Expert Discussion: ALCAR with ALA by Jerry Hickey, R. Ph
Jerry Hickey is a pharmacist and radio personality and fills the esteemed role of Scientific Director and President of Invite Health. He has spent his professional life analyzing nutritional information and medical studies with the aim of creating the highest quality and most natural nutraceuticals for user’s maximum health benefits. Here, Jerry speaks about the benefits of ALCAR with ALA or Acetyl-L-Carnitine & Alpha-Lipoic Acid…
What are the benefits of ALCAR with ALA?
Here are some studies that are very good because they discuss two nutrients that are natural to your body. They are native to your body, but decrease with age and when they decrease, a lot of things can go wrong. For instance, you tend to gain weight around your mid-section, you tend to become fatigued, your blood sugar can begin to rise, and this is due to a lack of something called ALCAR with ALA. They’re involved in the energy pathways of the body. As you get older, the energy pathways become blocked up. According to the research, when you take these two nutrients, they counterbalance that and your metabolism comes back online and you start to generate more energy and feel better. There have been a slew of these studies where these nutrients have helped with both mental health and nerve health.
The NATHAN 1 trial took a look at individuals with diabetic nerve damage. This is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy or sometimes poly neuropathy because it’s happening in many places at once. What they found was when they gave people just one of these ingredients called ALA (the abbreviation of alpha-lipoic acid), it improved the function of the nerves on seven different nerve tests. This was important because it was also decreasing nerve pain. Generally, when drugs are given for nerve pain or nerve damage, they generally help with pain, but don’t have the ability to help with the function to repair the nerve. So this particular supplement was looked at in a NATHAN 1 trial and it was helping nerve pain and helping the nerve function. Muscle weakness improved and the pain and tingling associate with neuropathy in the legs improved as well. The diabetic peripheral neuropathy was not worsening. In fact, leg function improved and the result of this trial was very good.
In the European Journal of Endocrinology, they analyzed 15 different human clinical trials. Patients with nerve pain were given alpha-lipoic acid which helped and made them more comfortable with less tingling, and pain running up and down their arms and their feet. And not only did it help with the nerve pain, it was improving the nerve health that in turn was helping protect and rejuvenate nerve tissue. This is a very important finding because, in general, medical doctors are not familiar with alpha-lipoic acid. In fact, I bought a textbook, Neurology for Non-Neurologist (for an internist or an ophthalmologist) and they had a section on alpha-lipoic acid in their chapter on nerve pain. I was surprised to see that.
Burning mouth syndrome is another neuropathy (damage to nerves) inside the mouth. When they gave afflicted individuals alpha-lipoic acid, it reduced this pain. It was actually helping the healing process. And I’m going to read you one last one because it applies to a lot of us. It has to do with severe back pain that runs down the thigh, runs down the gluteus maximus; you know that big muscle on the butt and it runs down the leg that’s called sciatica. It’s from the Gaetano Orthopedic Institute that’s in Milan, Italy and it’s in the journal Clinical Drug Investigation. So they took 64 patients with severe back pain that was causing them bouts of sciatica. In other words, there was a problem with the discs in their lumbar spine. They’re kind of out of place, bulging and compressing the nerve root, the motor nerve that runs down the leg called the sciatic nerve and it’s a world of hurt. They’re in a lot of pain, burning, terrible pain. They were given either one of these supplements.
So, this is a study on patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease. Now, mild cognitive impairment is the stage before Alzheimer’s disease. And if you look at a functional MRI you would see that pre-frontal lobe (the part of the brain involve with memory and thinking, executive and cognitive skills) is shrinking and that there’s a noticeable lack in memory. Their family notices it. Their kids notice it. Their co-workers notice it. Their wives and husbands notice it. It’s called mild cognitive impairment and it’s the stage before you slide into early stage mild Alzheimer’s disease.
In this 12-week study, people with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment received ALCAR with ALA for nerve health, for shingles pain and sciatica and diabetic polyneuropathy or peripheral neuropathy. Here we’re talking about it with memory improvement. During this trial there was a notable improvement of cognitive function in a battery of neuropsychological tests. Even their mini-mental state exam improved. The mini-mental state exam is 20 questions and tasks, easy tasks, you know like putting the cubes in the right spot, et cetera, that you give people and to see if they’re already starting to develop some level of dementia. With this it can be judged if and how quickly the dementia is worsening and how severe the dementia is and if drugs or diet or supplements or exercise or something else is slowing it down. So in this trial, when they gave the patients with the pre-Alzheimer’s condition called mild cognitive impairment ALCAR it was actually slowing down the condition and improving their memory and their mental functions.
Also here is a study done by the University of California, Itvine School of Medicine of 30 former NFL football players. They had problem, they had concussions and they had brain injuries. So they were acting out, they were becoming aggressive, they were becoming emotional, they were becoming depressed, their memory suffered and they just weren’t functioning well. So 30 former retired NFL players who had a series of concussions were put on a cocktail of nutrients like fish oils and a multivitamin and the ALCAR with ALA. Over the course of the study ALCAR with ALA provided a statistically significant, real-world improvement in their scores for attention, memory, reasoning, information processing speed as well as accuracy in a battery of tests for mental, brain and executive functions. The MRI brain scans showed improved circulation and health of the brain; the nutrients improved their cognitive skills for patients with traumatic injuries. Now, this has implications also for soldiers who were hurt. Anybody who has had a concussion, anybody who has had the brain injury, there is room for improvement there.
They gave patients with sciatica caused by a slipped disc either ALCAR or ALA or a placebo. The ALA not only helps with the nerve pain and symptoms, it also improved nerve function; it was healing the nerves. Something once again you don’t see with the drugs, you don’t see healing. You just see a diminution of the nerve pain. ALCAR helped as much as ALA, but here was the difference: 45% of the patients on ALCAR were able to decrease their pain medication. That’s a good finding because some of those pain medications, in fact all of them, have side effects. So 45% of the patients on ALCAR could decrease their pain medication, 71% of the patients on ALA could decrease their medication.
Here’s what you could discuss with your neurologist, immunologist or whatever kind of doctor you’re seeing. If you have nerve pain, regardless of what it’s caused by, it could be an accident, it could be surgery, maybe they just made a mistake when they did some work in your mouth, maybe you have trigeminal neuralgia in your jaw, maybe you have diabetic nerve pain in the feet, maybe you have sciatica going down your leg and nerve pain in the back, or maybe it was herpes zoster, from when you had chicken pox as a kid and it came back later on when your immune system is impacted and not working well. Maybe you had shingles and the doctor puts you on anti-viral medication, which gets the virus under control since it can’t actually leave your body. It exists in your body in a low titer and when your immune system is suppressed it comes back and it gets you. Either way, the nerve pain can last the rest of your life. ALCAR with ALA is something you can look at for shingles, it really has an effect. So that’s the story and I’m going to stick by it.