The first use of alpha lipoic acid was as a growth factor for bacteria. Its antioxidant properties were recognized relatively late, in the 1980’s. Dubbed a “universal antioxidant” for its solubility in both fat and water and its wide range of action, alpha lipoic acid also acts as a cofactor (enzyme helper) for various enzymes involved in energy production, and carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
Because of its impressively diverse mode of action, alpha lipoic acid has become ubiquitously present in various products, from skin care creams to anti-aging supplements. Clinically, alpha lipoic acid is employed to alleviate complications of diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic Acid for Diabetic Neuropathy and Glycemic Control
Chronic high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) in diabetes can lead to complications such as kidney and eye disease, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can lead to a host of problems, ranging from pain and numbness in feet and arms to heart disorders and urinary incontinence. In clinical trials, alpha lipoic acid has shown efficacy in reducing the neuropathic pain and numbness associated with nerve damage.
Although extensive evidence exists for the important role alpha-lipoic acid plays in the glucose utilization in cells, only a few small studies investigating this have been performed in human subjects. These studies show the potential of alpha-lipoic acid as an anti-hyperglycemic agent.
Alpha-lipoic acid in Metabolic Syndrome
A few small studies have reported beneficial effects of alpha lipoic acid in regulating insulin sensitivity. Oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg twice a day) for 4 weeks led to the improvement of insulin sensitivity in a small group of patients with type 2 diabetes. At the end of the treatment period, insulin sensitivity measured in diabetic patients receiving alpha lipoic acid was significantly higher than in non-treated patients and similar to the subjects with normal glucose tolerance.
In combination with inositol, an important signaling molecule also known to improve insulin sensitivity, alpha-lipoic acid reduced insulin resistance and improved lipid profile in postmenopausal women affected by metabolic syndrome.
How to use
A clinical trial, SYDNEY II, found that the oral dose of 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 5 weeks significantly reduced the symptoms of neuropathy. Larger doses, 1200 mg and 1800 mg, did not result in better outcomes.
It is best to take alpha lipoic acid 30 minutes before breakfast, to prevent a possible decrease in its bioavailability caused by food.
Alpha-lipoic acid has strong metal binding properties. If you are taking any metal containing supplements (iron, magnesium, chromium, calcium, selenium) take them independently of alpha lipoic acid to avoid a reduction in the supplements' efficacy.
A number of clinical trials have shown that moderate dose (600 mg daily) of alpha lipoic acid does not result in serious adverse effects. The most common side effects, observed mostly with higher doses, are skin allergies, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea.
As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with the action of certain chemotherapy drugs. Consult your oncologist before starting alpha lipoic acid supplementation.
Because alpha-lipoic acid might have anti-hyperglycemic action, if you are taking any other medication that lowers blood glucose, check your glucose levels regularly to minimize the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).
Although more studies are needed to confirm the results, alpha lipoic acid showed promise with:
Alpha-lipoic acid supplements
Alpha-lipoic acid can be found in R and S forms (structures). Although R-alpha-lipoic acid is the only naturally occurring form, most of the clinical trials evaluated the 50-50 R/S mixture.
Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are available both as the R/S mixture and as the stabilized R only form. R-alpha-lipoic acid has to be stabilized as it readily polymerizes to form an insoluble solid at temperatures higher than 104 F (40 C).
Superior labs Alpha-lipoic Acid, R and S mixture
Pure Encapsulations Alpha-lipoic acid, R and S mixture
Thorne Research R-lipoic acid
Geranova Research R-lipoic acid
Last updated: October 23, 2017