INGREDIENTS & RESEARCH

Alpha Lipoic Acid

BACKGROUND

Ingredient Type: Constituent (natural fatty acid) 

Also Known As: ALA, Thioctic acid, R Alpha-lipoic acid 

Alpha lipoic acid is a compound made in the body which has antioxidant properties.  It works to facilitate many complex systems that convert nutrients into energy and promote cell detoxification (1).

Alpha lipoic acid (also known as ALA) is an endogenous dithiol antioxidant and is naturally synthesized in the body.  Experts suggest that, due to its hydrophilic and lipophilic properties, alpha lipoic acid provides protection from oxidizing processes in a wide range of physiological conditions.  It is an essential cofactor for mitochondrial bioenergetic enzymes.  According to secondary sources, food sources rich in alpha-lipoic acid include spinach, broccoli, and yeast (particularly brewer's yeast) (2).

According to experts, in 1957, Reed and coworkers first isolated alpha lipoic acid as a catalytic agent associated with pyruvate dehydrogenase.  It was not, however, determined to be a vitamin, as it is synthesized in vivo in both animals and humans.  In 1959, Rosenberg first discovered the antioxidant property of alpha-lipoic acid.  He demonstrated a beneficial effect of ALA to animals with experimental scurvy or vitamin E deficiency (3).

According to secondary sources, alpha-lipoic acid is also known as the "universal oxidant."  Information from these sources suggests that it has been used in Europe, especially Germany, for decades.  It is most commonly used there to treat neurological complications, including diabetic neuropathy (4).

 

TRADITIONAL USES 

Alpha lipoic acid is used in health supplements today to help support healthy blood sugar balance and as an antioxidant to promote healthy cell and tissue function throughout the body (5).

Orally, alpha lipoic acid is used for diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, cardiac autonomic neuropathy, retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.  Alpha lipoic acid is also used orally for dementia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), HIV/AIDS, cancer, liver disease, Wilson's disease, cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), intermittent claudication, Lyme disease, and lactic acidosis caused by inborn errors of metabolism (6).

 

WHAT DOES SCIENCE TELL US?

  ALA Might Help Improve Blood Glucose: 

Alpha lipoic acid used orally or intravenously seems to improve insulin sensitivity, fasting blood glucose levels, and glucose disposal in patients with type 2 diabetes (1,2,3,4,5,6).

Even More:

Coming soon

 

SAFETY

Considered safe when used orally and appropriately.  Oral alpha lipoic acid has been used safely in clinical trials lasting from 4 months to 4 years (6).

 

REFERENCES

  1. Konrad T, Vicini P, Kusterer K, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid treatment decreases serum lactate and pyruvate concentrations and improves glucose effectiveness in lean and obese patients with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1999;22:280-287. doi:10.2337/diacare.22.2.280.
  2. Jacob S, Henriksen EJ, Tritschler HJ, et al. Improvement of insulin-stimulated glucose-disposal in type 2 diabetes after repeated parenteral administration of thioctic acid. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabet. 1996;104:284-288. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1211455.
  3. Jacob S, Henriksen EJ, Schiemann AL, et al. Enhancement of glucose disposal in patients with type 2 diabetes by alpha-lipoic acid. Arzneimittelforschung. 1995;45:872-874.
  4. Jacob S, Ruus P, Hermann R, et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled, pilot trial. Free Rad Biol Med. 1999;27:309-314. doi:10.1016/S0891-5849(99)00089-1.
  5. Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21.
  6. Ansar H, Mazloom Z, Kazemi F, Hejazi N. Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on blood glucose, insulin resistance and glutathione peroxidase of type 2 diabetic patients. Saudi Med J. 2011;32(6):584-588.

See the Michigan Medicine Health Library entry for alpha lipoic acid or the Examine.com entry for alpha lipoic acid for more information.