Alpha Lipoic Acid Benefits

The list of possible alpha lipoic acid benefits is long, while negative side effects are rare. This is one reason why it's become so popular as an ingredient in quality dietary supplements.

There have been numerous alpha lipoic acid clinical studies, pre-clinical trials and laboratory studies. This is merely a brief review of those studies.

First, just to be clear, here is a brief explanation of the difference between clinical and pre-clinical studies. Alpha lipoic acid clinical studies are those which include real people with or without specific health conditions in a controlled setting.

Other studies are considered pre-clinical, because they took place in a laboratory setting using either cell lines or animal models.

When results of pre-clinical trials are promising, researchers typically recommend that clinical studies should be performed.

In the case of small alpha lipoic acid clinical studies or single blind studies, researchers usually suggest larger more controlled studies. The alpha lipoic acid clinical studies that are considered most scientifically sound are those that are placebo controlled and double blind.

A placebo controlled study is one in which  half of the participants receive an active substance and half receive an inactive substance or “placebo”. Double blinding means that neither the person receiving the substance, nor the person “handing out the pills” knows which is “real” and which is not.

Double blind placebo controlled studies are particularly important when evaluating symptoms such as pain relief, but not so much in other cases. And in some cases clinical studies are simply impossible.

For example, alpha lipoic acid benefits that have been suggested by laboratory studies include the prevention of cancer. There is no way to use clinical studies to prove this theory, but in the laboratory, it has been shown that ALA prevents the growth of cancerous cell lines and tumors.

Alpha lipoic acid clinical studies have shown benefit to patients who have undergone radiation and/or chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.

Other laboratory studies have indicated that alpha lipoic acid benefits may include the prevention of heart disease. With this in mind, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine conducted a double blind placebo controlled study lasting eight weeks.

In their opening statement researchers pointed out that ALA and l-carnitine are known to reduce oxidative stress and improve mitochondrial function. Their goal was to see what if any effect supplementation would have on patients with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.

Study participants were patients with either coronary artery disease or metabolic syndrome. At the end of the eight week trial, those participants receiving ALA and acetyl-l-carnitine had significantly lower blood pressure and increased diameter in the brachial artery, the major blood vessel in the arm.

This study suggests that alpha lipoic acid benefits include stabilizing blood pressure and improving blood flow and support the idea that ALA supplements may help prevent heart disease.

Many alpha lipoic acid clinical studies have focused on the benefits to people suffering from diabetes, in particular those people whose small blood vessels have been damaged by high levels of glucose in the blood stream for an extended period of time, a condition called diabetic distal symmetric polyneuropathy or diabetic neuropathy.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reported that ALA at 600mg/day relieved the pain associated with this condition. Numerous alpha lipoic acid clinical studies from around the world support this conclusion.

The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the human body's cells, responsible for converting food molecules into the energy that fuels cellular functions.

At the Department of Neuroscience in Pisa, Italy ALA has been used along with vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, creatine and exercise training to effectively treat mitochondrial diseases, a group of disorders caused by damage to the DNA of the mitochondria. 

Other studies suggest that ALA may protect mitochondria from the damage that occurs during the aging process, although these are laboratory studies, not alpha lipoic acid clinical studies.

One of the small alpha lipoic acid clinical studies concluded that alpha lipoic acid benefits may include the relief of migraines. Clinicians at the Headache Research Unit in Belgium evaluated the symptoms of nearly 100 migraine sufferers over a period of three months. This was a single blind placebo controlled study, so results need to be followed up with a larger clinical trial.

... migraine attacks were less in participants receiving ALA ...

But, these researchers found that the frequency and severity of migraine attacks were less in participants receiving ALA, while participants receiving placebo reported no change at all. These scientists described ALA in this way “known to enhance energy metabolism in mitochondria and to be beneficial in diabetic neuropathy”.

According to the Alternative Medicine Review, alpha lipoic acid benefits to human health were first identified in the 1980s. Researchers and scientists accept the fact that ALA is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in both the fatty and watery regions of cells. Other antioxidants work in either the watery regions (vitamin C) or the fatty regions (vitamin E) but not both.

Over the years, alpha lipoic acid clinical studies have shown that the supplement can be used to treat and prevent deficiencies in vitamin C or E. With this and other evidence, it can be stated with confidence that alpha lipoic acid benefits and enhances the performance of other antioxidants.

Other alpha lipoic acid benefits listed by the Alternative Medicine Review include the treatment of glaucoma and heavy metal poisoning. Supplements may be beneficial to stroke victims and to persons who have suffered from a clot in the arteries of the heart.

Many sources state that it may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Laboratory studies have shown that it prevents the replication of the HIV virus. Several alpha lipoic acid clinical studies have shown benefit to persons suffering from Burning Mouth Syndrome.

People with type II diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance or a family history of type II diabetes should know that ALA enhances insulin sensitivity and stimulates the production of insulin.

Although this means that the possible prevention of type II diabetes is one of the many alpha lipoic acid benefits, it also means that it should be used with caution by person’s with hypoglycemia, low blood sugar or a tendency towards hypoglycemic. Although actual hypoglycemia is rare, it is just as life threatening as hyperglycemia.

It may seem that alpha lipoic acid helps practically every system and every part of the human body and this is actually true, because mitochondria exist in every cell and alpha lipoic acid benefits to mitochondria are well established and accepted by the scientific community.

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