Diabetes is quickly becoming one of the most prevalent and concerning chronic diseases of our time. Causing more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, diabetes makes its host vulnerable to a long list of health problems. Timely diagnosis and working with a physician is essential for preventing diabetes’ complications; but there is no simple formula for protecting against the potential havoc diabetes can wreck. However, a growing body of evidence is surfacing that supports alpha R-lipoic acid supplementation as a solid component of a diabetes management program.
Commonly abbreviated to just diabetes, diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels resulting from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin. According to data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, an estimated 25.8 million people in the U.S. have diabetes – AND about 79 million people have pre-diabetes.
It usually takes many years for complications of diabetes to show up. Typically a result of having too much glucose in the blood, the problems caused by diabetes develop slowly and silently – often without any indication of a problem. Although this list is far from complete, the more common complications of uncontrolled blood sugar levels include:
- Heart disease – stroke, hypertension, heart attack, atherosclerosis
- Eye problems – blindness, cataracts, glaucoma
- Kidney disease
- Gum disease
- Limb amputation
There are several types of diabetes; type 1, type 2 and gestational. While there is little that can be done to prevent the first and the last kind, there is hope for preventing pre-diabetes from transforming into type 2 – by far the most common category. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin – a hormone the body needs to transport glucose into the cells to be used for energy.
The route towards minimizing the ever-increasing diabetes’ burden on society is twofold:
- type 2 diabetes prevention
- improved type 2 diabetes management
Besides taking doctor prescribed medications, adopting a healthy lifestyle is the number one way to ease the toll diabetes can take. Important both for the near 80 million Americans who have pre-diabetes and the almost 26 million who currently have it, eating a highly nutritious diet, increasing physical activity levels and maintaining a healthy weight is key to preventing and managing diabetes mellitus. When it comes to preventing some of the many complications that can arise from diabetes, research points to alpha R-lipoic acid as an essential diabetic health aid.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Diabetes
A fatty acid found naturally inside every cell in the body, alpha lipoic acid is needed by the body to produce energy. Alpha lipoic acid:
- converts glucose in the blood into energy
- is an antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes potentially harmful free radicals
- functions in both water and fat – giving it a unique capability to protect various tissues from harm
- can recycle antioxidants (like vitamins C and glutathione) after they have been used up
- increases the formation of glutathione – a naturally occurring antioxidant that protects cells from free radicals
Listed below is just a sample of the research demonstrating alpha lipoic acid’s benefit to those with diabetes:
- As published in a January 2012 edition of the journal Diabetes Care, Italian researchers found that alpha lipoic acid reduced platelet reactivity in type 1 diabetics. Since rises in platelet reactivity are directly correlated with advanced disease in diabetics, this research suggests alpha lipoic acid could prevent diabetes from progressing.
- As published in a November 2011 edition of Frontiers in Pharmacology, Canadian investigators examined studies over the past 10 years where alpha lipoic acid was administered to diabetics. In this review, they found a clear benefit for alpha lipoic acid supplementation in those with diabetic neuropathy.
- As published in a November 2011 edition of the European Journal of Nutrition, Serbian researchers found that those who supplemented with alpha lipoic acid experienced increased antioxidant activities in the red blood cells, elevated glutathione, lowered glycation, reduced triglycerides, reduced hyperglycemia and reduced levels of ALT and AST enzymes – all physiological markers of improved health.
The R Form
Whether it is to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes complications or easing the cellular stress diabetes exerts, there is little doubt that alpha lipoic acid is useful to diabetics. However, it is also important to recognize which form is most effective.
Due to its chemical structure, alpha lipoic acid exists in one of three forms:
- Alpha R- lipoic acid
- Alpha S- lipoic acid
- Alpha RS-lipoic acid
Of the three, only alpha R-lipoic acid exists in nature. The R and S versions are mirror images of each other, but only the R version can bind to proteins. As such, alpha R-lipoic acid is best able to perform the functions of converting glucose into energy, neutralizing free radicals, recycling antioxidants and boosting glutathione formation.
Whether striving to prevent the onset of diabetes mellitus or to thwart this disease’s progression, alpha R-lipoic acid has a lot to offer. While taking prescribed medications and adhering to healthful lifestyle habits are crucial for minimizing the burden of diabetes, there is more that can be done. Based on clinical research and expert opinions, supplementing with alpha R-lipoic acid can help ease the stress that high glucose levels place on the body.