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There are few antioxidants with as broad a spread of benefits as alpha lipoic acid (ALA). Its usage ranges from increasing athletic performance to managing diabetes to even mitigating the damaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
So what’s going on here?
How can one little antioxidant have so many applications?
Before we get into why alpha lipoic acid is so incredible, let’s go into what free radicals are.
Free-radicals are dangerous and destructive molecules that have the potential to destroy thousands upon thousands of important biological components. Proteins, enzymes, lipids, cell walls, the collagen that keeps your face looking young, the neurons that keep your thinking clear, even your DNA – everything is fair game.
They are sometimes generated as a byproduct of metabolism. Sometimes they are created by toxins like pesticides entering the body.
Free radicals are essentially single extra electrons. Electrons really like to exist in pairs. So when there is a single electron all by its lonesome on one little oxygen atom, it will do anything to get a partner.
So it finds an unsuspecting chemical bond – which is basically a pair of shared electrons between two atoms – and seizes one of them for itself. This breaks the chemical bond and destroying the molecule. This is called “oxidation,” so when you hear about “oxidative damage” this is what it is referring to. An “antioxidant” is something that prevents this.
But now you’ll notice that there’s a newly single electron, a new free radical that desperately wants to find a new pair. So it goes off and repeats the same cycle, ad infinitum.
How does biology cope with a chain reaction process like this?
In a word, sulfur. Sulfur has the remarkable ability to absorb single electrons without a problem This exactly how glutathione, your body’s primary detox and antioxidant defense works. It is a small peptide made of three amino acids, one of which is sulfur-containing cysteine.
And if you look at the structure of alpha lipoic acid, you’ll see it has two sulfur atoms (the two S’s in the chemical structure). These two sulfur atoms are what make alpha lipoic acid such a potent antioxidant.
Much of the aging process is the result of the accumulation of oxidative damage. The wrinkles in faces, the gradual decline of energy levels, the insidious creeping of senility – these are all largely manifestations of damaged biology.
The good news is that by mitigating the damage, you retain that functionality longer. You can retain a youthful appearance, energy, and ability.
But that’s just the beginning.
Alpha lipoic acid is especially important for mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells. Because this is where metabolism happens, this is also where loads of free radicals are produced as byproducts of energy production. These free radicals eventually gum up your energy factories, resulting in lower and lower energy levels as you age.
One study, however, showed that alpha lipoic acid increased oxygen consumption by 189% in aging rats, restoring them to the same levels as younger rats . This same metabolic boost has led many athletes to also use alpha lipoic acid to increase their own athletic performance.
Even more compelling, this same increase in metabolic energy was measured in neural tissue and prevented memory loss in rats , leading to some interesting speculation about ALA preventing cognitive decline.
Besides neutralizing free radicals, those same sulfur atoms in alpha lipoic acid can also bind heavy metals. Studies have shown that alpha lipoic acid effectively protects against arsenic and cadmium , and can even reduce neural damage by mercury .
Heavy metals are responsible for a wide range of negative health effects that are often difficult to diagnose and equally difficult to treat. Metal toxicity is also implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, and now alpha lipoic acid is being investigated as a potential therapy . Alpha lipoic acid offers an easy countermeasure to keep you safe and in optimum health.
Beyond the immediate value of ALA to mitigate damage and restore health, it also has some effects at the genetic level. Modern research has found that ALA binds to specific regions in the DNA that increase the production of the enzymes that make both glutathione and coenzyme Q10 [6,7].
Remember from earlier that glutathione is the sulfur-containing primary detox compound of your body. Coenzyme Q10 is an important metabolic compound and antioxidant with well-documented roles many different energy processes and especially in cardiovascular health.
Besides stopping free radicals and binding metals, ALA also increases your natural ability to reduce oxidative damage and improve detox.
As you might expect, alpha lipoic is present in many healthy vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts, and beets are all excellent sources of this incredible antioxidant. Organic red meat is also quite rich in ALA.
However, if you are really serious about detox, we suggest our products BodyDetox and specifically for heavy metal detox our Metal-Free formula. These are both extremely high-quality products that combine alpha lipoic acid with the best of natural health and incredibly powerful 21st century methods to provide the safest and most efficient detox process available today.
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