When you eat your next meal, consider all the nutrients that it holds. More than likely, you will not know most of them even though they are essential for your survival. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is often one of these molecules that aids in your general health and wellbeing.
More specifically, this fatty acid is involved with energy metabolism within your cells mitochondria (the power generator of your cells if you’ll remember high school biology). It is synthesized in the body and is a part of many meat products.
For vegans and vegetarians who may not consume enough ALA, supplementation can help reduce inflammation , add antioxidant support , and offset many signs of aging . There are many other effects of using ALA for the brain and it is considered a safe supplement for general health.
Also Known As
ALA, thioctic acid, 1, 2-dithiolane-3-pentanoic acid, ala, Tiolepta
Editors’ Thoughts on Alpha Lipoic Acid
Make sure you do not consider alpha lipoic acid with Alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed. This has confused me a couple times.
It seems like ALA is a generally useful supplement to improve many indicators of health. I haven’t personally used it, but for my grandmother who is vegetarian, I have suggested she supplement.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
One of the main benefits of alpha lipoic acid is anti-inflammatory. According to a 2005 study in Circulation Journal taking 300 mg of ALA per day was able to reduce markers of inflammation after 4 weeks . It wasn’t enough to reverse inflammation in patients of rheumatoid arthritis , but for the average person it seems that ALA can have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Alpha lipoic acid benefits also include anti-aging mechanisms. By improving the health of mitochondria in the cell, ALA helps extend the life of the entire body. Scientists believe this may work because ALA improves oxygen consumption, which has positive effects on neuronal tissue. One study showed ALA to increase oxygen consumption by 189% in elderly and 104% in younger rats . While there is still much debate on the true effects of ALA as an anti-aging option, these results look promising.
ALA is correlated with improved cognition and reduced cognitive decline in the elderly. The theory is that ALA helps to reduce oxidative damage to neuronal cells, which leads to cognitive benefits . Although studies on senile dementia currently haven’t proven the efficacy of ALA for these purposes , there is theoretical information to suggest it is possible.
There is some evidence to suggest alpha lipoic acid modulates cholinergic activity within the brain, but studies aren’t comprehensive. Thus far the only clues suggest ALA can help reduce seizures by up to 50% . There is no further evidence to indicate that ALA can help with memory through the cholinergic system, unfortunately.
Side Effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Humans create alpha lipoic acid naturally and we eat it in food, but that does not mean we are free from potential side effects. Some evidence suggests that ALA is a significant appetite suppressant. Studies show a 18 – 30% reduction in appetite when using ALA  .
Otherwise, ALA can be consumed at fairly high dosages without negative health consequences. Studies on humans show around 1800 mg / kg – 2400 mg / kg body weight as the upper dosage without any side effects for 6-7 months .
Even though high doses can be harmless, ALA supplementation has metal-chelating abilities, which means that it can lead to mineral deficiencies if you consume too much .
Alpha Lipoic Acid Dosage
Standard dosage of alpha lipoic acid for health is in the 300 – 600 mg per day range. There are no stipulations in terms of taking ALA with food.
Make note that the recommended dosage is far smaller than the extreme upper boundaries. It would be ill-advised to consume too heavy of a dosage for the metal chelating effects mentioned above.
How and Where to Buy Alpha Lipoic Acid
The biggest mistake people make when they buy alpha lipoic acid is that they accidentally buy alpha linolenic acid. Don’t make that mistake. Be conscious of the labels and similarities when you buy the product because many vendors put ALA interchangeably for the two fatty acids.
Selected Community Experiences
“This stuff is killing me. The day after I take it 600Mg day 1 and 800mg day 2 , I am so tired I can barely stay awake. I initially thought it was making me hypoglycemic, but I started pounding carbs and was STILL fatigued.”  – Dell9927
“Sounds like you are having a sensitivity reaction to one of the ingredients in your ALA…. I use pure Na-RALA (Sodium R-Lipoate) from GeroNova Research…it's apparently the most bio available form of Lipoic Acid (& unfortunately the most expensive…”  – Tarasco
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