As a small molecule with fat-soluble properties, ALA has the qualities needed to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once diffused to the central nervous system, its antioxidant properties can protect the brain from the effects of oxidative stress and it can also help maintain healthy levels of glutathione.
The term “redox state” refers to a cell that is under oxidative stress due to an excess of free radicals. This can occur in any of the body’s fluids, tissues, and organs, and can be responsible for a lot of the biological signs of aging and disease our bodies experience. ALA supplements can be an effective tool in combating this imbalance.
The typical range of dose for this supplement is between 300 and 600 mg, but levels as high as 2400 mg per day can be taken for months at a time without elevated risk of side effects. Alpha lipoic acid absorbs more efficiently when taken on an empty stomach.
Mode of Action
The body converts sugar into fuel through a multi-stage process called cellular respiration. This fuel, called ATP, is the currency of the cell. When cells need to perform work, they use ATP to power that work. If there is a shortage of ATP, cellular functions stop. The body must be able to break down sugar to function. One chemical involved in this process is alpha lipoic acid (ALA).
In cellular respiration, ALA works as a co-factor to the process. It doesn’t perform the functions, but it must be present when they occur. It is also an antioxidant, and with an adequate diet, the body can make enough for its needs. However, inadequate diet or certain illnesses can result in a shortage of the body’s supply of alpha lipoic acid. When this occurs, supplements can resolve the deficit.
Side effects rarely occur with this supplement but, if they do, they may include fatigue, skin rash, diarrhea, and insomnia. Not enough is known about the effect alpha lipoic acid might have on pregnant or breastfeeding women, so its safety is not known. Research suggests that ALA might lead to thiamine deficiency, so it is not recommended for those with a history of alcohol abuse, which could compound this effect.