As one of the most powerful antioxidants, alpha-lipoic acid has multiple benefits for the body. It occurs naturally in the body, but we can also find it in some foods or in the form of supplements. It is a rather peculiar fatty acid, since it is soluble in both water and fat, so it can reach all the cells of the body and protect them from oxidative stress. Due to its structure and solubility, it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why it acts as a neuroprotector and stimulates brain functions , which is known as a nootropic effect.
Nootropics are considered to be substances that have a positive effect on the mental and cognitive abilities of the human being. The long-term effect of many of them on the body has not yet been studied, however they are used and recommended by some doctors and pharmacists.
Synapses are communication links between neurons, and substances that carry messages between neurons across synapses are known as neurotransmitters . Nootropics stimulate the transmission of neurotransmitters, and accelerating neurotransmission has a direct effect on improving mood, attention, concentration, and mental abilities. Cognitive functions are also stimulated by these substances. They facilitate blood circulation in the brain and thus influence the supply of more oxygen and glucose to the neurons.
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals predominate in the body, causing cell damage. Specifically, the body does not have enough antioxidants to neutralize free radicals. This oxidative stress causes deterioration of brain tissue, in which all aerobic cells are damaged, although the brain is more sensitive to free radicals and oxidative stress. The reason is high metabolic activity, in which free radicals attack cells, causing damage or apoptosis (cell suicide). Alzheimer’s and Parkinson ‘s are diseases associated with the pathogenesis of aging. The biggest culprits in the development of these diseases are free radicals.
How does alpha-lipoic acid affect the brain?
Alpha-lipoic acid enhances brain function in several ways.
On the one hand, it increases the production of acetylcholine and increases the uptake of glucose in brain cells, enhancing mental energy, and improving the learning and memory process.
As an antioxidant , alpha-lipoic acid plays a key role in neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals cause neuronal damage, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. ALA not only has an antioxidant effect, but also works by “regenerating” other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione and coenzyme Q10.
Organelles called mitochondria are the most important for energy production in cells. In them, the process of energy production takes place with the help of many enzymes and their cofactors. Alpha-lipoic acid is one of the key cofactors for cellular energy production . So we can conclude the great importance it has. Without alpha-lipoic acid there is no energy, without energy there is no cell life and thus the disease arises.
Alzheimer’s disease is a field of neurology in which scientists continue to search for a solution. According to a four-year study, alpha-lipoic acid could be a way forward. 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily has been shown to have neuroprotective effects .
Also, as you age, heavy metals accumulate in your cells, which can be released with ALA, studies show. This reduces inflammatory processes, improving cognitive functions .
The alpha-lipoic acid found in supplements is a mixture of two forms of the S- and R-enantiomers . The S- form has no biological effect and is formed as a by-product in the production process. The R- form is responsible for all the mentioned effects of alpha-lipoic acid. In this way, the alpha-lipoic acid is better absorbed and better used.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Side Effects
Insomnia, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea may occur as side effects, but very rarely.
ALA is often recommended for diabetics, as studies have confirmed its effect on diabetic polyneuropathy . These are patients in whom, due to the action of alpha-lipoic acid and its neuroprotective effect, the tingling in the fingers and toes is reduced. It is also suspected that it can cause a decrease in blood sugar, so in diabetics or in people who have low blood sugar, it is very important that it be used with medical supervision and control .
It is currently being widely studied in other fields of medicine to assess its effectiveness, but there are great hopes that it can be used in the future to reduce body weight, in addition to controlling cholesterol levels and other fats in the blood.
Based on studies published to date, ALA taken by mouth is probably safe in most adults as long as it is taken for less than 4 years. It is usually well tolerated, although it can sometimes cause gastrointestinal problems or headaches.
As for application to the skin , it is also considered safe if used for up to 12 weeks, but some people have had a skin reaction.
Regarding interactions with other drugs , it should be noted that alcohol consumption reduces thiamine levels, which combined with ALA can cause serious health problems. Therefore, if you are a regular user of alcohol and want to use ALA, you should also take thiamine supplements.
On the other hand, if you take regular medication, you should consult your doctor to assess whether there are any interactions between your daily treatment and ALA. It is currently unknown which drugs it may interact with, but there is some concern about combining it with cancer, coagulation, or thyroid medication.
Although alpha-lipoic acid is produced in the body, its level in the body decreases with age. In addition, stress, pollution and poor diet contribute to the creation of free radicals and cell damage, and the brain is the most sensitive to this damage. Depression, low mood, poor memory, and eventually Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are the consequences of this damage.
Alpha-lipoic acid can greatly protect the body, improve cognitive functions and slow down the processes associated with aging and loss of cellular energy.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (2019). Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/spanish/druginfo/natural/767.html
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