Alpha Lipoic Acid information
Alpha lipoic acid (also known as thioctic acid and 1,2-dithione-3-pentanoic acid) is a sulfur containing antioxidant and is active in both lipid (fats - such as the cell membrane) and aqueous (water - as found inside the cell) environments and helps to increase the production of glutathione and assists vitamin C and E, and helps to get rid of toxic substances in the liver.
Notwithstanding the fact that alpha lipoic acid has been around for a long time, it plays two very important roles in the cell.
Firstly, it is a fundamental co-enzyme in two vital reactions that lead to the production of energy at cellular level.
Secondly, it is a powerful antioxidant that is active against a broad spectrum of free radicals in both aqueous as well as lipid surroundings, and due to its size it can access nearly the entire body.
Although it may not sound important, it is vital to note that alpha lipoic acid is active in both water and lipid environments, since the human cell consists of various parts and these parts are either water or lipid based - this particular ingredient can work in both to protect against free radical damage.
It is readily transported through cellular membranes and helps to recycle other antioxidants - when vitamin E for instance quenches lipid peroxidation, and a vitamin E radical is formed, alpha lipoic acid will reduce it back to the active state of vitamin E. The same reaction occurs in the presence of the anti-oxidant, vitamin C.
If the concentration and presence of free radicals can be contained within the cell, far less oxidative stress and damage will be caused. This will result in aging being retarded at cellular level, as oxidative stress is one of the leading causes of aging.
Apart from fighting oxidative stress and reducing free radicals and their damage, alpha lipoic acid can also help boost the level of intracellular glutathione, which is another antioxidant that is very important to the immune system.
It furthermore helps to fight inflammation, as well as edema (water retention), caused by such inflammation. Alpha lipoic acid helps to combat inflammation, since it prevents the activation of NFk-B, which in turn prevents pro-inflammatory chemicals - called cytokines - from being formed.
The transcription factor - AP-1 - is also activated in a healing manner by alpha lipoic acid. When AP-1 is activated by sunlight, it starts to produce collagen-digesting enzymes called metalloproteinases, but when so activated by alpha lipoic acid, it actually destroys damaged collagen.
It easily crosses cell membranes and protects the cells by killing of free radicals and works inside and outside the cell and is able to cross the blood brain barrier, plus it chelates metals (binding to the metal and thereby rendering dangerous metals inactive), reduces inflammation and increases acetylcholine (Ach) and also regenerates itself.
To have unwanted metals in the body can cause Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) which also places stress on the cell and promotes premature cell aging, and by chelating (binding) the metal to it, it stops the negative effect the metals would normally have.
The free radical "Reactive Oxygen Species" (ROS) (including oxygen ions, peroxides and free radicals) can result in cell death by starting a chain reaction that damages the cell membranes, mitochondria, lipids and proteins.
Alpha lipoic acid also has a positive influence on diabetic patients and in Germany it is approved for the treatment of diabetic neuropathies (nerve damage). Diabetic patients also suffer from oxidative stress, leading to cell damage (more free radicals) and here alpha lipoic acid is of value, and it also has value in enhancing insulin functions.
Alpha lipoic acid also has a role to play in protecting the brain and assisting with the control of degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other prion diseases as oxidative stress from excessive free radicals are always present in these degenerative brain diseases, and since alpha lipoic acid neutralizes free radicals, long term supplementation may be of help.
Peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves) which can manifest as weakness, sensory loss or pain, loss of muscle bulk, twitching, numbness, cramps, spasms or tingling - can also benefit from alpha lipoic acid supplementation. This condition can be caused by various factors and includes diabetes, excessive alcohol use, malnutrition and vitamin deficiency, thyroid and pituitary problems, AIDS and certain drugs (including antiretroviral drugs), chemotherapy, cholesterol lowering drugs, etc.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic eye disorder that leads to incurable blindness and is a type of retinal dystrophy (degeneration) and blindness is normally followed by severe tunnel vision and although some people suffering from RP retain some sight all their lives, many become legally blind in their 40s and 50s.
In a study it was found that strong antioxidants, like alpha lipoic acid, is of help to reduce cone cell death (the cells required for sight) in the eye. In a study it was shown that alpha lipoic acid can be of benefit to people with inherited RP due to the fact that it helps to reduce rod and cone death in the eye with its antioxidant function, thereby being a valuable compound to look at if you suffer with this disease.
Faulty antioxidant defense in the eye can also contribute to cataracts and glaucoma (increased fluid pressure in the eye that causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve). Alpha lipoic acid enters the eye via the lens and is converted to DHLA and with various pathways helps vitamin E and C as well as glutathione and shows great promise to help prevent cataracts, plus the fact that it binds with metals (chelate) is of benefit when fighting cataracts. In a Russian study it was found that supplementation with alpha lipoic acid is also of value in fighting glaucoma.
Although this may not be a serious "disease" skin aging is caused by - internal and external factors - but cell damage is still the leading cause, no matter which one caused it, leading to premature skin aging.
Internal aging is dependent on the normal aging process (caused by free radicals), a reduction in growth factor and hormone activity as well as inherited genetic pre-disposition to premature aging, which will show as thinning skin, skin slackness, as well as lines and wrinkles.
One of the biggest contributing factors to skin aging is sun exposure - direct or indirect sun - and the UV radiation of the sun causes an inflammatory condition in the skin and a massive release in free radicals, which leads to premature aging.
In various studies it was shown that supplementation with alpha lipoic acid can positively benefit the fight against aging in general, due to its extremely potent antioxidant properties and various ways in which it positively influences the health of cells in general, and through that helps in preventing premature aging.
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