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Alpha-Lipoic Acid

[The Universal Antioxidant | Alpha-Lipoic Acid: A Key Player in Cell Respiration
[Functions of Lipoic Acid | Enhance Your Antioxidant and Energy Potential]

Our bodies need protection from danger – from within and without.  Even a process as essential and fundamental to life as eating and digesting food has destructive potential.  For example, when our bodies “burn” fats, carbohydrates and proteins to release their energy, various chemicals called free radicals are formed.  These free radicals can damage cell membranes, other cellular structures and DNA. 

Fortunately, nature created alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) to handle this problem.  Alpha-Lipoic Acid is both a coenzyme necessary for the metabolism of energy from food and a powerful scavenger of free radicals. 

The Universal Antioxidant

Why is alpha-lipoic acid called the “universal antioxidant?”  First, alpha-lipoic acid is both water and fat (lipid) soluble.  Alpha-lipoic acid is also biologically active in either medium.  Therefore, alpha-lipoic acid can provide protection both in the lipid environment of the cell membrane and in the aqueous environment in the interior of the cell. 

Second, alpha-lipoic acid appears to enhance the activity of a network of antioxidants including: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and glutathione (a selenium-containing antioxidant found in nearly every cell).  By recycling “used” antioxidants, alpha-lipoic acid helps prevent deficiencies and maximizes their efficiency.  Third, the body converts alpha-lipoic acid into dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA) which acts against additional free radicals. 

ALA is a 50/50 combination of natural form r-lipoic acid and synthetic s-lipoic acid

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Alpha-Lipoic Acid: A Key Player in Cell Respiration

The process by which cells break down and release energy from nutrient molecules is called cell respiration.  Alpha-lipoic acid is a vital link between the first two stages of this three stage process: glycolysis (Stage I) and the Krebs cycle (Stage II).  The end-product of the glycolitic cycle is pyruvate.  In order for the process of energy metabolism to progress to the Krebs cycle, pyruvate must be converted into acetyl-CoA.  Alpha-lipoic acid is one of four coenzymes required by the body in order to create acetyl-CoA.  In oxidative phosphorylation (Stage III) our bodies complete the complex procedure of capturing energy from the food we eat. 

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The Functions of Lipoic Acid

Protection Against Oxidative Damage:  This “universal antioxidant” scavenges singlet oxygen, hypochlorous acid and hydroxyl radicals.  The DHLA form scavenges hypochlorous acid and peroxyl radicals. 

Protection for the Eyes:  Animal studies indicate that alpha-lipoic acid may be a possible safeguard for the health of the eyes.

Energy Metabolism: In vitro (laboratory) studies are indicating that lipoic acid improves the energy metabolism of cells.  One recent study showed that DHLA increased ATP synthesis in mitochondria of (rat) heart cells.  (Mitochondria are mini power plants inside each cell that capture the energy from food and store it in ATP molecules.)  In a unique clinical study, alpha-lipoic acid was administered to an individual with genetic disorder of ATP reduction.  The result was an increase in the energy available to the brain and muscle during exercise. 

Glucose Metabolism: In vitro animal studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid can increase glucose utilization in nerve and muscle cells.  This effect has been shown to result in an improvement in energy metabolism.  Recent research in Europe, in which alpha-lipoic acid was administered to human subjects intravenously, also demonstrated an increase in glucose uptake by cells. 

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Enhance Your Antioxidant and Energy Potential

Life can be dangerous, but don’t live dangerously.  Consider supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid. 


Packer, L., Ann NY Acad Sci, 1994 Nov 17 738:257-65.
Barbiroli et al., J Neurol (1995) 242:472-7.
Packer, et al., Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 227-250, 1995.
Kagan et al., Biochemical Pharmacology, Vol. 44, No. 8, pp1637-49, 1992.
Kilic et al., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology International, Vol. 27, No. 2, October 1995.
Zimmer et al., Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vol. 288, No. 2, August 1, pp. 609-13, 1991.
Low et al., Euroscience Research Communications, Vol. 21, No. 1.
Strodter et al., Diabetic Research and Clinical Practice, 19 (1995) 19-26.
Estrada et al., Diabetes, Vol. 45, December 1996.
Jacob et al., Arzneim.-Forsch./Drug Res. 45 (II). Nr. 8 (1995).

Reprinted with the exclusive permission of Source Naturals, Inc. 

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