Are You Ready?! Researchers announced they have identified the mechanism of action of lipoic acid, a remarkable compound that in animal experiments appears to slow down the process of aging, improve blood flow, enhance immune function and perform many other functions.
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a vitamin-like antioxidant that is produced naturally in the body. As a free radical scavenger, it is unique because it is both fat and water soluble. It is easily absorbed and transported across cell membranes offering protection (against free radicals) both inside and outside the cell. Other antioxidants only provide extra cellular protection.
“The evidence suggests that lipoic acid is actually a low-level stressor that turns on the basic cellular defenses of the body, including some of those that naturally decline with age,” said Tory Hagen, an LPI researcher and associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics at OSU. “In particular, it tends to restore levels of glutathione, a protective antioxidant and detoxification compound, to those of a young animal. It also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory agent, which is relevant to many degenerative diseases.”
“Our studies have shown that mice supplemented with lipoic acid have a cognitive ability, behavior, and genetic expression of almost 100 detoxification and antioxidant genes that are comparable to that of young animals,” Hagen said. “They aren’t just living longer, they are living better — and that’s the goal we’re after.”
What the OSU researchers now believe is that the role of lipoic acid is not so much a direct one to benefit cells, but rather an indirect aid that “kick starts” declining function in cells and helps them recover the functions that came more easily and naturally in young animals.
In various effects, lipoic acid appears to help restore a cellular “signaling” process that tends to break down in older blood vessels. It reduces mitochondrial decay in cells, which is closely linked to the symptoms of aging. With age, Glutathione levels naturally decline, making older animals more susceptible to both free radicals and other environmental toxins – but, lipoic acid can restore Glutathione function to near normal. And the expression and function of other genes seems to come back to life.
“We never really expected such a surprising range of benefits from one compound,” Hagen said. “This is really unprecedented, and we’re pretty excited about it.”
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-Jeanne Ricks, CHC, AADP