Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alpha Lipoic Acid for Longevity?

Many of us who are informed about supplements have been fans of alpha lipoic acid for many years. It is known to be a powerful antioxidant, to make the body more sensitive to insulin, to protect brain neurons from dysfunction and death, and to detoxify the liver, and that is only of a few of its uses.

Now a researcher in the UK is claiming that ALA can promote longevity when taken following an intense calorie restriction diet. [In reading this article, let's try to ignore the fact that BMI is a much worse indicator of health than is bodyfat percentage. My BMI is 26, which makes me officially overweight, with less than 10% bodyfat.]

From The Daily Mail:

Dr Malcolm Goyns wants to reduce his Body Mass Index (BMI). It sounds like a good idea, given that it's currently 31, which makes him officially obese.

So, like any good dieter, he's cut his calorie intake, giving up full-fat milk, fried foods and the fatty snacks such as crisps and biscuits that he used to enjoy, and replacing them with fruit, yoghurt, muesli and salads.

His plan is to reduce his intake to just 1,300 calories a day - well below the optimum level recommended in the Government's healthy eating guidelines - until he reaches his target (a BMI of 18.5). Then he'll return to his former eating habits.

Woman eating cupcake

Diet pill: A supplement may be able to help you keep weight off after a diet and add years to your life

It sounds like a recipe for all those pounds simply to pile straight back on, the classic yo-yo diet. In fact, according to Goyns, he won't regain the weight because he'll be taking a daily supplement called alpha lipoic acid (ALA).

Furthermore, this regimen of severe calorie restriction followed by ALA will provide a far greater reward than inch-loss - he believes it could add 30 years to his life.

Over the past decade, several studies have shown that curbing calories in the extreme increases the lifespan of a range of laboratory animals.

Then last week, Goyns and researchers from the University of Liverpool's school of biological sciences published findings that appeared to confirm that eating less does indeed increase longevity.

In their report in the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, they revealed how rats fed a low-calorie diet for six months lived 25 to 40 per cent longer than those with a normal calorie intake.

When the dieting rats resumed a normal diet, however, the anti-ageing benefits were halted. Unless, that is, they were promptly given a supplement of the antioxidant compound ALA.

This is a disease-fighting and anti-ageing substance found naturally in foods such as red meat, spinach, broccoli and yeast.

It is widely available in health food stores as a supplement (costing around £15 to £30 for a month's supply). People take it in the belief it will boost their health, as well as protecting brain and heart function.

It is also sometimes used in the treatment of conditions such as stroke and liver damage, as it helps tissues to recover from stress.

New findings, however, suggest a radical new use for the supplement - helping you keep the weight off and increasing your lifespan.

You can go read the rest of the article.

I highly recommend ALA for fat loss, especially for those who are borderline diabetic or suffering from metabolic syndrome. ALA, along with increased fiber, use of cinnamon and green tea supplements, can do a lot to reverse diabetes and control blood sugar. But I'm suspicious of these new claims until I see some research in humans.

One of the tough lessons we have learned about fat-loss studies in rats is that many things that work in rats don't work in humans. Our metabolic system is much more complex -- one only need remember the optimism surrounding the leptin studies to understand that fact. Letpin administration caused rats to shed bodyfat easily, but the human trials were a complete failure.

I don't care about the longevity stuff, and I'll withhold judgment on the body composition aspect until I see more -- and better - studies showing that this works. If it does, then using ALA post-diet to help keep the weight off could be a miracle for a lot of people who yo-yo diet.

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