Alpha-lipoic acid (also called lipoic acid or thioctic acid) is a sulfur-containing substance that is readily converted to and from its reduced form, dihydrolipoic acid. It acts as a coenzyme in reactions that occur in the Krebs cycle; specifically it is involved in the decarboxylation of pyruvate and some other alpha-keto acids. It may well be the perfect antioxidant. It has also shown great promise in the treatment of HIV and in diabetes.
Why Should I Supplement With Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
Your body does in fact manufacture Alpha-Lipoic Acid, but supplementing it provides benefits beyond its involvement in carbohydrate metabolism. For starters, Alpha-Lipoic Acid is able to deactivate both fat and water soluble free radicals and thereby protect both lipoproteins and membranes; no other anti-oxidant can do this. Take a look at this list of reactive oxygen species (ROS) ("ROS" is an umbrella term that includes both radicals and other chemicals that, while not technically radicals, are damaging to the body):
• Hydrogen atom
• Superoxide anion
• Nitric oxide
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Singlet oxygen
Note that the last two are not radicals, that is, they do not have an unpaired electron, yet they are Reactive Oxygen Species. Alpha-Lipoic Acid "quenches" the oxygen singlet, hydroxyl, and superoxide species, while its reduced form, dihydrolipoic acid, stabilizes the peroxyl and peroxynitrate radicals. Both forms (initial and reduced) regenerate through redox cycling other antioxidants like vitamin C and E, and increase intracellular glutathione levels1. The hydroxyl radical is considered to be the most damaging; peroxynitrate is perhaps a close second. Lipoprotein peroxidation is important to stop because this is the reaction that leads to such undesirable health problems as atherosclerosis.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid And Diabetes
Alpha-Lipoic Acid is prescribed in Germany for adult onset of diabetes. It helps for the following reasons:
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid increases the sugar burning ability of insulin2
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid decreases insulin resistance
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid increases ATP production
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid decreases the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy3
Recommended supplementation for diabetic neuropathy is 800mg/day3
Alpha-Lipoic Acid And HIV
NOTE: It is with the utmost sensitivity to those unfortunate enough to be infected with HIV that we present this information. The benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid in cases of HIV infection are touted on many websites, with little offered to back up the claim. We do not want to be just another site making claims to sell our product. Here is what we have found.
Michael Murray, ND, in his fine book, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, notes that "Lipoic acid has antioxidant effects and is able to inhibit the replication of HIV by reducing the activity of reverse transcriptase-the enzyme responsible for manufacturing the virus from the DNA of lymphocytes. Based on these actions, it was suggested that lipic acid might be of value in treating HIV-positive patients."4 It is this quote that you will find cited in various places throughout the internet. Murray's claim is based on the following two studies, which a careful reading of his text clearly indicates: A. Baur et al., Alpha lipoic acid is an effective inhibitor of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV-1) replication, Klin Wochenschr 69 (1991): 722-4. Suzuki YJ Aggarwal BB Packer L, Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent inhibitor of NF-kappa B activation in human T cells. Biochem-Biophys-Res-Commun. 1992 Dec 30; 189(3): 1709-15 1992 0006-291X. In addition to these citations, we have been able to find the following additional citations on the IBIDS and MEDLINE databases (regrettably, as searches of their websites indicate, neither the Journal of the American Medical Association nor the New England Journal of Medicine has apparently ever published a single word on the topic of Alpha-Lipoic Acid): Merin JP Matsuyama M Kira T Baba M Okamoto T, Alpha-lipoic acid blocks HIV-1 LTR-dependent expression of hygromycin resistance in THP-1 stable transformants. FEBS-Lett. 1996 Sep 23; 394(1): 9-13 1996 0014-5793.
Grieb G, [Alpha-lipoic acid inhibits HIV replication]. Med Monatsschr Pharm 1992 Aug;15(8):243-4. (Article in German). Dr. Murray goes on to describe a follow-up study designed to test this hypothesis. The study yielded promising results. (that study: Fuchs J Schofer H Milbradt R Freisleben HJ Buhl R Siems W Grune T, Studies on lipoate effects on blood redox state in human immunodeficiency virus infected patients. Arzneimittelforschung. 1993 Dec; 43(12): 1359-62 1993 0004-4172.) While certainly promising in all five cases, this is not a large body of research by any measure. What the first three studies above indicate is that reactive oxygen species are implicated as signaling chemicals in the activation of NF-kappa B, which is required in HIV transcription. By blocking the activation of NF-kappa B, the transcription of HIV is subsequently stopped. Please note that the latest study cited above is dated 1996. We do not know of any further studies as of December, 1999.
Alpha Lipoic Acid References
1. Packer L Tritschler HJ Wessel K, Neuroprotection by the metabolic antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. Free-Radic-Biol-Med. 1997; 22(1-2): 359-78 1997 0891-5849.
2. Jacob S Streeper RS Fogt DL Hokama JY Tritschler HJ Dietze GJ Henriksen EJ, The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid enhances insulin-stimulated glucose metabolism in insulin-resistant rat skeletal muscle. Diabetes. 1996 Aug; 45(8): 1024-9 1996 0012-1797.
3. Ziegler D Gries FA, Alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic peripheral and cardiac autonomic neuropathy. Diabetes. 1997 Sep; 46 Suppl 2: S62-6 1997 0012-1797.
4. Murray, Michael, ND, Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, second ed. Prima Publishing, Rocklin. 1998.
5. Merin JP Matsuyama M Kira T Baba M Okamoto T, Alpha-lipoic acid blocks HIV-1 LTR-dependent expression of hygromycin resistance in THP-1 stable transformants. FEBS-Lett. 1996 Sep 23; 394(1): 9-13 1996 0014-5793.
6. Grieb G, [Alpha-lipoic acid inhibits HIV replication]. Med Monatsschr Pharm 1992 Aug;15(8):243-4. (Article in German).