Alpha Lipoic Acid- Fountain of Youth, Fountain of Health

Cindy Bruno

Alpha Lipoic Acid has been available commercially for about 10 years and is slowly creeping into the consciousness of the general public. Based on scientific studies published over the past year, this little-known antioxidant may well turn out to be society’s answer to the woes of aging and poor health. These studies have revealed a host of dramatic health benefits and have demonstrated that ALA has the potential to improve physical health, mental health and, perhaps most exciting, literally slow down the process of aging.

In terms of mental health, a 2007 study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (with researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, University of Toronto, University of California-Berkeley, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Juvenon) concluded that ALA, taken as a nutritional supplement, improved the memory, the ability to learn, and the cognitive function of geriatric dogs.

The key to the improvement seen in these areas is ALA’s effect on mitochondria. Known as the “cell’s power plant,” mitochondria supply most of a cell’s energy, however growing research suggests it may be among the first cellular components to be damaged by oxidation and free radicals. Alpha Lipoic Acid, in combination with Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC), has the unique ability to step in and actually slow down mitochondrial decay.

Evidence of the positive effects of ALA was seen after 15 weeks of training older dogs, supplemented by the two antioxidants, to find a food treat by visually identifying a particular marker. 80 percent of dogs taking the supplement were able to find the hidden food whereas only 50 percent of dogs not taking the supplement were successful. In this case, ALA improved object/spatial discernment in dogs, the decline of which in humans is a sign of dementia.

In terms of physical health, two studies have suggested major areas where Alpha Lipoic Acid, in combination with ALC, has the potential to prevent and reverse damage from chronic disease. A study conducted at the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia showed how ALA might mitigate the effects of Diabetes, and another study, conducted by scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University and the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington, showed improvement in the treatment of Atherosclerosis and obesity.

These studies showed that ALA, when taken regularly, helps normalize insulin signaling and glucose metabolism, in addition to resetting and normalizing the entire metabolic process, hence the potential for stabilizing and minimizing the effects of diabetes. The studies also showed that a steady diet of ALA can inhibit the formation of arterial lesions, lower triglycerides, and reduce blood vessel inflammation, all of which are vital to preventing cardiovascular disease.

Alpha Lipoic Acid has also been shown to inhibit weight gain through several actions. It suppresses the appetite while it stimulates both the metabolic rate and higher levels of physical activity. The proof lies in the mice given ALA supplements; they chose to eat less and run around more. Consequently they gained less weight than the control group given the same amount of food.

And finally, moving one step closer to that ever-elusive fountain of youth, a study conducted by scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has shown that Alpha Lipoic Acid can literally slow down the process of aging. The study clarified that ALA restores levels of glutathione, a protective antioxidant and detoxification compound, to that of a young animal. A lower level of glutathione makes cells far more susceptible to free radicals and environmental toxins, and while scientists don’t believe that ALA directly improves cellular function, they believe instead it simply “kick starts” declining function in cells. In a nutshell, Alpha Lipoic Acid is considered a “low-level stressor” that activates the body’s basic cellular defenses that naturally decline with age.

Those who decide to take an Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement, or are already taking ALA, should be aware that it is a highly insoluble compound and hence poorly absorbed by the body in the powder form. More recently however, there are forms of ALA on the market that are already “solubilized,” and therefore more efficiently and consistently absorbed, leading to higher ALA plasma levels. These findings are confirmed by studies conducted by KemTek Pharmaceuticals in rabbits and humans which showed that ALA plasma levels were two to three times higher with solubilized formulations versus several commercially available powder formulations. (

ALA is perhaps the magic bullet to not only a long lifespan, but more importantly, a great “healthspan,” that is, the number of years of good health and freedom from degenerative disease one can expect. Alpha Lipoic Acid has myriad positive effects on the cellular level and it just may be the key to feeling great for years to come.

Cindy Bruno is a freelance writer who specializes in medicine, psychology and nutrition. Previously she was a writer/producer for the Food Network for 10 years.


On March 19, 2010, posted in: Alpha Lipoic Acid, Articles by