Antioxidant compounds fulfill a vital function by protecting cells against the damage that free radicals cause. Alpha-lipoic acid or ALA has antioxidant activity and is also found in some foods. The body naturally produces a small amount of ALA, but we can increase our stores by eating vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli. Some people also choose to take ALA supplements. As we age, our bodies produce less alpha-lipoic acid.
The benefits of ALA stem primarily from its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight damaging free radical cells in the body, which develop from environmental toxins, stress, inflammation, aging, and other less-than-ideal factors such as dietary choices. If oxidative stress and free radicals are not balanced by antioxidants, it can lead to cell and tissue damage that increase the risk of health problems, including cancer. Oxidative stress also contributes to aging.
Since ancient times, people have sought a magic potion to prevent or at least delay the inevitable aging process. While the idea of maintaining a youthful appearance into extreme old age remains in the realm of fiction, evidence shows ALA, specifically supplements, could help slow aging. For instance, by increasing antioxidant levels, ALA could improve the body's capability to resist cell damage from free radicals and other molecules, which are responsible for factors like collagen breakdown that contribute to signs of aging. However, more research is needed.
Loss of short-term memory and declines in mental abilities happen as people age, but younger people can also experience them. Scientists are always looking for ways to slow this gradual decline. According to one study, ALA improves memory in mice with the human equivalent of Alzheimer's disease. However, research is limited, and there's not enough evidence to say that ALA improves brain function or lowers the risk of dementia in humans. Since oxidative stress and free radicals play a role in brain aging, it's possible that ALA may have benefits in this area.
Another benefit of alpha-lipoic acid is its contribution to healthier skin. At one end of the spectrum are teenagers and young people who find ALA fights acne, dry skin, and other common dermatological issues. At the other end, some older adults turn to ALA to preserve suppleness and help counteract the natural effects of aging (such as collagen breakdown, mentioned above). Of course, taking supplements is not the only step people should take for healthier skin. Lifestyle and diet also play a significant role. Most of the studies showing skin benefits involved the application of ALA to the skin. These small studies found that topical ALA subtly improved skin quality and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
A recent study indicates that ALA could reduce the risk of diabetes, and it can even help people manage their condition. The bodies of people with diabetes are unable to use insulin properly; as a result, their blood sugar levels rise dramatically, leading to various health issues. Research suggests ALA may enhance insulin sensitivity, helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Some studies also show it helps relieve nerve pain in people who have diabetes.
Increased instances of obesity in our society have encouraged interest in all kinds of weight-reducing approaches. Preliminary studies suggest alpha-lipoic acid supplements could promote healthy weight reduction, though more research is needed. One drawback is that it may only be effective at high doses. Therefore, in most people, the effects will be modest. Supplements will not replace eating healthy and remaining active, though.
The liver is responsible for essential functions such as removing toxins and supporting the digestive process. Many people take cod liver oil and other foods beneficial to liver health, and some studies indicate ALA supplements could also improve some markers of liver function. However, research is conflicting, and other studies show no benefit. At this point, there's not enough evidence to show that ALA markedly improves liver function or protects against liver damage.
Exercise is essential for everyone who wants to stay healthy. Though exercise has countless, indisputable benefits, vigorous activity can result in muscle damage and soreness that lasts for several days after a workout. One small pilot study found that ALA speeds recovery from muscle soreness after exercise, but more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Nobody needs convincing about the importance of heart health; proper diet and regular exercise are the most frequently recommended paths to follow. ALA supplements could aid cardiovascular health further by improving blood flow and reducing oxidative stress. Some research also suggests that alpha-lipoic acid could lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and support healthy blood vessel function.
Alpha-lipoic acid benefits the peripheral nervous system because it reduces oxidative stress. The health of these nerves affects our day-to-day activities in many ways. For example, damage to these nerves impacts balance and could lead to numbness in the legs and the inability to grip with the fingers. This type of nerve damage can result from diabetes and some studies suggest the damage could be improved with ALA supplements.
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