Is there any evidence that R-lipoic acid can protect us from the damaging effects of radiation?
Question: Is there any evidence that R-lipoic acid can protect us from the damaging effects of radiation?
If so, what doses would you recommend?
We have seen sharp increases in sales of R-Lipoic Acid products and requests for potassium iodide and other iodine compounds since the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and failure of the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reactors. Although the radiation levels are fluctuating widely, some estimates indicate the exposure at the plant is equal to receiving 10,000 x-rays per hour* and that the pilots dropping water from helicopters know they are potentially flying suicide missions!
Many people have been calling and asking us if R-Lipoic Acid is protective against radiation. This depends on the levels of exposure and when it is taken. Early studies showed protection in experimental animals if the treatment was given prior to exposure and very little benefit if given later. A recent study suggests that maybe these previous studies were of limited success because single antioxidants were used or that they waited too long before treatment.
The recent studies demonstrated better survival rates if an antioxidant mixture was given 24 hrs after exposure. The effective mixture included lipoic acid, CoQ10, selenomethionine, vitamin E, sodium ascorbate (water soluble) and N-acetyl cysteine [NAC] (1). The same group reported earlier success with the formula containing 2000 mg/day vitamin C, 1000 mg/day vitamin E succinate and 400 g/day selenium, representing the upper limits of the RDA. Although there is no published RDA for NAC or alpha-lipoic acid, these thiol supplements were formulated according to effective doses determined previously for humans, 2400 mg/day and 1200 mg/day, respectively (2,3).
Recent studies have shown lipoic acid could protect astronauts from space radiation (3) and protect red blood cells from gamma rays (4). All these studies used only the racemic form.
I just reviewed the study of lipoic acid and vitamin E in treatment of radiation from the Chernobyl disaster (5). Many people have heard of this groundbreaking study but few know the details. The study was conducted by Korkina & Afanas'ev. The test subjects were children (8-14 yrs old) living near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Fifty-six children were exposed to radiation in the range of 15-40 Ci/km2 likely from 137Cs (which is one of the isotopes being leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reactors) and divided into 4 groups. All of the children had enhanced levels of spontaneous chemiluminescence (CL) in isolated leukocytes, an indicator of sub-lethal but tissue damaging radiation exposure. The subjects were randomized into 4 groups. The best results were obtained with the group receiving 400 mg lipoic acid (provided by the former Asta Medica) and 200 mg Vitamin E over 28 days. The results were significant and better for the combination than either lipoic acid or vitamin E alone. Our chief medical advisor, Dr Heinz Ulrich was the head of gastroenterology at Asta Medica at the time and recalled to me the excitement they all felt when the results of the study were released. After the study they distributed lipoic acid to people living around Chernobyl. As far as I know there have been no long term follow ups on these people who would be 33-39 years old today.
After studying the mechanisms and signal transduction pathways of radiation damage, I believe R-Lipoic Acid in the form as NaRLA could be more beneficial prior to exposure (explained below) due to the higher blood levels achieved and its ability to increase endogenous defenses. Lipoic acid has been shown to be effective at preventing all of the major mediators of the genetic damage from radiation exposure. Leukocytes and bone marrow are particularly vulnerable to radiation. I’ll post all the lipoic acid-radiation references later but wanted to get this posted since we have received so many requests in the last few days.
I can offer a plausible explanation for the apparent inconsistencies in the results of the radio-protective effects of lipoic acid mentioned above and my advice for using NaRLA ALONE prior to exposure. It is known that lipoic acid can act as a pro-oxidant, inducing free radical reactions or an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals. Lipoic acid reacts in the body in a different manner depending on the redox status (the overall balance of oxidation and reduction) it encounters. Recently, Hagen’s group has shown that R-lipoic acid (S-lipoic acid was not effective) can induce the naturally protective cellular defense systems, IF taken prior to exposure of greater free radical (ROS) assaults and that this likely occurs via a pro-oxidant mechanism. They have called this phenomena “redox priming”. In other words, a minor ROS assault prior to a higher level exposure causes an adaptive response in the cell lasting up to 48 hours, paradoxically improving the overall antioxidant status and cytoprotective capacity of the cell. If this protective formula is given prior to ROS exposure the free radical scavenging effects of the other antioxidants will cancel out the benefits of R-lipoic acid by neutralizing lipoic acid induced radicals. If, on the other hand, the formula is administered after the ROS assault, it will now contribute to the free radical scavenging system. Based on this, I would suggest R-lipoic acid be taken alone up to 1200 mg (as NaRLA or K-RALA, depending on tolerability) prior to exposure and then combined with the other antioxidants subsequent to exposure.
I was just researching content for this blog and watching the CNN report on the radiation leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Anderson Cooper was interviewing an expert who said that people on the US West coast were in no danger even if there was a complete meltdown of the reactors. Then I went online and saw the news posted in the LA times claiming low level radiation could reach California by Friday March18, 2011.
I just received notice from our partners at CycloChem in Japan. The Japanese company launched R-Lipoic acid as a complex with cyclodextrin (RLA-CD) last Oct. RLA-CD is stable against heat and the acidic environment of the stomach. The bioavailability is enhanced over unstabilized R-lipoic acid and may work synergistically with NaRLA. Based on our discussions about the Chernobyl study, RLA-CD is anticipated to be very effective against radiation. The people at CycloChem are attempting to get the RLA-CD product to people near the failing nuclear plant. RLA-CD will be available in the US through GeroNova Research, Inc after current Japanese emergency needs are assessed and met.
The fact that so many Americans are ordering lipoic acid, potassium iodide/ iodoral products indicates (at least to me) they do not believe the official reports, claiming we are in no danger. When it comes down to it, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our families. I will suggest to my family and friends that they might want to increase their uptake of R-lipoic acid products over the next few days until we know we are safe from radiation.
(1) Brown SL, Kolozsvary A, Liu J, Jenrow KA, Ryu S, Kim JH. Antioxidant diet supplementation starting 24 hours after exposure reduces radiation lethality. Radiat Res. 2010 Apr;173(4):462-8.
(2) Wambi C, Sanzari J, Wan XS, Nuth M, Davis J, Ko YH, Sayers CM, Baran M, Ware JH, Kennedy AR. Dietary antioxidants protect hematopoietic cells and improve animal survival after total-body irradiation. Radiat Res. 2008 Apr;169(4):384-96.
(3) Guan J, Stewart J, Ware JH, Zhou Z, Donahue JJ, Kennedy AR. Effects of dietary supplements on the space radiation-induced reduction in total antioxidant status in CBA mice. Radiat Res. 2006 Apr;165(4):373-8.
(4) Selim NS, Desouky OS, Elbakrawy EM, Rezk RA. Electrical behavior of stored erythrocytes after exposure to gamma radiation and the role of alpha-lipoic acid as radioprotector. Appl Radiat Isot. 2010 Jun;68(6): 1018-24.
(5) Korkina LG & Afanas’ev IB. Effect of Preventive Treatment with alpha Lipoic Acid with Vitamin E on Free Radical Status of Children Exposed to Low Level Irradiation Due to Chernobyl Accident (Pilot Study). New Strategies in Prevention and Therapy. The Evolution of Antioxidanrs in Modern Medicine. Edited by Karheinz Schmidt, Anthony T. Diplock and Heinz Ulrich. Pages 43-51. Hippokrates Verlag Stuttgart (1994).
* SI unit of radiation dose equivalent is the sievert (S). CNN just reported our yearly exposure from natural radiation=~3 mS/yr. US nuclear powerplant worker receive ~45 mS/yr. Yesterday, the single day levels rose to 400 mS/day at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Short term exposure to 1000mS can cause radiation sickness.