ALA i.e. alpha lipoic acid is a nutrient that is not very widely known. It is present in plants as well as animals and contains sulphur. It acts as an anti-oxidant and also induces the production of other anti-oxidants. This chemical has been shown by researchers to be amazing as an anti-cancer agent and works without causing the myriad of harmful effects that chemotherapy does.
Other than that it is also beneficial against diseases like heart disease, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.
- It is found mainly in green vegetables particularly in spinach. Tomatoes are also a rich source, as are potatoes.
- Animal liver as well as kidney is a rich source.
- You can take lipoic acid supplements in a range of 50-600mg per day.
- Other sources are foods that are rich in thiol like asparagus, eggs, cauliflower, onions, peas and cabbage. These foodstuffs cause the body to produce ALA.
WHAT ARE ANTI-OXIDANTS?
Anti-oxidants fight and neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that have the ability to damage body’s cells. Thus they harm all body organs and systems. Anti-oxidants are thus necessary for survival. They protect our bodies and also have anti-ageing benefits.
ALA is a potent anti-oxidant. Not only that, it is metabolized to form dihydrolipoic acid. Both of these compounds are extremely important for different reactions and chemical processes occurring in our body. Therefore if ALA is reduced, body cells do not function properly and are damaged.
EFFECTIVENESS OF ALA AGAINST CANCER:
Alpha lipoic acid has been shown by researchers to be effective against different types of cancer including cancers of ovaries, breasts and colon. It is also useful against leukemia. The way it works is this: first of all as mentioned it has anti-oxidant properties. This means that it has a protective role and prevents cancer from developing.
Another mechanism of action is that in normal cells, ALA prevents unchecked cell division. As cancer is nothing but body’s own cells that start dividing at an uncontrolled rate, this also helps fight against cancer. It reduces cell death in normal cell while at the same time causes cancer cells to die.
Cancer cells, unlike healthy ones, are actually harmed by oxygen. These cells have some problem in their mitochondria, which is the cell component that produces energy. In 2005 a study was conducted which showed that ALA increased the respiration that occurs in mitochondria inside cells of colon cancer. This is significant because oxygen, when produced in cancer cells, starts a procedure known as apoptosis which causes the cancer cells to die. Apoptosis basically means programmed cell death and it is a normal process that does not occur in cancer cells according to schedule. Oxygen produced in these cells initiates apoptosis and hence cancer cells are destroyed.
ALA HAS A LOT OF BENEFITS WHEN COMPARED TO CHEMTHERAPY
Cancer is a terrifying disease particularly because the treatment employed to kill cancer cells i.e. chemotherapy is extremely toxic in itself. The treatment is very harsh on the body and causes several extremely unpleasant harmful effects like pain, weight loss, ulcers, hair falling out, anemia and weakness etc. Therefore, while necessary for survival in cancer patients, it is not a treatment modality that is loved by anyone.
Chemotherapy acts by killing rapidly dividing cells by damaging their DNA. This treatment causes the production of free radicals which can then harm normal body cells. The advantage of alpha lipoic acid is that it actually protects against DNA damage in normal cells and prevents free radical production. It also prevents cancer cells from spreading throughout the body. This action is achieved by acting against enzymes that are needed by the cancer cells to invade different body tissues. As cancer cells create new blood vessels to provide nutrients for themselves, ALA is also effective as it prevents these new blood vessels from forming.
Alpha lipoic acid can be used along with chemotherapy as it prevents the harmful effects of chemo. It neutralizes the free radicals that chemotherapy produces. It is especially effective against diarrhea and damage to nerves that chemotherapy might cause.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN CHOOSING ALA SUPPLEMENTS:
First of all, this is something in which you must do your research. Do not pick any supplement you find, go for one produced by a company that is reputable. Also, the most effective form is R-lipoic acid.
It is best to ingest the supplement with food; this helps in absorption of ALA.
The starting dose of alpha lipoic acid is usually 50-100mg per day. It can be given up to 600 mg/day. It is best to start at a low dose and gradually increase it, ensuring that no harmful effects or intolerance develops. ALA is usually very easily taken and it is rare that harmful effects occur.