R-ALA – The Secret To Live Longer And Better
Food, Glorious Food!
As Malaysians, we love our food. Thanks to our cultural diversity, we are blessed with different flavours and speciality dishes, literally at anytime and anywhere. Some of us regarded food to bridge the community together, nurture relationships, celebrate milestones and give us the feeling of gratitude for life. Some, especially the youngsters, view food as a trend such as the popularity of boba tea. It is not surprising to see shops selling boba tea mushrooming everywhere. We love to have a glass of teh tarik to accompany our breakfast, a cool sweet drink or desserts to quench our thirst on a hot sunny day. At eateries, most of us paired our meals with sweetened beverages. It is not surprising that Malaysia is one of the “sweetest” nations in Asia with the obesity rate climbing fast.
Sugar can be beneficial or detrimental to us. It provides us with immediate energy and makes us happy. When we eat sugary foods, the brain’s reward system gets activated. It increases our endorphin levels – the feel-good hormone- that provides us with a temporary boost in our mood but the boost may wane quickly. Sugar also has addictive effects and makes us crave for more. However, taking too much sugar is damaging to our health. Excess sugar is stored in the fat cells, the blood sugar levels are raised, and the risk of getting diabetes and heart diseases is elevated.
ALA – Supports Your Sugar Control
A key feature of uncontrolled diabetes is continuously high blood sugar levels. It can lead to many health problems such as vision loss, kidney failure and heart diseases. There is evidence showing that alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can improve blood sugar control in both animal and human studies. In animal studies, ALA has proven to reduce blood sugar levels up to 64%. Studies in humans have shown that it may reduce insulin resistance and lower fasting blood glucose and HbA1c levels. ALA plays a critical function to metabolize glucose into energy. Some studies also showed that ALA helps to reduce the fats that are accumulated in the muscle cells.
ALA lowers the risk of diabetes complications such as diabetic retinopathy and eases the symptoms of nerve damage (neuropathy), which can be caused by high blood sugar levels. ALA is able to reduce symptoms of neuropathy such as pain, tingling and prickling in the feet. It is believed that this effect is due to the powerful antioxidant properties of alpha lipoic acid (ALA). ALA may also help protect the retina from damage that can occur in diabetics (Melinda Ratini 2020).
Having high sugar levels not only increases the risk of diabetes and its complications, but it can induce dysfunction of the mitochondria, leading to low energy levels. Sugar is converted into energy in the mitochondria. Mitochondria is the cell’s powerhouse. Their main job is to convert chemical energy from the food we eat into energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a molecule that the cells can utilize as a source of energy. A direct by-product of ATP production is reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are damaging to the cells. Furthermore, diets high in fat, sugar, processed foods and being obese may increase a person’s long-term risk of oxidative stress.
Mitochondria are known to be the major biological source of ROS in our body. Fortunately, our cells possess antioxidant defense systems such as alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione to counteract the damaging effect of ROS (Muluye and Bian 2017). Under normal physiological conditions, this natural mitochondrial antioxidant defense system can handle the detrimental effects of ROS-derived from energy production, neutralizes the excess ROS and repairs the enzymes that reverse ROS-mediated damage to the cells (Nicolson and Ellithorpe 2006). However, if the enzymes are unable to convert ROS to a non-harmful by-product fast enough, oxidative damage occurs and accumulates in the mitochondria.
The imbalance between free radical generation and the cells’ antioxidant defenses will have negative effects on any organs. It triggers diseases such as Alzheimer, cancer, heart
disease, asthma, diabetes or leaky gut syndrome. Dysfunction of the mitochondria is a characteristic of diseases. Changes in mitochondria due to aging are associated with decline in mitochondrial function and to make the matter worse, if a person suffers from chronic diseases. Age-related abnormalities in mitochondrial quality control will cause a weakened and impaired mitochondrial function. Failure to maintain mitochondrial function leads to failure to generate energy, significant increase in ROS production and reduced antioxidant defence in the cells. These will result in low energy level, oxidative stress and early cell death. Thus, leading to disease manifestation (Chistiakov et al 2014). One of the compounds that improves mitochondrial function and reduces oxidative stress is alpha lipoic acid or ALA. ALA is found naturally in all mitochondria in the body’s cells.
ALA - The Natural Biological Antioxidant
Being an antioxidant, ALA protects the body against the damaging effect of free radicals due to aging and high sugar levels. One unique feature of ALA is its ability to improve and recycle the used body’s internal antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E to allow them to be active again (Packer et al 1995, Wollin and Jones 2003). Usually, when an antioxidant reacts with the unstable free radicals, it will become oxidized and lose its benefits in neutralizing the free radicals. ALA occurs in two forms in the body, namely ALA and its oxidized form, dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA). DHLA has even greater ability in reactivating other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, and glutathione and neutralizing the free radicals without itself becoming a free radical in the process (Golbidi et al 2011). The studies shed light on a new mechanism of ALA’s antioxidant activity suggesting a strategy for the treatment of diseases in which chronic inflammation is involved. This discovery is important for conditions such as heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Not All ALA Are Created Equal
Small amounts of ALA are available in food sources such as dark leafy greens like spinach and collards, broccoli, beef, and organ meats. Even the ALA-rich foods are not packed with this powerful antioxidant. One of the first groups of researchers to isolate alpha-lipoic acid required nearly 10 tonnes of liver residue to produce a mere 30mg of crystalline ALA. Therefore, it is important to supplement ALA to achieve the needed levels in the body. However, not all ALA supplements work the same way. Most, if not all, ALA available commercially consists of a 50/50 mixture of the natural form of ALA (r-ALA) and synthetic form (s-ALA). Both forms have their pros and cons. R-ALA is the natural form of ALA that is found in plants, animals and the human body. It is the only form that functions as a
cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes involved in energy production. However, it is physically unstable at room temperature. S-ALA is added to stabilize r-ALA. However, research indicated that s-ALA may inhibit the absorption of r-ALA and may be toxic to our body.
R-ALA – The Right And Real ALA
In order to reap the full benefit of ALA, choose the product that contains only natural R-ALA. R-ALA is the natural form of ALA, which is the exact type that the body makes and requires. Bio-Enhanced® R-Lipoic Acid is formulated with only natural R-ALA. It is free of S-ALA and is stable at room temperature. It is designed to be stable in the stomach and with superior absorption. R-ALA is four times more potent than the mixture of RS-ALA because the body can “recognize” it and “know how to use it”. Thus, only a low dosage is needed, minus the toxicity. Only ¼ of the dosage is needed for R-ALA as compared to RS-ALA.
There are many unique properties of ALA from being an antioxidant, enhances glucose uptake, alleviating diabetes complications, restores other antioxidants (vitamin C and E, glutathione) to improving neuronal functions. ALA also plays an essential role in mitochondrial energy production. By improving mitochondrial function, or correcting any dysfunction, ALA can increase the amount of ATP energy (the energy currency) available for use by cells and improve fatigue symptoms. ALA though can be made in our body, or from the food that we take, the amount is not enough to support us for good health, especially if we are getting old, and having a sedentary lifestyle. The best way to get it is from a capsule of ALA supplementation, in the right form, a stabilized R-ALA.
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