This is yet another example of a very promising compound, which unfortunately does not currently have a lot of human clinical data to back it up, but which holds a lot of promise for its effectiveness in weigh management as well as being potentially beneficial for a long list of serious medical conditions.
So let’s begin with what it is. Alpha Lipoic Acid is a short carbon chain (that’s why it contains the word Lipoic in its name, which indicates that it is like a fatty acid) with an alcohol group on one end, and a carbon ring with two sulphur groups on the other end. These sulphur groups usually have a plus charge, which means they are capable of absorbing extra electrons from free radicals, making Lipoic Acid a strong anti-oxidative compound.
The primary food sources with high Lipoic Acid levels are organ meats like liver, kidney and heart, as well as spinach, broccoli and potatoes. However, dietary sources do not show a significant rise of Lipoic Acid in blood plasma. Only supplementation with Lipoid Acid brings a significant and a measurable rise in this molecule in the blood stream.
As a weight loss product its mechanism of action may be the fact that it is part of 4 major mitochondrial enzyme complexes, which are directly involved in the Glycolysis and the Citric Acid Cycle. These are the primary biochemical pathways that our cells use for burning fuels like sugars, amino acids and fats (after they are broken down to their individual components). Most of all, Lipoic Acid is part of the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase complex, which is probably the most significant and important enzyme system in our body for producing energy from fuels. Most studies were done on mice and rats but from a biochemical point of view it would make sense that the same applies to humans.
The other important aspect is that Lipoic acid sensitizes our organs to insulin. This is especially beneficial in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, but also for weight management in general. When insulin is present, or when there is sensitivity to insulin, sugars in our blood stream get quickly absorbed into muscle and the liver. Without insulin or the sensitivity to insulin, sugar lingers in our blood stream producing damage to our arteries and our nerves, as well as making itself readily available for conversion to fat.
Finally, Lipoic Acid is a strong anti-oxidative compound. Its levels drop with age and with chronic inflammatory medical conditions. Some of these conditions where Lipoic Acid may have beneficial effects are: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, HIV, and cardiovascular diseases that may lead to heart attacks and strokes. These are all conditions where oxidative damage, over a prolonged period, is suspected to be the primary culprit. Furthermore, in Europe and especially in Germany, Lipoic Acid has been used for years as an effective medication for diabetic neuropathy (a diabetic condition where nerves are destroyed due to oxidative damage).
Now for the bottom line. Most people have adequate Lipoic Acid for average daily physical activities like walking up the stairs at the office, for example. However, if you are exercising to stay in shape, or to lose weight, this supplement can keep the machinery moving optimally with respect to burning sugars and fats that are stored for extra energy. Some preliminary evidence also suggests that it can also help protect from developing a number of serious chronic medical conditions.