Each time I take on a new health coaching client, I offer them 4 or 5 supplement recommendations. Without exception, I always recommend alpha-lipoic acid to my clients who are not taking insulin. Here’s why:
ALA, as it’s commonly referred to, is a pretty amazing antioxidant that tends to fly just beneath most people’s radar. Antioxidants are touted as defenders against free radicals—those pesky waste byproducts that potentially cause illness and cellular degeneration. People of all ages are exposed to free radicals that gather within their bodies. As the free radicals oxidize, the compounds can become highly reactive and damaging to the cell, distorting its vital mechanisms and limiting its metabolic efficiency. This can unfortunately lead to the development of severe diseases such as cancer, heart disorder, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
ALA is a synthetic version of lipoic acid, which is a naturally occurring compound that’s made in the body. It aids vital functions at the cellular level, such as energy production. In its absence, the cells of the body wouldn’t be able to turn glucose into energy. While a normal body can naturally produce enough lipoic acid for metabolic functions, supplementing can allow more optimal levels to circulate in a free state.
You can get alpha-lipoic acid from some food sources, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. Unfortunately, ALA from food sources does not appear to produce a noticeable increase in the level of free ALA in the body. Very small amounts of lipoic acid are actually contained in these foods.
Initially, I personally began taking alpha lipoic-acid several years ago due to some research suggesting that it could help improve the likelihood of weight loss and addressing metabolic syndrome. Along the way, I also discovered that ALA affects the body’s ability to use it’s own insulin to lower blood sugar.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that there is also promising evidence that alpha-lipoic acid reduces symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes (peripheral neuropathy) , aids in slowing the damage done by HIV, is effective for glaucoma prevention, liver disease, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, inflammation, and hepatitis C.
Research shows that only 30% to 40% of the oral dose of an ALA supplements are absorbed. That’s why it’s best to take 100-300 milligram dose a couple of times a day instead of a 600-milligram pill all at once. ALA may also be better absorbed if it is taken on an empty stomach.
Because alpha-lipoic acid works synergistically with many other nutrients, it’s difficult to determine if someone has an ALA deficiency. A real ALA deficiency can appear like the general symptoms of insufficient antioxidant activity– which includes memory problems, damaged immune function, and diminished muscle mass. Many of which are symptoms my health coaching clients tend to suffer with.
Disclaimer: ALA should not be used as a supplement without a recommendation from your doctor if you take insulin or other meds to lower blood sugar. Individuals undergoing chemotherapy should also check with their physician before taking ALA or any other supplement. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised not to consume ALA, due to a lack of long-term safety data available.
Contributing Author: Naomi Teeter is a nutritionist & health coach who helps her clients lose weight and keep it off through the same proven methods she’s used to maintain a 125 pound weight loss for the last 5 years. She is the author of Inspire Transformation: Transformative Tactics and Inspire Transformation: The Cookbook. Naomi’s passion lies in reaching out and helping other women who her story resonates with. You can find her through Facebook, Twitter or Naomiteeter.com.