What Is Vitamin N?

Dan Harkins

Vitamin N may be a nickname for the Nicotine people often feel they need to make their bodies work or for the Nature that is coveted by anyone cooped up inside all day. What vitamin N really is, however, is another name for alpha-lipoic or thioctic acid — a versatile antioxidant produced by humans to ward off free radicals in the bloodstream and promote cell creation throughout the body. Some also suspect it bumps up energy by helping the body metabolize carbohydrates.

Broccoli is a good source of lipoic acid.
Broccoli is a good source of lipoic acid.

A popular medicine worldwide, thioctic acid is used to treat a range of ailments or diseases. Doctors prescribe alpha-lipoic acid supplements for eye problems like glaucoma or cataracts. In countries like Germany, doctors also prescribe it to treat the symptoms of diabetes. As an alternative remedy, many buy vitamin N supplements as another way to boost the body's immune response and fight the ravages of many problems — from chronic fatigue to the AIDS virus. This chemical can sometimes be found in weight-lifting supplements as another means to potentially boost energy and new muscle growth. Since alpha-lipoic levels reportedly decrease with age, it can also be found in some anti-aging remedies, which attempt to optimize conditions for the processing of other needed chemicals like vitamins C and E.

The many potential uses for this chemical may lead some to believe that all the claims are false. WebMD&reg does list alpha-lipoic acid as possibly effective for treating the pain specific to diabetes; however, there is insufficient evidence in 2011 to prove the effectiveness of vitamin N for other ailments. Taking supplements by mouth or rubbing it as a cream into the skin to increase the body's level of alpha-lipoic acid appears to be safe, though, with certain exceptions.

Pregnant women are often advised to abstain from the chemical to be safe, as are those undergoing treatment for thyroid disorders. Some chemotherapy medications also may adversely react with alpha-lipoic acid. Since this chemical decreases blood sugar, diabetics must have their medications adjusted to compensate for this change. Those with low thiamine levels, particularly regular alcohol drinkers, are advised to take a thiamine supplement, especially if artificially increasing the body's alpha-lipoic acid levels.

Prescribed at no more than 0.04 oz (or 1,200 mg) daily to diabetes patients, vitamin N also is available at high levels in certain foods. Vegetables like broccoli, spinach and collard greens are rich in lipoic acid. Red meats like steak and liver also contain high levels of the chemical.

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