Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid that your body produces naturally. Its primary function is to use oxygen to convert blood sugar (glucose) into energy, a process known as aerobic metabolism. ALA is also an antioxidant, which means it neutralises harmful compounds known as free radicals that cause genetic damage to cells. 1
ALA is produced by your body, but it is also obtained from certain foods and as a supplement. ALA supplements are marketed for a variety of health conditions, but there is little evidence to back up their use.
This article discusses the potential applications of ALA as well as its side effects and potential interactions.
Lipoic acid is the active ingredient.
Alternative name(s): thioctic acid, lipoid acid
In general, 600 to 1,200 milligrammes (mg) per day is recommended.
Considerations for safety: It is generally safe, though it may interfere with some medications and cause mild gastrointestinal side effects.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Applications
A healthcare provider should evaluate and approve supplement use. No dietary supplement is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
Many integrative medicine practitioners believe that ALA can help prevent or manage a variety of health problems, including alcoholic liver disease, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, erectile dysfunction, and others. There is currently little evidence to back up any of these claims.
The majority of ALA research has focused on the treatment of diabetes and nerve pain. The following are some of the potential applications for ALA.
ALA may help with glucose control by increasing blood sugar metabolism. This could aid in the management of diabetes, a disease characterised by high blood glucose levels.
A 2018 meta-analysis of 20 randomised controlled trials examined the use of ALA in people with metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes. ALA supplementation reduced fasting blood glucose, insulin concentration, insulin resistance, and haemoglobin A1C levels, according to the findings. 2 Your haemoglobin A1C level represents your three-month average blood sugar.
According to a 2019 review, ALA reduced fasting blood glucose and A1C levels.
3 A more recent systematic review, however, discovered that ALA supplementation reduced insulin and insulin resistance but did not lower A1C levels.
If you have diabetes and are thinking about taking ALA, consult with your doctor to see if it is right for you.
Key Elements in Diabetes Management and Prevention
Pain in the Nerves
The medical term for pain, numbness, and abnormal sensations caused by nerve damage is neuropathic pain. The damage is frequently caused by chronic diseases that place oxidative stress on the nerves, such as:
Failure of the kidneys
The Lyme disease
A 2021 clinical trial discovered that people with pain from unknown causes reported less severe pain scores when they took 400 milligrammes to 800 milligrammes of an oral ALA supplement compared to those who took a placebo.
In people with diabetic neuropathy, a potentially debilitating condition experienced by people with advanced diabetes, ALA may also have antioxidant effects.
A review of Dutch studies found that a daily 600 milligramme intravenous dose of ALA given for three weeks reduced neuropathic pain.
6 Another study discovered that daily intravenous doses ranging from 300 to 600 milligrammes for two to four weeks were safe and improved neuropathy symptoms. 7 The results, however, cannot be applied to taking oral supplements because the doses were administered intravenously.
What Are the Best Nerve Pain Medications?
Loss of Weight
Many diet gurus and supplement manufacturers have exaggerated ALA’s ability to boost calorie burning and promote weight loss. Furthermore, much of the research on ALA supplementation for weight loss is preliminary and lacks firm conclusions.
According to a 2017 review of studies conducted by Yale University, ALA supplements in doses ranging from 300 milligrammes to 1,800 milligrammes daily helped prompt an average weight loss of 2.8 pounds when compared to a placebo.
8 Another review of studies published in 2018 found that ALA resulted in greater weight loss than placebo. The average weight loss, however, was only 1.5 pounds.
An additional meta-analysis published in 2020 discovered that ALA treatment significantly reduced body mass index and weight loss by about 5 pounds when compared to a placebo.
While these three systematic reviews provide some promising evidence, the study methods used in the individual studies varied greatly. As a result, drawing firm conclusions from them is difficult.
The reviews discovered a statistically significant difference in weight loss between the treatment and placebo groups.
BMI (Body Mass Index)
The body mass index is the most commonly used measure to correlate weight and height (BMI). It estimates body fat using weight and height. The final number is used to classify people as underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.
However, BMI is not perfect because it does not take into account other factors that influence body composition, such as age, muscle mass, or gender. BMI calculations, for example, may overestimate body fat in athletes or the elderly. 11