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Dr. Perricone Discusses

Alpha Lipoic Acid the Cellular Rejuvenator


Coincidentally (or not) the day I submitted the final manuscript for my latest book, Forever Young, a headline from the UK's Financial Times caught my eye: "Scientists discover the secret of aging!" it screamed in 24 point type. The article went on to explain how one of the biggest puzzles in biology — how and why living cells age — had been solved by an international team based at the U.K.'s Newcastle University.

Using a complex 'systems biology' approach, the researchers, in conjunction with scientists from the University of Ulm in Germany, embarked on a journey to discover why cells become senescent (grow old). The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an aging cell detects serious DNA damage, which may be the result of general wear and tear from daily living, it sends out internal signals.

These distress signals trigger the cell's mitochondria, the energy producing part of the cell, to make free radical molecules, which instruct the cell to either destroy itself or to stop dividing. The reason for this is to avoid the damaged DNA that results in cancer.

I firmly believe the damaging diseases and cellular destruction associated with aging, begins with the mitochondria. I also concur with the research findings, as they validate my own research as to how and why we age. The release of this study, on the eve of my manuscript submission was hugely exciting, because this is the underlying theme of the book. It is also one of the key reasons I am such a strong advocate of alpha lipoic acid (ALA), both as a supplement and as a critical ingredient in topical formulations.

  • Alpha lipoic acid is one of the most powerful anti-aging, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories available.
  • ALA is found naturally in the mitochondria portion of our cells, as part of an enzyme system that helps energy production.
  • Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is both fat- and water-soluble. This means that ALA is easily absorbed through the lipid layers of the skin and works equally well as a free radical fighter in the cell plasma membrane and in the watery interiors of the cell.
  • Further, it is 400 times stronger than Vitamins E and C combined (both of which are renowned for their antioxidant properties).

A New Model for Understanding Aging
Aging cells, whether in the skin or elsewhere in the body, need energy to keep them functioning properly. We know that a young cell (just like a young person) is characterized by its energy. By taking supplemental ALA and by applying ALA topically to the skin, we deliver therapeutic amounts of this substance to help increase the energy for proper cellular metabolism, which is desperately needed by the cells (including skin cells) for their cellular repair.

ALA Repairs Damaged Cells
ALA first concentrates in the cell plasma membrane, where it neutralizes free radicals. It then moves on to the watery interior of the cell, known as the cytosol, where it can also quell the activity of free radicals and prevent activation of other pro-inflammatory chemicals.

But that's not all. A study published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics acknowledged that menopause is often accompanied by degenerative processes such as arteriosclerosis and atrophic changes of the skin (skin that is thin and wrinkled).

ALA and Aging Skin
These changes suggest an acceleration of aging triggered by estrogen depletion. The reviewed data in the study supports the concept that other antioxidants such as ALA and several others (including the spice turmeric) may help to prevent antioxidant deficiency, thereby protecting the all-important mitochondria from cellular degeneration. They also found that combinations of these antioxidants, both in the diet and applied topically for skin protection, may have favorable effects on the health and quality of life for older women, especially those who cannot be treated with HRT, suffer high levels of oxidative stress, and do not consume a healthy diet that includes five daily rations of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I recommend supplementing with ALA every day, along with a liberal application of topical formulations of ALA for optimum cellular protection of the skin.

ALA and Skin Benefits
As a topical, ALA provides multiple beneficial actions to the skin. When incorporated into a lotion formulated for the delicate, thin-skinned eye area, you will experience a significant decrease in under eye circles, loss of firmness and puffiness. ALA will also reduce swelling and puffiness in the face. Its anti-inflammatory effects reduce redness and blotchiness, resulting in an evening out of skin tone, often making foundation unnecessary. ALA will shrink pore size and impart a healthy radiance to the skin. ALA is excellent at decreasing the appearance of lines and wrinkles; its capacity to regulate production of nitric oxide, which controls blood flow to the skin. This is the secret to eliminating dark circles and the reason ALA can transforms the complexion from dull, pasty, and pale to vibrant and glowing.

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