason, we feel that it’s probably better to go with a product that is 100% R-lipoic acid.
It offers unique antioxidant properties that just can’t be found in other vitamins or minerals. For this reason, you should probably consider adding R-lipoic acid to your regimen today.
- Curr Drug Targets. 2005 Jun;6(4):503-9.
- Free Radic Biol Med. 2002;33(1):83-93.
- Arch Biochem Biophys. 1998;349(2):281-289.
- Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007 Mar;16(3):291-302.