If its essential role in health is any indication, alpha-lipoic acid may very well join the ranks of vitamins C and E as part of your first line of defense against free radicals. Discovered in 1951, it serves as a coenzyme in the Krebs cycle and in the production of cellular energy. In the late 1980s, researchers realized that alpha-lipoic acid had been overlooked as a powerful antioxidant. Over the past few years, the pace of research on lipoic acid has increased dramatically. Several qualities distinguish alpha-lipoic acid from other antioxidants, and it has been described at various times as the “universal,” “ideal,” and “metabolic” antioxidant. It neutralizes free radicals in both the fatty and watery regions of cells, in contrast to vitamin C (which is water-soluble) and vitamin E (which is fat-soluble).
The body routinely converts some alpha-lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic acid, which appears to be an even more powerful antioxidant. Both forms of lipoic acid quench peroxynitrite radicals, an especially dangerous type consisting of both oxygen and nitrogen, according to a recent paper.* Peroxynitrite radicals play a role in the development of atherosclerosis, lung disease, chronic inflammation, and neurological disorders.
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