By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
For decades, desperate dieters have been lured by the siren song of weight loss pills claiming to magically take off unwanted pounds. And they all seem to have a gimmick – targeting belly fat, soothing stress hormones, using exotic ingredients that “burn more fat.” Unfortunately, even if you do shed some weight by taking one of these “wonder pills,” the weight comes right back as soon as you resume your normal diet.
But all that may be changing, thanks to a group of British researchers who discovered that taking alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) stops the natural tendency to pile the pounds back on after a diet.
Post Diet Promise
Most diet pills are designed to be taken in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet. Not so with ALA. In fact, taking it while you’re dieting has no obvious benefit. But, the scientists say, it can “lock in” the benefits of a six-month weight loss program if it is taken afterwards.
How so? It seems that ALA fools the body into behaving as if it was still on whatever diet it was following before the supplement was added. According to Dr. Malcolm Goyns, the lead author of the study, “Although weight does rise when you come off a restricted diet, if you take alpha-lipoic acid, even though you are eating normally again, you still have reduced weight.”
An added bonus – the researchers found that ALA also had an anti-aging effect similar to the extended lifespan seen in animals fed a restricted number of calories. This effect has already been observed in humans among communities like those living in Japan’s tropical Okinawan islands, where a low-calorie traditional diet has led to the world’s highest proportion of people over age 100.
“Our discovery indicates that by following a calorie restriction diet for six months and then taking alpha-lipoic acid while eating normally, the same life extension effects will be experienced,” said Dr. Goyns.
The only catch is that this study was conducted on rats. Other experiments have shown that curbing the amount of food rats eat can extend their lives by 25 to 40 percent. However, the anti-ageing benefits are lost when the rats return to a normal diet. But in this study, researchers found that giving the rats an ALA supplement when they returned to normal eating extended the benefits of the low calorie diet.
So the big question is – will it work on people too? Dr. Goyns seems to think so. “These observations provide exciting opportunities for anyone who wants a longer, healthier life.”
One small trial among psychiatric patients appears to back up these weight loss findings. Since antipsychotic drugs often trigger weight gain, seven schizophrenia patients were given ALA for 12 weeks in addition to their medication. At the end of the study, the patients not only hadn’t gained weight – they actually showed a slight weight loss and a lower body mass index. Better yet, the ALA seemed to support healthy cholesterol levels and reduced insulin resistance.
Of course, larger clinical trials will have to be conducted to prove Dr. Goyns’ conclusion. Still, there are many very good reasons to take ALA, even without the final word on its weight loss benefits.
The Universal Antioxidant
ALA is a vitamin-like antioxidant that’s sometimes referred to as the “universal antioxidant” because it’s soluble in both fat and water. This means that ALA can cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver its antioxidant benefits directly to the nervous system and brain.
This super antioxidant also protects the cardiovascular and immune systems, the liver, the kidneys and the lungs. It’s so effective that it is often used to treat stroke and liver damage. Better yet, ALA’s antioxidant capacity helps to “recharge” and extend the life of other antioxidants in the body, such as vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q-10 and glutathione.
A growing number of studies show that ALA can also improve the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage in people with type 2 diabetes and may slow the progression of kidney damage in those suffering with type 1 diabetes. There’s also some evidence that taking 150 mg. of ALA daily for just one month improves visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.
Unfortunately, the body makes and maintains very low concentrations of ALA, so supplementation is a smart move for everyone as they age. For general antioxidant protection, take 50 to 100 mg. of ALA daily.
One Last Thing . . .
Can Chinese food make you fat? Could be, say Chinese and U.S. researchers, who have linked the popular Chinese additive monosodium glutamate, or MSG, to greater body weight.
Dr. Ka He of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health and colleagues studied more than 750 Chinese men and women, ages 40 to 59, in three rural villages in China. A majority of the study participants prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods, but 82 percent used MSG in their food.
Those who used MSG were then divided into three groups, based on the amount used. It turned out that the folks who used the most MSG were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than non-users – even if they exercised regularly and didn’t overeat.
While most American’s don’t normally cook with this flavor enhancer, MSG can be found in commercially prepared foods – and often in that yummy General Tso Chicken at your local Chinese restaurant. If you’d rather not consume this chemical – which has also been linked to headaches – your best bet is to check ingredient labels before you buy and ask your waiter if MSG is used in your favorite dishes.
This Just In . . .
As if you needed yet another reason to take antioxidants, researchers have discovered that a previously unrecognized group of air pollutants could have effects remarkably similar to harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. How harmful are these pollutants? According to the researchers at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, inhaling these chemicals – known as persistent free radicals (PFRs) – exposes the average person to up to 300 times more free radicals than from smoking one cigarette.
But unlike cigarette smoke, PFRs are ubiquitous – you simply can’t get away from them! Your best line of defense? Take a daily dose of antioxidants like 2,000 mg. of vitamin C combined with lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Other powerful antioxidants that help counteract free radicals within the body include alpha lipoic acid, green tea and bioflavonoid complexes like pycnogenol and resveratrol.
It’s a dirty world out there. Taking these proactive supplements – especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors – can give you a fighting chance against the hazards lurking right outside your front door.
Dellinger BH. “Persistent free radicals, a newly discovered air pollutant, could have effects similar to cigarette smoke.” 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. August 2008.
Filina AA, Davydova NG, Endrikhovskii SN, et al. “Lipoic acid as a means of metabolic therapy of open-angle glaucoma.” Vestn Oftalmol 1995;111:6–8.
He K, Zhao L, Daviglus ML, et al. “Association of Monosodium Glutamate Intake With Overweight in Chinese Adults: The INTERMAP Study.” Obesity. 2008;16:1875-1880.
Kim E, Park DW, Choi SH, et al. “A preliminary investigation of alpha-lipoic acid treatment of antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain in patients with schizophrenia.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2008;28:138-146.