Many of the health benefits attributed to ALA supplements are based on lab testing on animals, primarily rats. Whether humans would experience similar results from ALA’s antioxidant powers has not been studied enough to produce definite answers.

Early animal studies suggest that ALA may help in treating Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect the nervous system [source: Larsen]. Additional studies have shown that a combination of antioxidants (including ALA) has helped cancer patients regain their appetite and weight. While early lab experiments suggest that ALA might cause cancer cells to self-destruct, it is unknown if the same effect can be replicated in animals or humans. Researchers are studying ALA as a possible therapy for reducing the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Research is also underway to determine if ALA can help prevent nerve damage that may result from some chemotherapy drugs [source: American Cancer Society].

Another potential benefit of ALA is the treatment of diabetes. Although some studies have found that ALA has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism and diabetic neuropathy, more research is needed to determine whether ALA supplements provide substantial benefits for type 2 diabetes and its complications [source: National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine].

ALA supplements may also decrease the buildup of plaque within the arteries. One study found that ALA reduced heart damage caused by chemotherapy drugs. Another found it beneficial in treating cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy — a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat that’s common in diabetics [source: Higdon, American Cancer Society].

There are also reports that ALA may have health benefits in relation to cataracts, seizures, kidney damage and liver disease, but additional studies are necessary before any definite conclusion is drawn. In addition, ALA, like just about any other medication or supplement, is not without its side effects. Read on to find out more about ALA’s side effects.

(NaturalNews) Alpha Lipoic Acid, also sometimes known as “ALA” or “thioctic acid”, has a great many useful functions in the human body. It is perhaps best known for being a powerful antioxidant, but there are other properties this compound has that may prove useful for improved and preventive health.

One of the unique properties of Alpha Lipoic Acid is its ability to “recycle” other antioxidants, extending their life in the human body. This means that you gain more benefit from the existing antioxidants you take in.

Since most water soluble antioxidants need to be continuously replenished to do what they do best – neutralize free radicals – this makes ALA particularly useful.

This brings us to another unique property of ALA that makes it highly therapeutic. This potent antioxidant happens to be soluble in both water and fat.

This is significant because it is able to neutralize free radicals in every part of the body, including the brain. The ability to dissolve in both fat and water means that this antioxidant has more “free range” to scrub your body for cell-damaging free radicals.

ALA converts glucose into energy more efficiently, and for this reason it may be used as a dietary supplementation to help regulate blood sugar levels.

Several studies have shown that ALA actually helps to keep blood sugar levels low when taken with meals. This is not the only reason it may be helpful for those with diabetes though. Nerve damage and numbness that often accompany diabetes may also benefit from ALA.

There are other bodies of research that show high ALA supplementation helped to mend damage done by strokes and even to help slow down the process of Alzheimer’s. Its apparent ability to facilitate the regeneration of nerve cells has some very promising implications in brain and nerve trauma treatment.

This one-two punch may make this quite the useful addition to diabetics’ health regimens. However, supervision by a health professional would be recommended if you are in fact diabetic. Since Alpha Lipoic Acid further lowers your insulin levels, it may combine with diabetes medications to excessively lower your blood sugar.

ALA supplements are commonly used to support healthy skin as well. In fact, any potent antioxidant is an excellent “internal skin cream”. Antioxidants help keep your skin young, resilient and supple since they help keep healthy skin cells around longer.

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