All cells in the human body contain Alpha-Lipoic acid in small amounts, but taking it as a supplement has been associated with reversing memory loss, reducing brain fog, and improving cognition.
You probably consume Alpha-Lipoic acid every day as it can be found in small amounts in various food sources, including red meat, potatoes, spinach, and broccoli.
Although it is commonly used as a therapeutic for diabetes and neuropathy management, people without chronic illnesses can also benefit from supplementation.
- What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)?
- How Does Alpha-Lipoic Acid Work in The Brain?
- What Are The Health Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
- How To Take Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
- Does Alpha-Lipoic Acid Have Side Effects?
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)?
The human body naturally produces Alpha-Lipoic acid. It is synthesized in the mitochondria and can be found in all of your cells. ALA helps your body with cell signaling, carbohydrate breakdown, and metabolic cleanup.
The molecular structure of ALA is similar to that of vitamin C. What makes it unique among other antioxidants is being water-soluble and the ability to dissolve in fat since many compounds can’t do both.
This property allows ALA to pass through the blood-brain barrier. As a result, ALA works in the brain to alter chemical signaling and promote efficiency and wellbeing.
Because cells only produce a small amount of Alpha-Lipoic acid, it has become popular to take more as a supplement. Supplemental ALA has been used for a wide variety of treatments for its ability to manage blood sugar levels, control hunger signals, and block unnecessary pain symptoms.
The way that Alpha-Lipoic acid works in the brain also helps with cognitive decline. ALA can benefit memory loss, brain fog, and general confusion. It is a powerful nootropic that promotes chemical balance and brain health.
As a dietary supplement, Alpha-Lipoic acid is available in two primary forms:
- S-Lipoic Acid (S-LA)
- R-Lipoic Acid (R-LA)
It’s essential to know the difference since both forms function differently in the brain and most supplements contain a mixture of both.
S-Lipoic acid is a synthetic form of ALA. It does not interact with proteins, enzymes, and genes the same way the standard form does. Therefore, S-Lipoic acid is rarely used as standalone in medicine.
R-Lipoic Acid is made naturally in plants, animals, and the human body. It is the component of ALA that produces the benefits.
How Does Alpha-Lipoic Acid Work in The Brain?
Alpha-Lipoic acid supplements can benefit both the brain and body. When ingested, it is absorbed into the bloodstream through digestion, and from there, it helps enzymes turn nutrients available for the brain by breaking down glucose to be used for energy (1).
Alpha-Lipoic acid crosses the blood-brain barrier to increase levels of acetylcholine. As a result, it improves memory recall and formation by promoting acetylcholine release in the hippocampus.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter heavily involved in problem-solving and working memory.
By feeding the brain with glucose, ALA also promotes other mental functions. Because of this, many gerontologists recommend ALA supplements in conjunction with other cognitive-enhancing drugs.
On the other hand, Alpha-Lipoic acid has powerful antioxidant properties that reduce tissue inflammation and destroy free radicals in the body to prevent cell damage.
These anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make ALA effective for chronic pain and nerve health. In addition, research suggests
Alpha-Lipoic acid also balances blood glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity, which can help manage diabetes while also assisting the body in promoting weight loss.
All of the physical effects from Alpha-Lipoic acid can be traced back to its work in the brain. For example, ALA modulates hunger signals in the brain by controlling hormone levels released by the hypothalamus and reducing nerve pain signals in the arms and feet.
What Are The Health Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
The possible benefits of Alpha-Lipoic acid are remarkable because of its high bioavailability, few side effects, and since the brain and body can easily use it.
So if you’re looking to improve your memory, cognition, or if you want to take control of your weight, you might consider it as a viable addition to your diet.
Improves Memory Loss
Alpha-Lipoic acid reverses memory loss by increasing acetylcholine levels in the hippocampus, improving cognitive function, learning, and memory.
It also actively protects brain tissue from free radical damage cells, leading to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia (2).
Studies show that when used in addition to other cognitive-enhancing medications, ALA supplements can improve working memory in people with neurodegenerative diseases and memory loss (3).
Alpha-Lipoic acid reduces brain fog by stimulating the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is associated with higher-level thinking and decision-making. By increasing acetylcholine here, ALA encourages more complex thinking patterns and better memory recall.
As a result, Alpha-Lipoic acid may provide a natural way to prevent and treat cognitive decline.
Relieves Nerve Pain
Alpha-Lipoic acid fights nerve damage in both the brain and the body. Nerve cells are delicate, and free radicals and metabolic waste can damage them. Therefore, it can neutralize free radicals and maintain nerves healthy.
In addition to protecting nerves, ALA can control the chemical messengers responsible for neuropathic pain.
For example, neuropathy in the hands and feet can be caused by unnecessary pain signaling in the brain. ALA can prevent this by binding to neurotransmitter receptors to prevent pain signals from sending.
This mechanism of action means that it may also reduce pain caused by carpal tunnel syndrome and pinched nerves.
Clinical trials involving individuals suffering from diabetic neuropathy or chronic nerve damage demonstrated that when taken consistently, Alpha-Lipoic acid significantly reduces neuropathic pain in the hands and feet (4).
Protects Against Inflammation
Alpha-Lipoic acid supplements can reduce tissue inflammation. Therefore, the same antioxidant properties that help prevent nerve damage also fight oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can cause tissue inflammation, which is damaging to the body. Chronic diseases tend to produce high levels of oxidative stress, and ALA counteracts this by reducing the buildup of C-reactive protein in inflamed tissues (5).
Alpha-Lipoic acid protects against inflammation by clearing free radicals, leading to damaged cells and more inflammation. ALA can also aid in the body’s cleanup of dead or damaged cells.
Alpha-Lipoic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties benefit all parts of the body. In addition to preventing and treating tissue inflammation, ALA can reduce neurological inflammation, treating depressive symptoms.
Reducing oxidative stress can help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure, and studies of ALA have even found that it can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Helps To Manage Diabetes
Alpha-Lipoic acid supplementation has a history of use in diabetes management since it can help regulate glucose control by increasing the effectiveness of insulin.
Type II diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. With reduced insulin, blood sugar levels rise, and consequently, ALA supplements can help decrease blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Alpha-Lipoic acid also helps with diabetes management by breaking down carbohydrates into glucose to be used by the brain and the body, therefore clearing it from the bloodstream. ALA can also clear skeletal muscle cells of excess fat, which helps blood sugar control (6).
In addition, evidence suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of ALA have therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic nerve pain.
Severe cases of diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy or diabetic retinopathy, and Alpha-lipoic acid supplements can prevent the blood vessel damage that leads to it by reducing pressure on the blood vessels and protecting the surrounding tissues.
Promotes Weight Loss
Current evidence proves that Alpha-Lipoic acid assists in balancing blood sugar levels, which promotes weight loss as frequent blood glucose fluctuation can lead to weight gain.
Taking an ALA supplement could help weight management by keeping your blood glucose balanced and preventing metabolic diseases like metabolic syndrome.
Alpha-Lipoic acid also works in the brain to decrease hunger signals. It does this by reducing the activity of an enzyme called AMPK (7). This modification corrects your hunger cues and causes you to feel hungry less often, which results in eating smaller portions and losing weight.
Randomized controlled trials found that oral Alpha-Lipoic acid may also increase the number of calories burned at rest.
This phenomenon is called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, NEAT, and it refers to how many calories your body needs to go about day-to-day life. This leads to lower fasting blood glucose.
In addition, burning more calories during NEAT is associated with good energy metabolism. So ALA helps to lose weight even when you’re resting by boosting your metabolism.
Studies have found that individuals taking Alpha-Lipoic acid regularly lose more weight, and the longer ALA is taken consistently, the better the weight loss effects are obtained.
Fights Signs of Skin Aging
Alpha-Lipoic acid was recently introduced to the skincare world. Because of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, ALA is an excellent ingredient in anti-aging skincare.
For example, research suggests that creams containing 5% ALA reduced signs of fine lines, wrinkles and even reversed some signs of sun damage (8).
Since the biggest culprit of aging signs is the sun, ALA skincare works to repair UV damage in the skin, which can reverse signs of aging by seeping into the skin and clearing the damaged cells. Also, it fights the inflammation caused by skin damage.
Finally, Alpha-Lipoic acid may also have a protective effect against future UV damage by increasing glutathione levels in the dermis.
How To Take Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
To increase Alpha-Lipoic acid levels in your body, you can add some natural food sources to your diet, but you should primarily take ALA supplements for extra benefits.
ALA comes in 3 forms: intravenous Alpha-Lipoic Acid, supplemental capsules, and a topical cream.
The most convenient way to take Alpha-Lipoic Acid nootropic is in its capsule form. Capsules are commercially available over-the-counter, and you can administer this medication yourself.
Intravenous ALA requires a medical professional because it must be injected into your arm or infused in IV fluids. This makes it a less convenient form of ALA.
However, intravenous ALA is thought to be more potent than oral ALA. Alpha-Lipoic acid can also be applied topically as a cream for skin aging.
To achieve the therapeutic effect, the recommended daily dose of Alpha-Lipoic acid supplement is 600 – 1800 mg, and it can be taken for up to 6 months. However, more research needs to be done on the effects of daily ALA use beyond 6 months.
Alpha-Lipoic acid cream typically comes in 5% strength and can be applied twice daily.
The appropriate dosage may vary depending on what you’re taking it for. Typically, individuals using Alpha-Lipoic acid for its weight loss benefits take a lower dose than those using high doses of ALA for nerve pain management.
Alpha-Lipoic acid supplement is not suitable for children or pregnant women. In addition, you shouldn’t take ALA if you are experiencing kidney or liver failure.
It takes about 3-5 weeks of daily use for Alpha-Lipoic acid to take effect, and also, the effect of Lipoic acid may depend on the dose. Oral ALA supplements work best when taken on an empty stomach.
Does Alpha-Lipoic Acid Have Side Effects?
ALA supplements are generally considered safe, and typically, it rarely has serious side effects. Some people have reported mild symptoms, including nausea, skin rash, and itching. However, these were all associated with higher doses.
In addition, Alpha-Lipoic acid can lower amounts of Vitamin B1 in the body, which can be harmful to alcoholics if not maintained in a balanced and nutritious diet.
In animal studies, extreme doses of Alpha-Lipoic acid can cause liver disease and kidney failure. More research needs to be done to conclude the best daily dose for the most health benefits.
There is a lot of evidence that Alpha-Lipoic acid is one of the potent antioxidants and powerful anti-inflammatory compounds.
The use of Alpha-Lipoic acid improves memory loss, cognitive function and promotes weight loss at the same time.
In addition, ALA supplements are popular as a potential aid and treatment for type II diabetes since they manage it by decreasing insulin resistance. Therefore, the efficacy of ALA also plays a critical role in pain management and nerve health by increasing the release of acetylcholine in the brain.
Since it is well-tolerated, Alpha-Lipoic acid is safe and beneficial for the body with relatively few side effects.