Oxidative stress and neuronal energy depletion are characteristic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. It has been hypothesized that, because of this, pro-energetic and antioxidant drugs such as alpha-lipoic acid might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease.
In one study, alpha-lipoic acid was given daily to nine patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The treatment led to a stabilization of cognitive functions in the study group. According the study:
“The progression of Alzheimer’s for patients taking alpha-lipoic acid appears dramatically lower than data reported for untreated patients or patients on choline-esterase inhibitors in the second year of long-term studies. Our data suggest that treatment with alpha-lipoic acid might be a successful ‘neuroprotective’ therapy option.”
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant and one of the most effective free radical scavengers. Perhaps more importantly, it’s the only one known to be easily transported into your brain, where it offers dramatic benefits for people with brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, those given 600 mg of alpha lipoic daily for 12 months had a stabilization of cognitive function. A follow-up study, which increased the number of patients in the study and extended the observation period to 48 months, the progression of the disease was “dramatically lower” among those taking alpha lipoic acid, compared to those with no treatment or those taking choline-esterase inhibitor drugs.
” … treatment with alpha-lipoic acid might be a successful ‘neuroprotective’ therapy option for Alzheimer’s disease.”
This study was not double-blinded, randomized or placebo-controlled, which is generally the “gold standard” of medical research, however it still shows promise as a treatment for a disease that conventional medicine offers little in the way of treatment.
A separate animal study published last year did find similar benefits; rats with Alzheimer’s disease given a combination of alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E and acetyl-l-carnitine showed improvements in several markers of the disease, including total homocysteine, insulin, insulin-like growth factor and tumor necrosis factor.
Further, in a review of research into alpha lipoic acid for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers noted several mechanisms by which it appears to show benefit, including scavenging free radicals, chelating metals, and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Researchers noted:
They also pointed out a potential benefit of combining ALA with other nutraceuticals like curcumin, EGCG from green tea, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from krill oil to provide a synergistic treatment.
In the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 69 seconds, and by 2050 this is expected to increase to a new case every 33 seconds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. The disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans — including one in eight people aged 65 and over — living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this is expected to jump to 16 million, and in the next 20 years it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect one in four Americans.
Unfortunately, existing treatments are often of little to no benefit whatsoever.
Memantine, brand name Namenda, is a widely used Alzheimer’s drug that is approved for moderate to severe cases. Despite this, doctors often prescribe it off-label for mild Alzheimer’s cases and even for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is frequently the prelude to Alzheimer’s.
However, a reanalysis of data from three clinical trials showed that patients with mild Alzheimer’s who took Namenda had no improvement in mental function or their ability to perform everyday tasks compared to placebo. Even among moderate to severe Alzheimer’s patients, for which the drug is approved to treat, the researchers found only “meager” improvements.
Namenda paired with a cholinesterase inhibitor, a type of drug that may help prevent the breakdown of certain memory-influencing neurotransmitters, is the go-to treatment for Alzheimer’s, but the study shows it likely offers little to no benefit to patients.
One of the positive aspects of using alpha lipoic acid as a treatment is that it offers other potential benefits as well, whereas Alzheimer’s drugs are linked with side effects like confusion, hip fractures and slower heart rate.
For instance, ALA has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and glutathione. So, when your body has used up these antioxidants, if there’s ALA around, it helps regenerate them. Alpha lipoic acid also recycles coenzyme Q10 and NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and is:
According to Dr. Burt Berkson, Russia has even successfully used ALA intravenously to reverse ischemia reperfusion injuries by injecting it right after a heart attack or a stroke. And people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome tend to do much better when taking lipoic acid, as it enhances insulin sensitivity.
There’s even been quite a bit of research showing it can restore T cell function. T cells are a type of white blood cells that are of key importance to your immune system, and are at the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors your body’s immune response to specific pathogens. ALA may even help slow down the aging process itself through its reduction in free radicals.
For more science behind the benefits of ALA, GreenMedInfo has indexed 79 studies showing its influence on 84 conditions (six of these are on Alzheimer’s disease and 10 are related to ALA’s neuroprotective properties).
If you have Alzheimer’s disease or know someone who does, ALA may be a useful supplement to consider that could potentially offer benefit. But, because of the very limited treatments, and no available cure as of yet, for Alzheimer’s, I strongly suggest you take every step you can to prevent it from happening to you in the first place.
In order to effectively prevent a disease, you must address its underlying causative factors. Although we do not have definitive “proof” of what, specifically, causes Alzheimer’s, a number of factors have been linked to an increased risk of dementia, and we know enough about those to in turn make educated recommendations for preventing this type of brain deterioration.
Some of the best strategies for Alzheimer’s prevention include:
Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. The operative word is “transmissible.” Even the global surge in autism appears to be related.