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Lipoic Acid – The Rediscovered Vitamin
by Dr. Jared M. Skowron

Lipoic acid is one of the most potent antioxidants used in the body. It was researched over 50 years ago in Italy for its effects on balancing blood sugar and hyperglycemia conditions, and continued with German and Swiss research into its use for hepatic comas and other oxidative conditions. Originally classified as a water-soluble vitamin, lipoic acid— especially alpha-lipoic acid —is experiencing an investigative resurgence for its use in treating conditions such as diabetes, drug toxicity, cognitive dysfunction, and autoimmune conditions.

Free radical-induced damage and other forms of oxidation pervade the noninfectious disease processes. Oxidation from the environment, diet, exogenous substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, along with normal body physiology, can only be combated by chemical reduction, popularly known as antioxidants. To our detriment, the average number of nutritional antioxidants are decreasing as the standard American diet contains fewer and fewer fruits and vegetables. The USDA states that the foods themselves contain up to 50% fewer nutrients than they did 25 years ago. This swings the balance of our physiology to oxidation, therefore, chronic disease flourishes. Supplementation with highpotency antioxidants, such as lipoic acid, is an excellent therapy to treat oxidative disease processes.

An initial effect of oxidation increases the entire body's resistance to insulin, setting the process of diabetes in motion. Increased insulin resistance leads to increased blood sugar levels and further oxidation throughout the body. Unchecked, this oxidation can create the secondary consequences of diabetes: neuropathy, blindness, stasis ulcers, erectile dysfunction, etc. Reversal of this process is possible by eliminating the oxidative damage. Lipoic acid reduces insulin resistance, balances blood sugar levels, and improves hemoglobin A1C lab results (a test that measures long-term blood sugar levels).

Not only can lipoic acid be used to treat the primary physiology of diabetes, blood sugar imbalance, and insulin resistance, it can also be used to treat the secondary consequences of unchecked diabetes. Lipoic acid can help prevent loss of eyesight by protecting retinal cells. It may also inhibit neuropathies and sensory deficiencies, especially in the lower limbs, from oxidative damage. It can preserve nitric oxide levels, which increases blood flow, preventing erectile dysfunction and stasis ulcers.

Also, lipoic acid can work with conventional medicines. With glutathione, lipoic acid can be used to prevent oxidative damage from certain drugs which harm the liver, kidneys, and heart. In the liver, it supports and aids detoxification by indirectly increasing glutathione production. Lipoic acid works by increasing the uptake and availability of cysteine, an amino acid that is critical for producing detoxifying glutathione. For example, many chemotherapy medications are acknowledged to have negative physical side effects. Adriamycin is known to cause damage to blood cells and induce testicular toxicity, cyclophosphamide causes testicular toxicity and heart damage, cisplatin can result in permanent hearing loss, and cyclosporine can damage kidneys and other organs. Lipoic acid reverses and prevents these physiological effects for these and similar classes of medicines. Additionally, the protective nature of this antioxidant can allow the patient to tolerate the medication for a longer duration, and, more importantly, preserve health.

Lipoic acid is also an immune system moderator. Studies show lipoic acid both increases the number of white blood cells, while decreasing autoimmuneinduced inflammation. It has also been shown to prevent bone loss from autoimmune and systemic inflammation.

Antioxidants are also heralded as a fountain of youth.While we cannot stop time, we can reverse oxidation which has occurred over time. Many abnormalities generally associated with aging are merely symptoms of oxidation and can be reduced with lipoic acid.With proper supplementation, cognitive dysfunction and dementia are improved, and protein degeneration, both intracellular protein function and skeletal muscle damage, can be reversed.

Oxidation is the fuel of chronic disease; however, the merits of antioxidants, especially lipoic acid, are pronounced and the research prolific. The only question that remains is, "What is optimal dosage?" While studies vary from person to person, 600 to 1200 mg is a recommended average daily dose. Lipoic acid is a case of the more, the better, so the higher the deficiency, the higher the dose required.