Antioxidants, antioxidants. No longer a fringe word or concept like it was in the past. I remember the blank stares I would get from people if I used that word in the context of healthy eating, disease risk reduction, pollution, free radicals and the like. My first recollection of the word being leveraged to add a sense of sexiness or gravitas to a food was about 17 years ago or so by the blueberry folks; next to jump on board was POM Wonderful.
In a nutshell, antioxidants are compounds that the body produces and that are found in foods that help to prevent oxidation, or ‘rusting’ of body parts like our DNA, and the sugars, fats and proteins that make up the body. The best way to conceptualize this is to think about how lemon juice will protect a sliced apple from browning; oxidation is like ‘browning’, ‘rusting’, or ‘corrosion’. Antioxidants also have the ability to positively influence the activity of our genes; all of this to say, they work together to help keep us healthy.
What is alpha lipoic acid?
Alpha lipoic acid is a compound that is made by the body in small amounts. Lipoic acid is both water soluble [found in the watery part of the cell, the cytosol, like vitamin C for example, as well as, in the blood] and it’s fat soluble [found in the cell membrane; which is like the four walls, ceiling and floor of a room – the structural part of the cell]. It is for this reason lipoic acid is referred to as the universal antioxidant.
It is also found in food; best sources are kidney, heart, liver, spinach, broccoli and some yeasts extract but dietary lipoic acid has not been found to result in detectable amounts in the blood or cells. Supplemental lipoic acid on the other hand, can increase levels in the blood, inside the cells, and in the mitochondria. It is for this reason that supplemental lipoic acid has be subjected to research for its possible therapeutic role.
What does lipoic acid do?
It is involved in many biochemical reactions needed for health. A lot of it is found in all cells’ energy-producing unit, the mitochondria. Here lipoic acid helps with the energy production that comes from the metabolism of food. There is however, a cost of that energy production; free radicals. These are unstable compounds that if left unchecked, can cause damage to the DNA of the mitochondria [which means the cells would be less able to produce more mitochondria], as well as, damage to the sugars, fats and proteins that make up the cell…i.e. ‘rusting’. Fortunately we have lipoic acid to protect us from free radical damage. Lipoic acid’s many roles include:
Antioxidant – rustproofs our bodies; protects against oxygen and nitrogen-based free radicals: think air pollution, strenuous exercise, cigarette smoke, smog, car exhaust, street/pharmaceutical drugs, general metabolism, alcohol.
Regeneration of other antioxidants – when an antioxidant is used up in the name of rustproofing our bodies; they become inert and need to be recharge so they can keep fighting the good fight. Lipoic acid is very effective at recharging the other, more popular, antioxidants like vitamin E, C, glutathione, CoQ10, and several carotenoids like beta/alpha carotene, lycopene, lutein and more.
Enzyme cofactor – helps make it easier for the body to perform its millions of biochemical reactions that run our metabolism; without enzymes, it would take more energy than the body can produce to keeping us going.
Metal chelation – several of the metal minerals that are needed for life, like iron and copper, have the potential to be very destructive. If not kept in check, they could cause the very thing we need to keep under control; oxidation [think of a rusty, iron-based nail or the oxidized green copper roofs of older buildings]. Lipoic acid helps to make sure these metals [minerals] toe the party line.
Insulin metabolism – insulin is the hormone that moves glucose [derived from the digestion of dietary carbohydrate: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts & seeds] into our cells where it is used for energy. Insulin is like the lock that unlocks the door to the cell to let glucose in. Lipoic acid helps to enable this process and therefore is involved in maintaining a healthy blood sugar. [note lipoic acid can also greatly reduce the damage caused by high blood sugars in those with existing diabetes].
Disease treatment – lipoic acid has been well studied in the treatment of several degenerative diseases such as diabetes & glucose metabolism, diabetic neuropathy [nerve damage], vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, cognitive decline & dementia, and macular degeneration.
The AOR difference
Supplemental lipoic acid comes in two forms; R+and S- structures; two molecules with the same chemical formula but with different structures. The best form is the R+; it is the naturally occurring form and is therefore the most biologically active. S- is the synthetic version and, not surprisingly, is less potent. Many brands of supplements may have a 50/50 blend of R+ and S- making them less effective and therefore cheaper. AOR guarantees that their alpha lipoic acid contains more than 95% of the preferred R+ compound.
Lipoic acid is easily absorbed in the small intestines where it reaches the blood via the liver; it is then distributed throughout the body including the cells and the mitochondria. Normally supplemental lipoic acid is broken down quickly, the amount in the body is reduced a bit every 22 minutes which can limit its effectiveness. AOR has reintroduced their slow-released formulation, R+SR allowing the breakdown of the lipoic acid to be increased from every 22 minutes to 8 hours allowing for continued effectiveness, and cellular protection throughout the day.
Both the purity of the product and it’s enhanced delivery system makes R+SR lipoic acid by AOR an industry leader. If you want to reap the all the benefits that the universal antioxidant has to offer, AOR delivers a quality product that is head and shoulders over the competition.