For BEAUTY, R-Lipoic Acid is a powerful antioxidant for the skin that can help to reduce fine lines and roughness. It has the potential to improve elasticity and skin tone, and to protect against sun damage. R-Lipoic acid, or RLA, also shields the fatty acids that give skin its hydration and youthful texture and fullness from free radical damage, thus reducing wrinkles and sagging. It is an eye and retina protector, reducing the risk of vision loss and enhancing healthy, clear eyes.
For optimal beauty, R-Lipoic acid also has a key role in production of ATP, a crucial molecule which is part of energy release. RLA also protects mitochondria, the powerhouse organelles in every cell within which the last stages of food breakdown occur to liberate energy. Better mitochondrial function is linked with speedier clearing of metabolic waste. All of these benefits, in addition to antioxidant protection, enhance radiant skin, shining eyes, strong nails, and healthy lustrous hair; and promote stronger connective tissues, along with firmer body contours and muscle tone.
Known as “nature’s perfect antioxidant,” R-Lipoic acid is a compact, sulfur-rich molecule that is naturally made by every cell in the body. It has a rare ability to easily cross cell membranes. RLA is unique in that it functions in water- and fat-soluble environments in the body, unlike more common antioxidants like vitamin C and E. This ubiquitous access endows it with unusually broad-ranging antioxidant actions against free radicals in fatty or protein-rich tissues, inside cells and in the surrounding connective tissues. R-Lipoic acid is a potent weapon that neutralizes harmful reactive oxygen species, which could otherwise cause tissue damage.
Beauty is enhanced by RLA as it powerfully protects skin, subcutaneous tissues, eyes, and the fatty layers of membranes and DNA from free radical injury. It can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect myelin, the fatty sheath around nerves, and the neurological system.
“R-Lipoic acid’s antioxidant actions help to enhance skin tone and glow, robust hair and nail growth, and healthy eyes and gums.”
Dr. Rachelle Herdman, Custom Health Guide
R-Lipoic acid is the only variant of lipoic acid that exists in nature, and the only bio-identical, clinically effective form. Lipoic can be made in two isomers, the R and S forms, but R-lipoic acid is the sole medically active variety. Because of the difficulty and high cost of isolating natural R-Lipoic acid, too many common formulas labelled ‘alpha-lipoic acid’ contain a synthetic 50-50 mixture of R-Lipoic acid and (trans) S-Lipoic acid. These R- and S-isomers are mirror images of each other, but only the R-form brings true medicinal benefits, while the S-form is relatively useless. RLA is at least 10 times more potent at a cellular level.
However, naturally occurring R-Lipoic acid is only present in tiny amounts in animal and plant tissues, and it is tightly bonded to mitochondria. In our diets, lipoic acid occurs at low levels in red and organ meats, and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and beets. But in food, it is bound to the amino acid lysine which is not very bioavailable and hard for our bodies to access.
Antioxidants including RLA are natural substances made in our bodies or from plant or mineral sources, that shield all tissues from scavenging free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and cell damage, and decrease harmful lipid peroxides. They boost our cells’ own protective glutathione levels, and enhance the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes. These are enzymes that neutralize or block cell damage from superoxide, a major one of the reactive oxygen species that form in cells during metabolism. Higher tissue levels of antioxidants also offset environmental oxidative injury to skin from sun or pollutants, and they are protective against many chronic ailments including heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, and arthritis.
Potent antioxidants play a central role in maintaining radiant natural beauty by protecting the skin, eyes, and internal organs. They help to reduce the signs of aging, wrinkles, and sun damage; and to enhance a smooth, youthful complexion.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that form when atoms or molecules gain or lose electrons. They are produced naturally during normal metabolic processes, such as clearing cellular waste, exercise, mounting an inflammatory response; or from exposure to external environmental sources such as air pollutants, drugs, and industrial chemicals. These unstable free radicals, including reactive oxygen species, have unpaired electrons: They roam the body seeking other atoms or molecules to bond to. If they attach to tissues, these rogue free radicals cause injury to cells, lipids, proteins, and DNA, called oxidative stress. Ongoing oxidative stress can cause lasting damage to muscles, organs, and cells. Eventually this results in slower metabolism, symptoms of aging such as wrinkles, and degenerative disorders. By the middle twentieth century, one of the leading theories of impaired cellular function and aging proposed that free oxygen radicals cause oxidative stress, and that chronic oxidative assault on the body leads to tissue damage.
A balance between free radicals and antioxidants to neutralize them is necessary for natural beauty and healthy physiological function. Free radicals are constantly produced, and the body normally handles them by making abundant antioxidants. But if the number of free radicals overwhelms the body’s innate antioxidant mechanisms to disempower these unstable compounds, then oxidative damage results in skin impairment, flabby and sagging tissues, fluid retention and puffy eyelids, brittle hair, and higher risks of degenerative disorders.
One secret to maintaining beauty is to vigorously combat oxidative damage with long-acting antioxidants. R-Lipoic acid is an especially important anti-aging beauty nutrient in two ways: It has potent antioxidant actions in its own right, and it also helps to regenerate glutathione. This is the body’s most powerful “master” antioxidant that keeps all others performing at peak levels. Glutathione is essential for healthy eyes, skin, kidneys, liver and more. As time passes, our internal supply of glutathione sharply declines. It cannot be replenished with a supplement since glutathione breaks down in the digestive tract before it can be absorbed or reach cells. R-Lipoic acid reduces the body’s vulnerability to chronic disease: It restores vitamins C, E, and CoQ10, as well as glutathione, making it one of the most powerful defensive antioxidants against skin and fascia aging.
Human skin is constantly exposed to ultraviolet irradiation, which increases levels of reactive oxygen species, or free radicals. These lead to a number of pathological changes in the skin including dryness, patchy discoloration, and fine lines. R-lipoic acid reduces skin roughness caused by sun damage, improving elasticity, and reducing the wrinkles and coarse texture of aging skin.
R-Lipoic acid helps to keep our body’s polyunsaturated fats in peak condition, which is key to health and beauty, inside and out. Polyunsaturated fatty acids play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance. They contribute to the skin’s natural oil barrier, and to keeping skin hydrated, plumper, and younger-looking. However, these fats are vulnerable to free radical attack. Lipoic acid neutralizes free radicals before they have a chance to cross cell membranes. This stops polyunsaturated fats from oxidizing, and then in turn prevents degraded fats from damaging DNA and crippling its ability to give proper instructions to cells. Oxidized fatty acids also increase inflammation, activating NF-kB, a proinflammatory precursor to cytokines, as well as tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukins. RLA counteracts these problems, which would otherwise impede cell replenishment, reduce healing from abrasions or minor injuries, and cause flabby skin tone, as well as redness and increased risk of rosacea.
R-Lipoic acid has a vital role in cellular energy production, encouraging beauty by supporting efficient uptake of nutrients and clearing of metabolic waste from tissues. It is a vital cofactor for ATP, which needs RLA for efficient release of energy in the mitochondria of all tissues. However, since cells make less R-Lipoic acid in our older years, there may not be sufficient R-Lipoic acid for energy generation, tissue protection, or free radical quenching, for which there is greater need as the body ages.
R-Lipoic acid is a key nutrient for safeguarding mitochondria themselves from damage. As they generate energy, mitochondria naturally produce free radicals and oxidants as by-products. Without adequate antioxidants to clear these, mitochondria decay faster, leading to more rapid cellular decline, skin and connective tissue aging, and skin wrinkles or sagging.
Exciting recent research in 2015 indicated that R-Lipoic acid not only quenches free radicals, it can also lengthen the protective caps at the end of chromosomes called telomeres. Aging, wrinkles, loss of skin tone, DNA damage, and age-related diseases can follow dysfunction and shortening of telomeres. Understanding that, researchers in this study at Emory University School of Medicine sought to determine the specific mechanism of action of lipoic acid on telomeres. These scientists found that lipoic acid stimulated telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens the chromosome’s telomeres. Longer telomeres mean cells are healthier and function “younger,” maintaining youthful tissue quality, clear skin, abundant shiny hair, and good muscle tone.1
R-Lipoic acid’s important role in regeneration of glutathione was highlighted in a Danish study comparing antioxidant activity between forty-one centenarians and a younger group of elderly subjects with an age range of 60 to 105. Those with higher levels of glutathione were the most active regardless of their age.2 Older individuals taking extra RLA generally have firmer muscle tone and body contours, better elimination of cellular waste products, leading to clearer smoother skin and shiny eyes.
We now know from research results confirming that as they produce energy, mitochondria create free radical by-products as part of their normal functioning. Consequently, mitochondria are susceptible to injury by lipid peroxidation, or damage to fatty layers from free oxygen radicals. Researchers found that lipoic acid administration to aged mammals reduced the levels of mitochondrial lipid peroxidation and oxidized glutathione. This means that lipoic acid protects glutathione and mitochondria against oxidative damage in aged tissues.3
A 2017 placebo-controlled study investigated the efficacy of lipoic acid in patients with mitochondrial disorders. The results confirmed that lipoic acid favorably influenced markers of cellular energy dysfunction, indicating better mitochondrial activity.4 This in turn would lead to a more efficient metabolism, better nutrient uptake and waste removal, and ultimately more beautiful glowing skin and improved muscle strength and tone.
Clinically, our patients using pure R-Lipoic acid have seen good results over time with 400 to 800mg daily; a high potency of the medically effective form for maintaining youthful, well-toned skin. We always emphasize the R- variant for full clinical benefits. After 6 to 12 months taking RLA, our patients notice smoother skin with fewer wrinkles and greater radiance, more lustrous hair and eyes, and some of them report improved body contours and muscle building from exercise.
Recommendation: R-Lipoic Acid (as Sodium R-Lipoic Acid) 400mg once or twice daily, taken with any meals, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Xiong, Shiqin, et al. “PGC-1α modulates telomere function and DNA damage in protecting against aging-related chronic diseases.” Cell reports 12.9 (2015): 1391-1399.
- Andersen, Helle R., et al. “Low activity of superoxide dismutase and high activity of glutathione reductase in erythrocytes from centenarians.” Age and ageing 27.5 (1998): 643-648.
- Palaniappan AR, Dai A. “Mitochondrial ageing and the beneficial role of alpha-lipoic Acid.” Neurochem Res. 2007;32:1552–8.
- Rodriguez MC, MacDonald JR, et al. “Beneficial effects of creatine, CoQ10, and lipoic acid in mitochondrial disorders.” Muscle Nerve. 2007 Feb;35(2):235-42.
- Packer L, Tritschler HJ, Wessel K. “Neuroprotection by the metabolic antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid.” Free Radic Biol Med. 1997;22(1–2):359–78.
- Packer L, Witt EH, Tritschler HJ. “alpha-Lipoic acid as a biological antioxidant.” Free Radic Biol Med. 1995;19(2):227–50.
- Kim, Mi Young, et al. “Effects of α-lipoic acid and L-carnosine supplementation on antioxidant activities and lipid profiles in rats.” Nutrition research and practice 5.5 (2011): 421-428.