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Alpha lipoic acid or ALA occurs naturally in the body, and provides valuable support to its cells. Those with low ALA levels may sometimes desire supplements to help them achieve greater result. There are advantages and disadvantages to taking ALA supplements, both of which must be considered if patients are to enjoy the best possible benefits.
Alpha lipoic acid is a substance found in every cell in the body, where it is used to turn glucose into energy. It is also a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals, agents that cause chemical reactions that harm cells. Other antioxidants are either fat or water soluble, but ALA is dissolved in both. Evidence suggests that this fact causes alpha lipoic acid to regenerate other antioxidants that are active only in fat or water. It is therefore desirable for its antioxidant properties alone.
A study performed on 97 overweight or obese women showed that alpha lipoic acid supplements enhanced the effects of dieting over a ten-week period. These women noticed improvements in body weight, basal metabolic rate, body composition, waist-to-hip ratio and insulin and lipid profiles. The results of this study confirm the results of pre-clinical trials, which show ALA effective at boosting the metabolism and helping the body burn fat more efficiently. It is most effective when taken with two Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Medical research suggests that alpha lipoic acid supplements can help lower blood sugar and enable the body to use insulin more effectively. It has long been used by German doctors to treat Type 2 diabetes patients who are suffering from peripheral neuropathy. In addition, a study on 73 people with cardiac autonomic neuropathy, a condition affecting the nerves to the heart, reported improvement in their symptoms after taking 800 mg of ALA. Although ALA can improve insulin resistance, it has the potential to lower blood sugar too much, particularly for those who are already taking insulin. As such, anyone who is using insulin or any other medication to help manage diabetes should seek advice from a physician first. Increased monitoring of blood sugar levels could be needed in the beginning to ensure the right combination of medication and alpha lipoic acid supplements are achieved.
Most people experience no side effects from taking ALA. Even so, there is a risk of an allergic reaction, even among those who have successfully taken alpha lipoic acid in the past. Two common signs of a reaction include a skin rash and nausea. Patients may also become lightheaded or dizzy, experience an elevated heart rate, or feel jittery. Swelling of the face, tongue and lips can occur, which often makes breathing difficult. If these symptoms occur, individuals should stop using ALA and consult with a physician.
Approximately 300 mg of ALA daily is sufficient for most people. Taking more than that amount will not necessarily provide greater results, and can drastically increase the odds of unwanted side effects.