Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA) is one of the most powerful antioxidants we know. An antioxidant is a compound that blocks the action of free radicals (activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells). This is also referred to as Oxidation and may play a role in causing poor health as people age.
ALA is a naturally occurring vitamin-like sulfur containing, medium chain fatty acid that is either required by the diet as an essential nutrient or is produced by all living cells. Sometimes it is referred to as Thioctic Acid, or just Lipoic Acid. It was first isolated in 1951 when it was realized that it was essential to the chemical reactions that allow every cell of the body to produce energy. One of its most important characteristics is that it is both fat-soluble and water-soluble. This enables it to provide antioxidant protection in a much wider range of physiological environments throughout the body, which has resulted in some scientists referring to ALA as the “universal” antioxidant.
Lipoic acid as an antioxidant is found in certain foods, including red meat, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, yams, carrots, beets and yeast. It is also made in small amounts in the human body. However, a challenge is that as we age, the amount of free ALA circulating in our bodies decreases. The body only makes very trace amounts of lipoic acid necessary for normal metabolic processes and there is very little free lipoic acid circulating in the body, unless taken as a supplement. Taking supplemental lipoic acid may have pronounced therapeutic effects on the treatment of disease and on overall health.
The best-known and most well characterized function of alpha-lipoic acid is as a co-factor of mitochondrial enzymes. The mitochondria are the organelle within the cells where energy is produced. Enzymes are complex proteins that are crucial catalysts for biochemical reactions and for building or synthesizing most bio-chemicals in the body. Thus, Lipoic acid plays an important role in metabolism (the way that cells process chemicals in the body to produce energy).
ALA is also a vigorous scavenger of a wide array of cell-damaging free radicals. It has demonstrated the ability to reduce oxidative stress in a number of disorders, including diabetes, liver disease, and cancer. ALA can play a noteworthy role as a complementary therapy to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Professor Lester Packer at the Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California considers lipoic acid to be the most effective of all antioxidants proven to have anti-carcinogenic properties as it neutralizes free radicals. In particular this includes the destruction of the hydroxyl radical implicated in all stages of the cancer process and known to promote metastasis.
Lipoic acid is further believed to strengthen the effects of other antioxidants (such as Vitamins C and E) and to regenerate antioxidants (such as Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10 and Glutathione) used up in the fight against free radicals. It has also been utilized to successfully prevent and treat liver diseases. (Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D. http://www.drberkson.com)
It is well established that chronic systemic inflammation is a prerequisite for most chronic degenerative disease, including those of aging. The ability of Lipoic acid to drive transition from a more oxidized to a more reduced cellular environment can prevent inflammation. This feature can help in the treatment of disease and in the fight against a predisposition toward developing cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. All these disease processes have a common underlying basis that may be positively affected by lipoic acid.
Finally, it is believed that because ALA works as an antioxidant in both water and fatty tissue, it can enter nerve cells and cross the blood-brain barrier to address neurological issues. Consequently, it is seen to play a role in addressing peripheral neuropathy related side effects from the use of certain chemotherapy drugs.
At The Integrated Health Clinic Cancer Care Centre ALA can be administered as an oral supplement or as an Intravenous (IV) drip.
We encourage you to visit Integrated Health Clinic to meet with one of our Doctors and learn more about this treatment, or call us at (604)888-8325 to make an appointment.