Study under review: Prophylactic and abundant intake of alpha-lipoic acid causes hepatic steatosis and should be reconsidered in usage as an antiageing drug
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant supplement that is perceived to have health benefits against chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. It is a naturally-occurring fatty acid that is predominantly found in the mitochondria, where it is an important cofactor for enzymes involved in energy metabolism of the cell. It can be naturally found in small amounts in a range of foods, including red meat, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes, among others. In these foods, ALA is bound to the amino acid lysine — together called lipoyllysine — and is readily uncoupled by an enzyme found in human serum.
ALA is a popular supplement due to its potential benefits against inflammation and oxidation, both of which are implicated in diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes. ALA has also been shown to have appetite-suppressing effects in animals and enhances energy expenditure in vitro, which could in theory promote weight loss. Indeed, human clinical trials have shown significant reductions in the body mass index (BMI), total fat levels, and waist circumferences of obese participants.
ALA has been demonstrated to have potent anti-oxidative properties through many different mechanisms. ALA, and its reduced form dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), are potent antioxidants that can quench free radicals by readily donating electrons to reactive oxygen species. Furthermore, both ALA and DHLA can chelate (bind and render inactive) redox-active metals such as zinc, lead, and copper, which can accumulate and result in oxidative damage. Interestingly, DHLA can restore antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, while ALA has been shown to restore glutathione concentrations within the cell. ALA plays a critical role in stimulating glutathione synthesis, which itself has powerful antioxidant properties.
With all things considered, ALA has a substantial list of proposed pharmacotherapeutic and prophylactic anti-aging properties. However, long term use in humans has not been adequately researched, and it’s typically only used as a therapeutic agent. One example of this was a two-year study of administering a daily dose of 600 mg ALA as a treatment for diabetes. This publication reported no adverse effects when evaluating neuropathic outcomes (pain, burning, numbness, etc). There were also no reports of ALA-induced toxicity in a two-year rodent study that focused on gross parameters such as body weight, behavior, and clinical and haematological markers. Therefore, the purpose of this new study was to analyze the effects of short-term versus long-term intake of ALA in healthy mice with a focus on liver health and hepatic lipid metabolism.
ALA is reported to be a potent antioxidant that is a safe prophylactic treatment for the amelioration of chronic lifestyle diseases. In addition, ALA is sometimes recommended for helping to lower BMI and fat mass in obese subjects who are are prescribed exercise and a reduced calorie diet.
Other Articles in Issue #18 (April 2016)
HDL: When good cholesterol breaks bad
LDL is commonly referred to as “bad”, whereas HDL is “good”. Like many other labels, these are oversimplified, especially as HDL-raising drugs have failed. This study explores why that might be.
Interview: Aaron Blaisdell, PhD
Dr. Blaisdell heads up a cognition research lab at UCLA, and is a central figure in the movement to research links between ancestral health and modern health.
High-carb, high satiety?
A common refrain is that carbs make you gain weight, and are too easy to overconsume. Luckily, this line of thinking can be tested in a randomized trial
Does omega status depend on your genes?
Genetic data could end up rewriting some aspects of nutrition literature. This study looked at people from different locales around the world, to see if they metabolize certain fats differently depending on their genes
Peanuts redux: following up on infant peanut exposure
We previously covered a major trial that suggested peanut avoidance was a bad idea for infants at risk of allergy. The researchers continued with those study subjects up to age 6, to see if the results still apply
Does this gluten make me look fat?
Links between gluten and weight gain haven’t been seen so much in observational evidence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. This animal study is one of the first to look at a potential mechanism
Interview: Paul Jaminet, PhD
Dr. Jaminet is the CEO of a promising biotech targeting solid tumors. Here, he explains the science and business behind an innovative potential therapy that targets cancer from a new angle
Add fuel to the fire … or take it away?
Competitive endurance athletes manipulate their carb intake in various ways, and those aren’t always based on evidence. A new carb-cycling strategy may help to shave off precious seconds.
Don’t drink and drive, unless it’s grape juice
Red wine may get all the attention, but grapes (and grape juice) have benefits of their own. This randomized trial tested daily grape juice intake, not just for typical cognitive tests, but also for driving performance