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Clarifying the Complex World of Nutrition Science

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Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine:  Mitochondria Superchargers!

In February 2002, Dr. Bruce Ames and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley published a series of groundbreaking studies that show how Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine work together to supercharge the cells' mitochondria … so that we now have the capability to live a longer, more productive life.

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How do Lipoic Acid (LA) and Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) work together?

The first study to examine this relationship didn't even use the two supplements together. Instead, it looked at the effects of taking them individually. Both ALC and LA seem to work by improving mitochondria function, but they differ in how they do it:

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) is more potent at restoring mitochondria energy production. The problem is, it doesn't prevent the increase in free radicals that accompanies the energy production. In the long run, this increase in free radicals limits ALC's potential benefits and will cause more damage to the cell and mitochondria.
  • R-Lipoic Acid (LA) is better at restoring cellular and mitochondria free radical protection, and has been shown to restore levels in old animals to the levels found in young animals.

However, scientists were interested in combining ALC and LA to see if this combination would have powerful results. And it did—and is now being used as a breakthrough anti-aging dietary supplement!

In order to understand how the two supplements work together, it's important to first understand how Lipoic Acid works.

The different forms of Lipoic Acid

Like many dietary chemicals, Lipoic Acid exists in different forms. In the body, Lipoic Acid is found only in its "R" form. Because only tiny quantities of Lipoic Acid are found naturally in animals and plants, the form that has always been manufactured and sold is made synthetically and contains equal amounts of the "R" and "S" forms.

Vitamin E is another example of a vitamin that's sold both in a natural form and a synthetic form. While the natural and synthetic forms are mirror images of each other and usually have similar functions in the body, they can differ in their biological actions. For example, it is now known that natural vitamin E is utilized by the body more efficiently than synthetic vitamin E, even though they both have the same antioxidant power. Early on in Lipoic research it became apparent that the natural and synthetic forms of Lipoic did have different effects in the body.

Think of it this way: you can't fit your right hand into a left-handed glove. If you wore your gloves on the wrong hands, you wouldn't be able to function normally—simply because the gloves wouldn't fit.

The same thing happens in the body. Your body will not accept a left-handed compound to do the job a right-handed one is designed to do, and vice versa. A compound that's the wrong shape cannot work as well in your body as one that's the right shape. And the right shape is the one that the body recognizes and fully utilizes.

Natural Lipoic Acid vs. Synthetic Lipoic Acid

For years, the manufacturers of nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals have produced a synthetic form of Lipoic Acid. The vast majority of research in the past 30 years has used this synthetic form, and this is the type of Lipoic Acid used as a pharmaceutical in Europe to enhance glucose uptake for diabetics.

The synthetic form contains both R and S-Lipoic Acid. But it was discovered that in enhancing glucose uptake, all the activity was found only in the natural R form of Lipoic acid, and the S form could actually INHIBIT glucose uptake.

The synthetic form of Lipoic Acid containing both R and S-Lipoic Acid had a beneficial effect, but not as much as the R form alone. Eventually, pure R-Lipoic Acid became more available to researchers, and scientists discovered that it is a better form of the nutrient, all around, which makes it the logical choice as a dietary supplement.

Pure R-Lipoic Acid is finally available to consumers, and we are pleased to inform you about it.

What's the difference between Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) and L-Carnitine (LC)?

L-Carnitine is used by the body to transport long chain fatty acids to the mitochondria, where they are burned for energy. During this process it is converted to Acetyl-L-Carnitine. It has also been used for decades as a supplement for its important role in fat metabolism and heart health.

This has caused confusion both among consumers and supplement companies as to which product is best to take, or if both must be taken together. Although these compounds can have some similar effects, they are not interchangeable. To begin with, high levels of L-Carnitine can actually reduce the amount of Acetyl-L-Carnitine that penetrates into the brain or counteract its effect on nerve cells. Also, much of the ALC we take is converted in the body to LC during its metabolism, giving us the benefits of both. Lastly, in some studies, L-Carnitine has not been shown to have the same stimulating effect on mitochondrial energy production as ALC. So, in the end, it seems prudent to get our body's L-Carnitine and ALC from daily Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplementation.

The recent groundbreaking study of combining R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine

In the late 1990s, Dr. Bruce Ames and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley began examining the effects of combining R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.1 

The research showed that the R form is more effective at promoting energy production, chelating metals, preventing cataract formation, and increasing glucose uptake into cells. This initial research set the stage for Dr. Ames' team to continue with their groundbreaking studies which showed that the combination of R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine:

  1. Could significantly improve metabolic function, but at the same time lower oxidative stress and free radical production
  2. Restored age-related enzyme dysfunction of a key mitochondria enzyme used in energy production, while lowering free radical damage and improving mitochondria function
  3. Improved memory in old rats

These studies concluded that the combination of R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine is indeed complementary, raising mitochondria function while lowering free radical production.

Thus, it appears that the combination of R-Lipoic Acid and ALC may be the first nutritional supplement proven to significantly reverse signs of aging on a molecular level. While scientists have many years ahead of them determining the exact mechanisms of how ALC and R-Lipoic acid work their magic, the combination of these nutritional supplements is available today for everyone who wants to keep their dietary supplement program at the cutting edge of nutrition and anti-aging research.

10 Tips for Healthy Aging

  1. Add R-Lipoic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine to your daily regimen
  2. Eat five helpings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Get regular health check-ups.
  5. Quit smoking, if you haven't already.
  6. Practice safety habits at home to prevent fractures and falls. Always wear a seatbelt in the car.
  7. Maintain contact with family and friends. Stay active through work, play and your community.
  8. Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold.
  9. Limit your consumption of alcohol to one drink a day.
  10. Don't worry, be happy. Do things that bring pleasure to your life and avoid stress.

Editor's Note:

The natural health solutions described in these article are available through many on-line retailers including those listed below. By clicking these links you help support the important alternative health research we provide.

Visit NutriStand – The Nutrition Newsstand from the Supplement Man for Science-Based Nutritional Supplements!

Visit International Antiaging-Systems for hard to find therapies. They specialize in Tomorrow's Treatments Today™.

Visit – a great way to find competitive deals on supplements offered by many different manufacturers.

Visit VitaE8 - The Ultimate Vitamin E – to learn more about the importance of full-spectrum vitamin E supplements.

These articles are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.


  1. Ames, Bruce, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Feb. 19, 2002, 99, 4:2356-61, 2002, 99, 4:1876-81, 2002, 99, 4:1870-5, 2002

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