How may Alpha Lipoic Acid Help Brain Function?

Alpha-lipoic acid  (also known as lipoic acid, thioctic acid, or ALA) is a powerful antioxidant that is capable of scavenging harmful free radicals from your tissues. Alpha-lipoic acid is one of the antioxidants that can pass the blood brain-barrier, which enables it to protect brain tissue and prevent free-radical damage. ALA may have a favorable effect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory dysfunction secondary to trauma or cerebral vascular accident.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Brain Benefits

ALA is a neuroprotective metabolic antioxidant that has been shown to cross the blood brain barrier. Animal studies have showed that brain functioning can be improved and that brain damage and deterioration can be lessened by therapy with ALA. Experiments have shown that ALA reduced brain damage after a stroke, and that those animals who received ALA had a survival rate three times greater than those that did not. A study in 2005 investigated whether ALA could have an effect on the antioxidant defense systems in the brains of rats fed arsenic on a daily basis. The rats were administered arsenic along with a dosage of ALA once daily for 60 days. Results demonstrated that deficits in antioxidant production and a rise in oxidation due to the ingestion of arsenic could be surmounted in rats when simultaneously treated with ALA.

Results from animal-based studies demonstrate that ALA may improve long-term memory. ALA has also been found to work synergistically with other compounds, particularly acetyl-L-carnitine to improve brain functioning in aged rats.Supplemented aged rats were found to perform as well as younger rats in memory and other tasks. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a specific form of carnitine that has the ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier.

Alzheimer’s Disease

By decreasing oxidative damage in the central nervous system, alpha lipoic acid may reduce the severity of central nervous system disorders. ALA reduces amyloid-beta-induced inflammation and improves brain cells production of the chemical signaling molecules called neurotransmitters. A naturally occurring cofactor for the mitochondrial enzymes pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, alpha lipoic acid has been shown to have a variety of effects which can interfere with the pathogenesis or progression of Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, alpha lipoic acid increases ACh (acetylcholine) production by activation of choline acetyltransferase and enhances glucose uptake, so supplying more acetyl-CoA for the production of acetylcholine. A 2001 small study of 9 Alzheimer’s patients found that supplement with Alpha-lipoic acid for 12 months resulted in a decrease in oxidative stress which led to a stabilization of cognitive function. A 2007 research in Journal of  Neural Transmission showed that high doses of Alpha-lipoic acid slowed Alzheimer’s progression to a greater degree than standard therapy.

Alpha Lipoic Acid and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that has its symptom onset primarily in young and middle-aged adults. Damage to nerve cells as a result of free radicals is thought to be a important trigger for the autoimmune process. In multiple sclerosis, tests reveal the specific antibodies attacking the myelin cover of the nerve fibers. According to Dr. Lester Packer at the University of California in Berkeley, ALA may have a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, head injuries, and spinal cord damage.  Alpha-lipoic acid has been examined as an effective treatment in a rat model of multiple sclerosis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Alpha-lipoic acid dose dependently prevented the development of clinical signs in this model.

Alpha-lipoic acid  has shown the ability to suppress and treat the animal model of multiple sclerosis, EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis). MMP-9, is associated with disease activity in Multiple sclerosis. Alpha-lipoic acid  inhibits MMP-9 activity directly and at the level of transcription. In vitro , immunohistochemical staining of spinal cords from mice treated with alpha-lipoic acid revealed a decreased in the expression of adhesion molecules VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 from the surface of endothelial cells. In a study, 37 multiple sclerosis participants were given ALA 1200 mg a day for 14 days. Alpha lipoic acid  was able to lower levels of two markers for multiple sclerosis called  CAMP-1 and MMP-9. The scientists say, “ALA may prove useful in treating multiple sclerosis by inhibiting MMP-9 activity and interfering with T-cell migration into the CNS (central nervous system).

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