Cellular respiration is the process that converts sugar into energy. It's one of the most important chemical reactions that occur within living organisms. However, it also creates a metabolic waste product known as a free radical, which damages and destroys cells. Antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid attack free radicals and preserve the health of the cells. Evidence suggests that this may have important consequences for high blood pressure.
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Blood pressure is made up of two distinct measurements. The systolic number refers to the pressure when your heart pumps blood. The diastolic number refers to the pressure when your heart is at rest in between beats. Once either number gets too high — a state known as hypertension — then it becomes a risk factor for a stroke, heart attack, heart failure and arterial aneurysm. It can also lead to chronic kidney failure.
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by blood on the arterial walls. These arteries stiffen and relax to regulate the flow of blood through your body. Hypertension is usually the product of a vascular dysfunction or blockage in the arteries. Treatments with alpha-lipoic acid may be able to increase artery diameter and help reduce high blood pressure.
In 2007 a group of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine published a study in the "Journal of Clinical Hypertension" that suggests a treatment of alpha-lipoic acid, when combined with acetyl-L-carnitine, reduced systolic blood pressure in subjects with coronary heart disease. This was especially true in groups with initial high blood pressure or a metabolic syndrome. The researchers believe that both antioxidants reduce the kind of metabolic stress in the cells that contributes to the stiffening of the arteries. Further studies will need to confirm these results to determine the actual utility of alpha-lipoic acid for reducing high blood pressure.
The human body makes most of the alpha-lipoic acid that it needs independent of its consumption. However, humans also eat alpha-lipoic acid every day. It's present in red meat, organ meat and yeast, particularly Brewer's yeast. For additional intake, health companies sell alpha-lipoic acid in doses of 30 to 100 mg tablets. There are no established recommended doses, but you can take 20 to 50 mg per day for general antioxidant support. You should talk to your doctor first before taking supplements, especially if it is through an injection. Side effects are rare but may include a skin rash.