Alpha-linolenic acid and alpha lipoic acid

Here’s a pop quiz: Which of these two does not belong?

* alpha-linolenic acid
* alpha lipoic acid

An HSI member named Bob knows the answer: Alpha lipoic acid doesn’t belong. Or, more specifically, it didn’t belong in the e-Alert “Nutty Buddy” (6/8/04).

Bob writes: “Re: Blood sugar You have confused alpha linolenic acid with alpha lipoic acid (a totally different substance).”

And Bob is absolutely right. Because even though their names are similar, these are two very different supplements. But they’re also very useful, so this correction provides a perfect opportunity to take a look at their strengths, as well as their differences.

As I told you in the 6/8 e-Alert, alpha-linolenic acid (which I should have designated as alpha-LNA, not ALA) is a precursor of omega-3 fatty acids, and that alone is enough to highly recommend it, knowing what we know about the values of omega-3. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have shown that a diet rich in alpha-LNA promotes blood vessel resiliency and may improve cholesterol levels.

Alpha LIPOIC acid, on the other hand, is an antioxidant that can actually recycle vitamins C and E from their molecular building blocks, and may help your body better utilize other antioxidants such as glutathione and CoQ10 (migraine patients, take note!).

In “Nutty Buddy” I told you that alpha lipoic acid has also been shown to be a blood-sugar-lowering agent – which is good for type 2 diabetics, and potentially bad for those who suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Alpha-LNA, however, doesn’t necessarily pose any risks for someone with hypoglycemia. Nevertheless, you should consult with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a specific health problem.