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Powerful Antioxidant Lipoic Acid

Lipoic Acid:
Rejuvenate Your Antioxidants
By David Brown
ipoic Acid (a.k.a. alpha-lipoic acid, thioctic acid, and referred to in this article as LA) is a fat-soluble enzyme, which operates as a cofactor in the metabolism of glucose and oxygen utilization. Soon after its discovery in 1950 it was shown to provide highly effective protection against toxin and radiation damage.LA is now recognized as a powerful antioxidant. It has a strong ability to disarm oxygen free-radicals and a high affinity for chelating undesirable ionized metals.

In the past 49 years there have been over 800 research papers published on LA, and new discoveries continue to evolve. UC Berkeley researcher, Dr Lester Packer, has referred to LA as the “ideal antioxidant” not only becauseLA works as a powerful antioxidant on its own, but also because it acts in a synergistic fashion with other antioxidants.


LA is now recognized as a powerful antioxidant.
It has a strong ability to disarm oxygen
free-radicals and a high affinity for
chelating undesirable ionized metals.

LA works to recycle and reactivate such free radical scavengers as Vitamins C and E, thereby maximizing utilization of these vitamins as antioxidants. LA has the same effect on naturally-occurring antioxidants such as thioredoxin and glutathione (the most abundant antioxidant, selenium-containing proteins in mammals). Even after these vitamins have already been oxidized, LA can reactivate them.1 So if you are not getting enough Vitamin C or E in your diet, LA supplements can help compensate for the difference.

Although LA is not currently considered to be a vitamin by most researchers, it was originally thought to be a vitamin. Most researchers currently believe that the liver synthesizes LA in small amounts.2 Due to the way it functions synergistically with certain vitamins (the antioxidant B vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E), some researchers suspect that it still might be an essential vitamin. However the ultimate answer to this question will be determined by whether it is an essential nutrient which is not synthesized in the body. Packer claims that, even though LA’s pathway is not clearly explained, lipoic acid is made in the body.3 But one thing researchers do agree on is that LA levels decrease with age, and with that decline many of the body’s rejuvenating abilities are lost.


Dr Lester Packer has referred to LA as the
“ideal antioxidant” not only because LA works
as a powerful antioxidant on its own, but also
because it acts in a synergistic
fashion with other antioxidants.

LA supplementation has been shown to be beneficial in helping to treat a variety of medical problems. Beneficial results were found especially in the treatment of those with diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.4 LA can also help lower elevated cholesterol levels which protects against cardiovascular dysfunctions.5 It can retard HIV activation and cataract formation.6 There is also evidence that LA helps to slow down numerous aspects of the aging process by protecting the brain, and by preserving intracellular mitochondria (which supply the basic energy that regulates every cell in the human body).7

LA’s ability to recycle other antioxidants in the body makes it a great potential protector against atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the condition which underlies both heart disease and stroke. There is good evidence that free radicals negatively modify LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is one of the primary contributors to the undesirable cholesterol deposits which form atherosclerotic plaques. That’s why LDL cholesterol is referred to as the “bad cholesterol.” There is also ample evidence that sufficient levels of Vitamin E can protect against this type of free radical damage. Since LA can extend the life of Vitamin E, it can also increase protection from this type of damage.8


LA recycles and reactivates free radical
scavengers Vitamins C and E – maximizing
their antioxidant abilities.

Several important research findings indicate that LA may offer some hope for those who suffer from AIDS. Research reveals HIV patients have low levels of a potent endogenous (from within the body) antioxidant called glutathione. One study demonstrates that when LA is administered to the body’s T cells (cells involved in immune protection), there is a dramatic rise in intracellular glutathione levels.9

Another study found that LA has a buffering effect on detrimental gene activation, a process which is induced by the rampage of free radicals. Expression of HIV is dependant upon aberrant gene activation. In several studies LAand other antioxidants were effective in inhibiting the activation of this mechanism. Because of these findings, researchers have proposed using LA as a therapeutic adjunct to treating HIV infection.10


Researchers agree that LA levels decrease
with age, as do many of the
body’s rejuvenating abilities.


David Jay Brown earned his master’s degree in psychobiology at NYU, and researched learning and memory while in USC’s doctoral program in Behavioral Neuroscience. He is the author of Brainchild, and coauthor of Mavericks of the Mind and Voices from the Edge. His new science fiction novel, Virus, will be published this Fall by New Falcon, and he is currently working on a book with British biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, about the unexplained abilities of animals. 

LA may help to prevent brain damage when the brain is deprived of oxygen due to stroke or cardiac arrest. Damage to the brain commonly occurs during these situations because of the combination of ischemia (lack of oxygen) and reperfusion (rapid reoxygenation). Most of the brain damage usually occurs during reperfusion, which is primarily attributed to injury from oxygen free radicals. When experimental animals are treated with lipoic acid, before being exposed to both ischemia and reperfusion, there is a significant improvement in the reduction of brain damage.11

LA may also help with age-related memory decline, and could also have the potential for enhancing or preserving cognitive abilities. In one experiment with mice, LA demonstrated an improvement in the long-term memory of older mice, after being administered for a period of 15 days. However, there was no change among the younger mice. It appears that LA alleviated certain neurotransmitter (NMDA) receptor deficits in the older animals.12

There is reason to believe that LA may also be helpful in preventing cancer, since free radical damage to DNA is thought to be a main factor in causing cells to become cancerous.13


LA’s ability to recycle other antioxidants
in the body make it a helpful
protector against atherosclerosis.

 can revive and rejuvenate other antioxidant substrates present in the body, like the spent ascorbate and tocopherol radicals produced when Vitamin C and Vitamin E disarm higher-energy free radicals. Thus LA can maximize their utilization, giving you more miles per gallon on your health and a bigger bang for your buck, minimizing the draw on your pocketbook. LA stands alone as a powerful antioxidant.

There are growing numbers of studies substantiating the multiple benefits of LA and showing that doses of 600-1,000 mg/day produce the greatest benefits for health maintenance and preventive purposes. Whether you have particular health concerns which might be benefited by LA supplementation or whether you’re just concerned about the fact that the need for LA increases with age14 

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