Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)─also known as lipoic acid and thioctic acid─is a vitamin-like chemical with powerful antioxidant activity. Although scientists discovered it in the 1950s, it wasn’t until 1988 that its powerful antioxidant properties were fully recognized.
While all antioxidants help defend your cells against free radical assault, ALA is truly in a class by itself. For starters, it is both water and fat-soluble, endowing it with far greater free radical scavenging powers than most antioxidants, which are strictly one or the other. This means that ALA can gain access to fatty tissues like the nervous system, as well as those consisting mainly of water, like the heart. Given this unique ability to be active in both water and fat in the body, ALA is often referred to as a “universal antioxidant.”
ALA also has the unique ability to recycle other antioxidants─such as vitamins C, E and glutathione─dramatically boosting their effectiveness. Since most water soluble antioxidants must be continuously replenished, this makes ALA particularly useful.
Additionally, ALA may help prevent/treat diabetes. The American Diabetes Association has suggested that ALA plus vitamin E can help combat many of the health complications associated with diabetes, like heart and kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve damage.
Other research confirms that ALA is effective in the prevention/treatment of diabetic complications. In at least one study, ALA markedly reduced the symptoms of diabetic problems like cataracts, vascular damage, and polyneuropathy─a neurological disorder that occurs when many nerves throughout the body malfunction at the same time.1
1 Nutrition. 2001 Oct;17(10):888-95