What is ALA? Is alpha lipoic acid a nootropic? How effective is it? This article examines these questions so you don’t have to.
You may have already heard of people using ALA before because has an impressive list of health benefits.
It can improve your skin, prevent heart disease, and help with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s.
ALA is a very potent antioxidant, and also has the ability to rejuvenate other anti-inflammatory agents.
This makes it a very valuable micronutrient for conditions that are related to any kind of free radical damage, like diabetes.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid also accelerates energy metabolism, and increases neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
It’s generally considered good for improving mental energy, memory, focus, learning ability, and boosting our mood.
But is this enough for us to consider ALA a nootropic?
Or is it really just a very useful health supplement?
Let’s find out more…
What is Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
ALA is a fatty acid, which means it’s both water and fat soluble.
It’s naturally occurring in the body, and easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Foods that are rich in alpha-lipoic acid include broccoli, spinach, beef, liver, kidney, yeast, and potatoes.
Unfortunately, the amount of ALA in the body tends to decline as we age. Research has also revealed that supplementing with it can provide a lot of health benefits for older folks.
Yep. ALA is now found in anti-aging formulas, multivitamin supplements; even dog food.
Which begs the question: If lipoic acid has all these different uses, are there different types? And if so, are some forms more effective than others?
What type of lipoic acid do you want to have in your supplements?
R-Lipoic Acid vs S-Lipoic Acid – What’s the Difference?
There are 2 forms of alpha-lipoic acid in most of the supplements on the market, usually in a 50/50 mix.
R-Alpha-Lipoic Acid – is the natural form of ALA found in our bodies, and in foods.
S-Alpha-Lipoic Acid – is the ‘synthetic’ form of ALA first created in 1951.
R-ALA and S-ALA are actually mirror images of each another at the molecular level, or ‘enantiomers’. You could think of them as being twin siblings.
The funny thing is, that small difference means they react very differently once they come into contact with other molecules in the body.
R-ALA has all kinds of benefits for human health, but S-ALA does almost nothing by comparison.
Unfortunately, if R-ALA is left on the shelf for too long, it breaks down and becomes useless.
However, when R-ALA is mixed with S-ALA, the R-ALA remains stable long enough to be offered as a supplement.
That’s why most products that have ‘Alpha-Lipoic Acid’ on the label actually contain a 50/50 mix of R-ALA and S-ALA.
Keep in mind, however, that R-ALA is about 12 times as effective for improving human health as S-ALA.
It’s also possible to make blends that have more R-ALA than S-ALA, but it’s time consuming and expensive.
So now that you’re aware of the differences between R-ALA and S-ALA, how does ALA improve human health and cognition?
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Benefits – The List Goes on! And on! And on…
There are so many advantages to taking ALA as a supplement that I thought it would be a good idea to break this commentary up into smaller chunks.
So without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
1) Alpha-Lipoic Acid as an Antioxidant – The ‘One-Two Punch’!
ALA is a very powerful antioxidant because it delivers what I call a ‘1-2 punch’.
Alpha-lipoic acid helps protect our cells in 2 ways:
- Acts as an Antioxidant
- Recharges other Antioxidants
Oxidation of our cells can result in inflamed tissues, caused by free radicals.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are molecules that have unpaired electrons, and are desperate to hand them off.
Think of playing the game, ‘Hot Potato’.
Anybody with the hot potato tries to toss it to the next player to avoid burning their hands.
Unpaired electrons are like a hot potato, and if they successfully form a chemical bond with an essential structure like DNA, RNA, or certain proteins, they can cause genetic mutation.
Yes, free radicals and oxidation can lead to cellular damage. This can cause inflammation in our tissues, or even cancer.
Luckily, there are antioxidants like ALA that cruise around our bodies like microscopic sharks, devouring free radicals to render them harmless.
The great thing about ALA is that when it comes into contact with other antioxidants, it ‘recharges’ them by taking away any free radicals they’ve already soaked up.
Vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and aceytyl l-carnitine (ALCAR), can all be rejuvenated by coming into contact with ALA.
Preventing cellular damage in this way is one of the reasons ALA can be an effective treatment for heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, and even better skin.
This is an awesome advantage, but it’s not all that ALA does…
Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Energy – How does it Work?
ALA also increases energy levels by supporting the mitochondria.
What are mitochondria?
Mitochondria are tiny organelles that live symbiotically inside all of our cells.
You could think of them as very helpful stowaways on a pirate ship.
They take raw energy sources like glucose and fats, and convert them into usable energy. Pretty important stuff!
In fact, if we didn’t have mitochondria, life on Earth couldn’t exist.
And when the mitochondria in our cells are healthy, our overall vitality improves.
Naturally, any micronutrient that supports the mitochondria increases our energy levels, especially organs that are ‘energy hogs’.
This includes the heart, liver, and yes, you guessed it, the brain.
These organs are all LOADED with mitochondria so they can keep up with their own energy demands.
Long story short, when the mitochondria are burning glucose for energy, ALA facilitates the chemical reactions necessary, making them happen faster and more efficiently.
This results in enhanced energy metabolism, or cellular respiration throughout the entire body; including our neurons.
That’s why supplementing with ALA can slow down the aging process, provide more mental energy, physical endurance, and even boost our mood.
It’s hard to be grumpy when your mind and body are both supercharged!
Which brings us to our next topic of discussion.
How does ALA improve cognition?
Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Memory – What can it do?
In addition to protecting brain cells from free radicals, and accelerating their glucose metabolism, ALA increases the production of acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter ever discovered, and it plays several key roles in improving cognition.
Increasing ACh levels in the brain is closely associated with improvements in memory, learning, and reasoning skills.
Research has also shown that ALA improves the function of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain.
And not just for acetylcholine.
Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine have all been shown to be more effective with regular ALA supplementation.
ALA has even been shown to reverse memory loss due to age related conditions.
Memory loss from neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia is often closely associated with the formation of amyloid plaques, or fatty deposits, on the surface of neurons.
ALA breaks up these gunky deposits, allowing the receptor sites to function properly again.
Speaking of age-related decline, I think we should at least mention why ALA is considered by many to be a ‘Longevity Vitamin’.
It’s pretty cool, if you ask me…
Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Anti-Aging – Can it Turn Back the Clock?
OK. So we know how ALA protects our cells from oxidation, and improves our overall vitality by supporting mitochondria.
But does ALA’s ability to slow down the aging process go deeper than that?
Yes, it actually does.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of ‘telomeres’ before, but essentially they’re special structures that cover the ends of our DNA strands to prevent them from unraveling.
Think of the caps we put on the ends of our shoelaces, if that helps.
Research has shown that telomeres get shorter with age, and that when they do, health impairments can start to develop.
The fascinating thing about ALA is that it can actually lengthen telomeres! I’ve never heard of any other micronutrient with this unique ability, so I think that’s pretty exciting!
That means that ALA can actually slow down the aging process at the cellular level!
You don’t come across a supplement like that every day!
Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine – The Dynamic Duo!
ALA and ALCAR make a great team.
Kind of like chocolate and peanut butter, they just go better together!
When taken in combination, ALCAR feeds fat to mitochondria for energy, and soaks up free radicals.
ALA helps the mitochondria process glucose, and recharges ALCAR to allow it to continue working.
Essentially, ALA and ALCAR perform better together than if taken on their own.
That’s why a lot of supplements on the market have ALA and ALCAR pre-mixed for you.
So now that we have a good idea of what alpha-lipoic acid can do for us, how can we use it for best results?
How much is enough?
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Dosage – Recommendations for Best Results
The recommended dosage for alpha-lipoic acid is 50-600 mg/day.
That’s a pretty wide range, but most people see significant benefits at around the 200-300 mg/day mark.
We suggest taking ALA on an empty stomach. You should take it at least 1 hour before eating for best results.
The more common 50/50 blends of R-ALA and S-ALA are fine, but if you can find a supplement with a higher ratio of R-ALA in it, get that instead.
We also recommend taking ALA with ALCAR, because they compliment each other really well.
The best supplement I know of that meets all of these criteria is Performance Lab Energy.
That being said, you might want to know about any possible allergic reactions or cautions regarding the use of ALA.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Side Effects – Is it Safe?
ALA is naturally present in the body, and generally well tolerated by most people.
However, our sensitivities are as unique as our body chemistry, and some individuals have experienced:
- Skin Rashes
Alpha-lipoic acid also speeds up the metabolism of glucose, so it can lower blood sugar levels.
People who are diabetic or hypoglycemic should talk to their doctor before taking ALA as a supplement.
ALA can lower thyroid hormone levels, so anyone with a thyroid condition needs to consult with their doctor as well.
Certain nutrients have been shown to degrade or lose effectiveness in the presence of alpha-lipoic acid.
Vitamin B1, for example, breaks down in the presence of ALA, and biotin loses its’ bioavailability.
Taking a multivitamin along with ALA might be a good idea to avoid any deficiencies.
Apart from these concerns, ALA is quite safe.
So here we are, the end of the road. Let’s wrap things up, shall we?
Is Alpha Lipoic Acid a Nootropic – Final Comments
There’s no doubt that ALA has tons of benefits to human health.
As an antioxidant, it packs an awesome 1-2 punch!
It can soak up free radicals on its’ own, and can rejuvenate other antioxidants to recycle them.
ALA boosts energy levels by accelerating glucose metabolism in the mitochondria, and supporting ALCAR so it can burn fats more efficiently.
Finally, it improves cognition by facilitating the synthesis of more acetylcholine in the brain.
These effects as a whole result in:
- Increased Mental Energy
- Better Memory
- Enhanced Focus
- Improved Learning Ability
- Elevated Mood
So is alpha-lipoic acid a nootropic?
The basic definition of a nootropic is any substance that can improve cognitive function with little or no side effects.
We know ALA is naturally occurring in our bodies, and people rarely experience negative side effects when supplementing with it.
Considering this is the case, yes, I think ALA can be considered a bona fide nootropic. It meets all the criteria.
So who should take alpha-lipoic acid for its’ nootropic effects?
I would say anyone that wants more energy, focus, and better cognition can benefit from ALA.
If you also happen to be looking for a nootropic that can slow down the aging process, and makes your skin look better, then ALA is definitely for you.
All right, that’s about all I wanted to share with you today about alpha lipoic acid. I hope you found this article helpful.
If you have any questions about ALA, just post a comment below, and I’ll get back to you right away.
In my next article, I’ll be doing a product review on a supplement called Performance Lab Energy.
I think it could turn your world around, so don’t miss it!
See you there!
8 thoughts on “Is Alpha Lipoic Acid a Nootropic?”
Just like many of your readers, I’ve not heard of Alpha Lipoic Acid before.
But I was very impressed and shocked to see the many benefits it possesses when I was reading your post on ALA as a nootropic.
I think it’s a great brain booster, and I’m glad I came across this article because I learnt a lot from it. Not just about Alpha Lipoic Acid, but also Nootropics and free radicals.
Thanks for putting this together! Really appreciate it!
Glad you liked my article! Thanks for reading!
Yes, Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a great multi-tasker. I couldn’t even go over all the benefits it offers without making my post too long.
Because it’s such a powerful antioxidant, it helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. I briefly mentioned those advantages, but really only touched on them.
If you want to know about another really awesome antioxidant, you should check out my article on pine bark extract. I bet you’d find it very interesting.
Thanks once again, and if you have any questions later, just post another comment.
I’ll get right back to you!
The benefits of taking an ALA and ALCAR based supplement sound so amazing!
I take a generic multivitamin right now (Womens’ One A Day), but after reading this, I’ll have to speak to my doctor and see if I can add this combination to my overall health plan!
The fact that it increases mental energy, gives you better memory, elevates mood, enhances focus, and improves learning ability seems like the type of benefits we all need, especially as we get older!
Thank for this very informative article!
So glad you enjoyed my article on alpha-lipoic acid!
I can also see that you’re a very health conscious person because of the details in your comment. That’s great! We should all take care of ourselves this way!
The best recommendation I can make for you is to check out Performance Lab Energy. It combines ALA and ALCAR for energy and focus, but it also contains PQQ and CoQ10 for additional support of mitochondria.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but if you were impressed with the benefits of using ALA and ALCAR together, you’ll be SUPER IMPRESSED by what can be accomplished with Performance Lab Energy!
It’s a very well made product, and I think it’s the perfect supplement for you!
If you have any questions later, just give me a holler! I’d be happy to help!
What a wonderful study of Alpha Lipoic Acid!
I must say, I didn’t know anything about ALA until I chanced upon your article. But as I read through it, I went on a great journey of discovery!
What I found particularly interesting is how alpha lipoic acid can be useful in reversing the aging process.
Thanks for writing this post!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
If you’re interested in knowing more about micronutrients that can reverse the aging process, you might also enjoy reading my article on PQQ.
PQQ basically acts like a fertilizer for mitochondria, and increases our overall energy levels. Some have even jokingly referred to it as ‘The Fountain of Youth’!
Let me know what you think once you give it a read! And if you have questions later, just post another comment, and I’ll get right back to you!
This is a very interesting post on alpha lipoic acid.
It sounds like a super supplement!
Is ALA usually sold as a pure supplement with a 50/50 mix of R-ALA and S-ALA as mentioned? Or are there any other additives?
Do you have any personal recommendations (favorite brand, capsules, powder, tablets…)?
Thanks for taking the time to read my post!
In answer to your questions, most supplement makers claim their ALA products are additive free. However, they may contain stearates and other constituents to help extend their shelf life.
Just to save you time, the best supplement I know of that contains a highly purified form of ALA is Performance Lab Energy, from Opti-Nutra.
Opti-Nutra is based out of the U.K., and they also make my absolute favorite nootropic supplement; Mind Lab Pro.
Long story short, they’ve developed a simple yet brilliant solution to the R-ALA/S-ALA conundrum. They bond R-ALA with sodium to create a pure 100% R-ALA salt.
R-ALA is 12 times more effective than S-ALA, and their Na-R-ALA is released gradually into your system for longer lasting benefits.
If you ask me, Performance Lab Energy is years ahead of other supplements in terms of it’s sophistication. It’s definitely the best ALA supplement on the market, in my opinion.
I hope that answers your questions properly, but if you are still unsure about anything, just post another comment and I’ll get right back to you!