Lipoic acid, also known as alpha-lipoic acid or thioctic acid, was originally identified as a vitamin more than 50 years ago. It is a naturally occurring chemical made in small amounts by plants, animals and humans.
It is also a natural solution for improving the health of your blood vessels. This is the first of two articles explaining how it works.
Though the information is limited, foods rich in lipoic acid include kidney, heart, liver, spinach, tomatoes, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Lipoic acid in dietary supplements varies from 100 to 600 milligrams. In Germany, lipoic acid is available by prescription for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy (I’ll look at this in the next article). Low blood levels of lipoic acid are found in patients with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and liver cirrhosis.
Lipoic acid has many functions in your body:
- Involved with metabolizing carbohydrates
- Antioxidant activity helps fight free radicals
- Helps regenerate other antioxidants in the body, such as
vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione
- Increases blood flow to the nerve cells
- Prevents toxicity from metals (like mercury), chemicals
- Prevents tissue damage after radiation exposure
- Blocks the proliferation of HIV virus and bolsters the
- Improves insulin sensitivity
Now, the “endothelium” is the inner lining of blood vessels in your body. When this is impaired, it can cause coronary problems such as arterial disease. Lipoic acid has been shown to improve endothelial function (thus improving your blood vessels) in several studies:
1. Direct infusion of lipoic acid into the arteries helped to widen the narrowed arteries in diabetic patients.
2. Taking 300 mg of lipoic acid for a month helped dilate blood vessels in 58 patients with metabolic syndrome (a combination of conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, and high triglycerides that raises the risk of heart disease).
3. Lipoic acid (960 mg, 1,920 mg) administered intravenously over four weeks reduced endothelial dysfunction in type 2 diabetes.
4. A combination of lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine dilated the arteries but also helped lower blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease.
5. Taking 600 mg of lipoic acid or placebo for three months helped reduced pain from peripheral artery disease by 93%.
These are all examples of how lipoic acid does indeed change the nature of your blood vessels.