Alpha-lipoic acid: Molecules in the Mirror
Alpha-lipoic acid – ALA – is an organosulphur compound, and has been in use as a food supplement for decades. It is a powerful antioxidant, and helps to restore levels of intercellular glutathione, which is another significant antioxidant. ALA helps the cells in the body metabolise glucose, burning it for energy, to support a range of biochemical functions. It has significant detoxification effects, supporting liver function, and helping to excrete toxins safely.
ALA is a potent antioxidant, neutralizing the dangerous free radicals which can damage cells and induce mutations. Unusually, it is both water and fat soluble, which enables it to act throughout the cell, and also to cross the blood-brain barrier. It helps to regenerate and recyle other antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E. It has many health benefits, establishing promising results in the treatment of a range of conditions from peripheral neuropathy to glaucoma, as well as its well-documented use in treating liver disease – however for many years it has been marketed in Japan as a weight loss supplement.
In researching the Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss explored these findings, and ALA’s impact on glucose uptake and triglyceride production. Extrapolating from animal studies and testing with human volunteers, he demonstrated that ALA helps you store more of the energy from the carbohydrates you eat as muscle tissue (or in the liver), than laying down fat.
ALA occurs naturally in a wide range of foodstuffs, including vegetables and meats, however concentrations are very low. As it is also manufactured in human cells there is no recommended daily intake, however research demonstrates that benefits derive from increased ingestion… hence the manufacture of commercial supplements, for several decades. The supplements contain synthetic ALA manufactured in the lab however, as extraction from food sources is not economically viable, and the manufacturing process has an interesting side effect: it creates two mirror-image molecules, R-ALA and S-ALA in equal quantities. This is called a ‘racemic’ mixture, and is what you find in most food supplement capsules.
Now these molecules contain the same chemical constituents – but S-ALA is completely new, and does not occur in nature. The biochemical pathways that involve ALA in the body – those sought-after antioxidant and glucose metabolism properties – only use R-ALA, as that is what the cell membranes receptors are shaped for. Essentially the S-ALA was thought to be inert, and not interact at all… however recent evidence indicates that S-ALA, due to its similarities molecularly, may block or compete with R-ALA absorption at a cellular level, and as such has a negative impact on the health benefits it brings.
This is why we decided to review the ALA contribution in our PAGG stack. Using R-ALA is a lot more costly, as it has to be extracted from the racemic mixture – however it means the minimum effective dose can be reduced to 150mg per capsule. We know you benefit from getting the purest and most effective ALA – pure R-ALA – in any PAGG stack supplement on the market. Optimizing your slow carb diet means taking the minimum effective dose, of the best quality ingredients. PAGG Stack 2.0 by Pareto Nutrition is the way to go.
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