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Alpha-Lipoic Acid

What is alpha-lipoic acid?

Alpha-lipoic acid or thioctic acid is a fatty acid, a nonessential nutrient that can be produced in your body, so you do not need to get it from foods in order to be healthy [1]. No symptoms of eventual alpha-lipoic acid deficiency have been described so far, and no recommended dietary intake has been set by major medical institutions.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Functions in the Human Body

Alpha-lipoic acid:

  • Contributes to the release of energy from foods [1]
  • Regenerates antioxidants, such as vitamin C and glutathione [1]

Foods High in Alpha-Lipoic Acid

  • PLANT FOODS: spinach, broccoli, potatoes [2]
  • ANIMAL FOODS: organ mats: liver, heart, kidneys [2]

Foods do not seem to be a good source of alpha-lipoic acid; in one study, meals high in alpha-lipoic acid did not significantly increase alpha-lipoic acid levels in the blood [1].

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements

Nonprescription (over-the-counter) oral supplements:

  • A racemic (50/50) mixture of R-LA and S-LA
  • R-LA

Supplements should be taken on an empty stomach (at least one hour before or two hours after the meal).

Prescription alpha-lipoic acid injections are also available.

It is not known, which supplement form is the best.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid for Diabetic Neuropathy

Intravenous injection or oral alpha-lipoic acid in a dose 600 mg/day relieved pain in diabetic neuropathy in many studies [1,5,7], but long-term effects are less convincing [4,6].

Other Alpha-Lipoic Acid Health Benefits

Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in the treatment of vitiligo [2,8]

Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are POSSIBLY INEFFECTIVE [2] in the prevention or treatment of alcoholic liver disease, altitude sickness, Alzheimer’s disease [3], diabetic retinopathy, heart-related nerve problems (cardiac autonomic neuropathy), HIV-related brain problems or in rheumatoid arthritis.

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE [1,2] about the effectiveness of alpha-lipoic acid supplements in the prevention or treatment of Amanita mushroom poisoning, aging skin (wrinkles), burning mouth syndrome, cancer, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), cognitive decline, dementia, diabetes mellitus type 2, glaucoma, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure (hypertension), HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, migraine headache, nonalcholic liver inflammation (steatohepatitis), peripheral artery disease, radiation exposure, sciatica and Wilson’s disease, or in promoting weight loss [9,10] and wound healing.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Safety: Side Effects, Toxicity

Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in appropriate doses [2].

No serious side effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplements, except allergies, have been described, so far. Alpha-lipoic acid could cause hypoglycemia in diabetic patients using insulin or oral anti-glycemic drugs [1].

Not enough is known about the safety of alpha-lipoic acid supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so women in these periods should avoid them.

  1. Alpha-lipoic acid  Linus Pauling Institute
  2. Alpha-lipoic acid uses, side effects  WebMD
  3. Klugman A et al, 2004, No evidence of efficacy of alpha lipoic acid for dementia  Cochrane
  4. Han T et al, 2012, A systematic review and meta-analysis of alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy  PubMed Health
  5. Ziegler D et al, 1997, Alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic peripheral and cardiac autonomic neuropathy  PubMed
  6. Mijnhout GS et al, 2012, Alpha Lipoic Acid for Symptomatic Peripheral Neuropathy in Patients with Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials  PubMed Central
  7. Ziegler D et al, 2006, Oral treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: the SYDNEY 2 trial  PubMed
  8. Dell’Anna et al, 2007, Antioxidants and narrow band-UVB in the treatment of vitiligo: a double-blind placebo controlled trial  PubMed
  9. Koh EH et al, 2011, Effects of alpha-lipoic Acid on body weight in obese subjects  PubMed
  10. Kim E et al, 2008, A preliminary investigation of alpha-lipoic acid treatment of antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain in patients with schizophrenia  PubMed

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