Clinical scientists discovered in the nineteen fifties that the versatile bio-molecule called alpha-lipoic acid - sometimes called thioctic acid or simply lipoic acid - worked with different enzymes throughout the human body, helping speed up the bio-chemical processes needed for the production of energy in cellular metabolism. The other properties of this remarkable bio-molecule were found through more recent studies, for example, in the late nineteen eighties, it was found through research that the alpha-lipoic acid was also a very powerful antioxidant, helping neutralize the natural products of cellular metabolism, or the highly reactive molecules called free radicals that were responsible for cellular damage following normal metabolic production. Alpha-lipoic acid is produced in small amounts by the human body, these amounts are minute and the bio-molecule is mainly sourced from foods. The alpha-lipoic acid is abundant in foods like the spinach, and all kinds of meats, particularly organ meats like the liver, it is also found in good amounts in brewer's yeast. Diet alone may not be sufficient to give a person therapeutic amounts of this substance and supplements may be necessary. Most dietary experts will recommend the use of supplements so as to get the full benefits of the alpha-lipoic acid - supplementation can be carried out concomitant with the diet.
Almost every cell in the human body is affected by the actions of the alpha-lipoic acid. The bio-molecule assists all of the B vitamins in their functioning, this includes the functioning of B1 or thiamine, the functioning of B2 or riboflavin, as well as the functioning of B5 or pantothenic acid, and B3 or niacin, thus aiding in the chemical conversion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats found ingested in foods into a form of energy that can be used by the body or stored for use at a later time. The main role of the alpha-lipoic acid is its functioning as a cell protecting antioxidant, capable of helping the human body recycle other antioxidants, including the vitamins C and E, helping boost their potency and functioning in metabolic pathways. Most tissues in the human body can easily absorb alpha-lipoic acid due to its unique chemical properties, this bio-molecule is readily absorbed by major tissues in the vital organs such as the brain and central nervous system, all the nerves running the length of the human body, as well as the liver, this ready absorption of the bio-molecule in various tissue systems as well as its strong and potent anti-oxidant effects makes it a very valuable bio-molecule in the treatment of a wide variety of disorders that affect different organ systems.
The treatment of nerve damage is one primary therapeutic application in which alpha-lipoic acid finds a role, nerve damage such as diabetic neuropathy, which is a dangerous long term complication arising due to diabetes and which causes a lot of pain and loss of feeling in the limbs of the affected person. While, this form of nerve damage may be due to different reasons, part of it is caused by free radical damage to the nerve cells brought on by the excess levels of blood sugar - glucose - in the blood. As the alpha-lipoic acid has strong anti-oxidant effects, it might play a very important role in countering the nerve damage through such effects. At the same time, the bio-molecule may actually help many people affected by diabetes respond better to the hormone insulin - which is responsible for the regulation of glucose levels in the body. During one clinical test, seventy four individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes were administered 600 mg or more of alpha-lipoic acid on a daily basis, almost all of them gained some benefit from the resulting lowering in glucose levels affected by the treatment. Animal tests have also shown that the alpha-lipoic acid helps by increasing the flow of blood to the nerves boosting the conduction of nerve impulses in the body. Alpha-lipoic acid as shown by these effects is thus suitable for the physical treatment of numbness, tingling, and related nervous symptoms of nerve damage induced by any reason, and not just those caused by diabetes alone.
The functioning of the liver and hepatic tissues are also assisted by the alpha-lipoic acid, the bio-molecule protects the liver tissues against oxidative damage from free radicals and helps it clear metabolic toxins away from the body of the person. This is the reason that supplements of this bio-molecule are sometimes used in the treatment of disorders like hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver and different kinds of ailments that affect the liver. The supplements of this bio-molecule also help treat liver problems in case of poisoning by lead or other dangerous heavy metals. The bio-molecule also assists the liver recovery from the effects of hazardous industrial chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride ingested by mistake in to the body.
In addition to all of these beneficial effects on the human body, the alpha-lipoic acid could also posses potential effects on other disorders in the body, these can only be identified as more research is carried out in the future. This bio-molecule has also been tested in the lab for its action against cataracts, the compelling results from the animal studies show that it can prevent cataracts from forming in the eye of the tested animals. Furthermore, in other animal experiments, it was suggested that the alpha-lipoic acid can aid or improve memory in the test animals. This result makes it potentially useful in treating memory disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and related neurological disorders. The tests also show that the alpha-lipoic acid helps protect the cells of the brain against cellular level damage induced by an insufficient supply of blood to the brain - which are often seen as the result of surgery or stroke in people.
There is also some evidence from experiments that the alpha-lipoic acid can suppress viral reproduction in the body because of its potent antioxidant action. Supplements of the alpha-lipoic acid during one study were shown to be capable of boosting the functioning of the immune system and the liver in a majority of patients who were infected with the AIDS virus. Some studies have also suggested that supplements of the alpha-lipoic acid could be helpful in fighting against cancer of all types, particularly where the disease is believed to be related to free-radical damage at the cellular level. Alpha-lipoic acid may also be very effective when taken as a part of a general high-potency antioxidant formula, against all kinds of disorders that range from fibromyalgia to psoriasis - these disorders may be aggravated, in part, by free-radical damage at the cellular level.
Doses for the treatment of specific disorders will differ depending on the condition affecting the person at any stage. The ideal dose of alpha-lipoic acid is: 100 mg to 200 mg taken thrice daily. The doses of the supplement are lower for general antioxidant support in the body; these lower doses are normally 50 mg to 150 mg of the supplement daily for a fairly prolonged dosage regimen.
Doses of the alpha-lipoic acid may be consumed with or without food. There are no major side effects or adverse reports connected with the use of alpha-lipoic acid supplements to date.
The supplements of alpha-lipoic acid are without significant side effects and are considered to be very safe, till today there are no reports of adverse side effects in people using the supplement. Some minor side effects have been noticed in patients who use the supplement, symptoms have included a mild gastrointestinal problem, and in the rarest of cases, the development of allergic skin rashes in patients. The best thing to do when or if side effects do appear, is to immediately lower the dosage or to discontinue the use of the supplement altogether.