R-Lipoic Acid or Alpha-Lipoic-Acid ALA for short is an essential coenzyme, which plays a vital role in supporting the mitochondrial electron transport reaction, which is involved in converting glucose into adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Why is this important?
Similar to the way acetyl-l-carnitine provides fatty acids to the mitochondria to be used as energy, R-Lipoic Acid works in the same way, only with a slight difference.
Instead of supplying fatty acids, it sends glucose into the mitochondria to enhance its ability to provide the body with more energy.
R-Lipoic Acid is also well-known as an antioxidant, protecting the body against free radicals and oxidative damage that builds up as we age, or experience physical or mental stress
When aging occurs, so does the inability to re-cycle the synthesis of “central antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q-10 and glutathione.” (01)
One of the main antioxidant elements which is important to our health, and regeneration, is glutathione. This is the most crucial member of the thiol group, and the body’s main antioxidant found within cells within the body.
R-Lipoic Acid assists the body in allowing for more glutathione to be created – further enhancing the body’s ability to regenerate and protect itself against free-radicals.
Why is glutathione so important when health and also performance is concerned?
Glutathione enhances immune functions, it prevents liver damage, it slows down the beginning of cancer growth, while also eliminating heavy metals.
Not only that!
Glutathione is can be quickly depleted when the body experiences oxidative stress, such as those put on the body during periods of exercise, illness, or medical treatment.
This is where R-Lipoic Acid comes into assist in the maintenance of this powerful antioxidant and energy support.
Benefits of R-Lipoic Acid
Improved Energy Supply
The mitochondrial is where our energy supply comes from, but it doesn’t run on fresh air, it needs nutrients to work efficiently – carbohydrates, fats, and ketones for example.
As we’ve previously discussed, acetyl-l-carnitine feeds the mitochondria with fatty acids, but R-Lipoic Acid on the other hand, sends glucose to the mitochondria.
When the mitochondria cells are sufficiently given adequate amounts of fuel, it then has the ability to work at a consistent rate – where it produces energy in the form of adenosine trisphosphate ATP.
Here’s the process:
Foods enter our body, which is then broken down in the stomach and intestines. These foods are then sent throughout the body in various ways, being stored in different locations; from the liver, muscles, and also within the blood to name a few.
When activity occurs, the body sends these nutrients (with the use of elements such as R-Lipoic Acid and acetyl-l-carnitine for example) to the mitochondria.
The mitochondria then convert these ketone bodies, fatty acids, and glucose that we’ve ingested (or either stored in the body) into adenosine triphosphate – ATP is what supplies us with energy.
For all of this to happen, creatine must be transported to the three phosphate molecules that make up adenosine trisphosphate. Creatine allows for more power and intensity to happen within the muscles.
It’s creatine’s role to take away one phosphate molecule, which allows the remaining two to regenerate in a continuous cycle. In summary, this is how energy is created.
So, where does R-Lipoic Acid help in all of this?
You can think of R-Lipoic Acid as a fuel transporter, where it sends food to the mitochondria, to then allow the creation of ATP to happen. If these signals aren’t efficient, it simply means the mitochondria won’t produce energy as efficiently.
Increased Antioxidants Effects
When R-Lipoic Acid is ingested, it raises intracellular glutathione levels. This is especially important, as when taking part in strenuous activities, or even under stress of any kind, glutathione helps to protect the vital vitamins, minerals, and cells within the body which fight off infection and disease.
“ALA is easily absorbed when taken orally, and once inside cells it is quickly converted to its most potent form, dihydrolipoic acid, an even more potent free-radical neutralizer”. (02)
Both alpha-lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid are antioxidants. Therefore, when they are combined, the effect they have in protecting the immune system increases more so than any other natural antioxidant currently known to-date.
Doses range from 300-600mg per serving in most cases, and while r-lipoic-acid is mainly a fat-soluble enzyme, it doesn’t need fat to be utilized. Instead, it can be taken with water when in a fasted state. (03)
Possible Side Effects
R-lipoic-Acid has proven to be safe, showing no adverse side effects, both in animal and human trials.
Studies on rats established a 60mg/kg bodyweight dose did not present any side effects, with only acute (minor) harm was noted at 2000mg/kg a day. (04)
In the human trials, dosages of 1800mg/day to 2400mg/day also did not present any side effects over a 6 and 7-month period… proving that r-lipoic acid is safe to use, even with higher than average doses. (05)
Where Can You Find R-Lipoic-Acid?
You can find R-Lipoic-Acid in some food groups listed below. However, they are found and absorbed in small amounts, which may constitute supplementation in some cases.
For example: for those wishing to strengthen the immune system, or those looking to increase energy supply from the mitochondria, such as athletes. Or anyone for that matter who’s aiming to achieve higher energy levels on a ‘day-to-day’ basis.
Foods containing R-Lipoic-Acid. (06)
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil.
- Canola (rapeseed) oil.
- Soybeans and soybean oil.
- Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil.
- Perilla seed oil.
- Walnuts and walnut oil.
R-lipoic-Acid is a useful tool to maintain a healthy supply of glucose to the mitochondria. Which as we know, is the ‘powerhouse‘ of energy production within the body.
The mitochondria cells are vast in their numbers throughout the whole body, more so in the muscles. In the heart alone, there are 5,000 mitochondria in per muscle cell.
Looking at the evidence surrounding R-lipoic-Acid, it’s safe to say that it can benefit those who may feel their energy is lacking day-to-day or others who may be taking part in regular intense activities, both physical and mental, as R-lipoic-Acid will assist the mitochondria’s energy production system.
I would also recommend looking into acetyl-l-carnitine, as this works in a similar way to R-lipoic-Acid. Where it supplies food to the mitochondria, which will elicit a greater output of adenosine triphosphate.
For dosages of R-lipoic-Acid, it’s recommended to use between 300-500mg per serving per day as required.
However, larger dosages have also been used at 1800mg/day to 2400mg with great success in increasing the performance of the mitochondria.
To summarise, if you’re someone who may be experiencing frequent colds or illnesses, or you wish to prevent age-related illnesses, R-lipoic-Acid looks to be a valuable aid.
Also, if your body experiences large amounts of oxidative stress, R-lipoic-Acid will help to prevent further damage by acting as a buffer, allowing for more of the body’s main antioxidant to be retained and produced – Glutathione.
(01,02) NutritionReview.com(R)-Lipoic Acid. (source)
(03) Examine.com R-Lipoic-Acid. (source)
(04) Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. (source)
(05) Investigations on the pharmacokinetics of alpha-lipoic acid in healthy volunteers. (source)
(06) Penn State Hershey – Alpha-linolenic acid. (source)