Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant naturally produced by the body. It is made by cellular mitochondria and can be found in every cell in the body. Alpha-lipoic acid is both water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Antioxidants are essential in their role of attacking free radicals or reactive oxygen species, which are associated with various disease processes. When an antioxidant binds with a free radical, the free radical’s ability to cause cellular harm is mitigated. Many of the top supplements and health foods – including many we have covered on this site – are antioxidants.
Alpha-lipoic acid can be synthesized in the body, found in foods, or taken as a supplement. Externally, it is found in red meat, organ meats such as liver, and brewer’s yeast.
As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid is available as a supplement in tablet or capsule form. A physician may also prescribe alpha-lipoic acid in a form that can be injected intravenously into the patient.
Associated Medical Conditions
Studies suggest that alpha-lipoic acid can help the body to lower blood sugar levels. People with Type II Diabetes may have an antioxidant deficiency. Some of the oxidative and inflammatory symptoms of Type II Diabetes can be mitigated through the supplementation of antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid.
Alpha-lipoic acid has been used to treat peripheral neuropathy in Germany. However, many of the studies involving alpha-lipoic acid aren’t readily accepted by the scientific and medical communities. Many studies are poorly-designed, lack a placebo or control group, and have small sample sizes.
Autonomous Neuropathy is another condition related to Type II Diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid has been thought to mitigate this condition, which affects the nerves of internal organs.
Currently, researchers are investigating the possibility of using alpha-lipoic acid to protect brain tissue and nerve tissue. Being lipophilic, alpha-lipoic acid is easily absorbed by fatty tissues such as the brain. As an antioxidant, it may be helpful for preventing cerebrovascular events or strokes. Stroke is believed to be related to free radical damage; alpha-lipoic acid may be helpful for primary or secondary prevention.
Other preliminary studies include the use of alpha-lipoic acid as a possible treatment for glaucoma. One study used a topical cream containing a 5% solution of alpha-lipoic acid to reduce fine sun lines in aging skin. Alpha-lipoic acid is being studied for its role in cancer and erectile dysfunction as well as its ability to bind with heavy metals such as copper, mercury, arsenic, and iron.
Alpha-lipoic acid has not been tested or studies in pediatric populations. It is not recommended that children supplement their diet with alpha-lipoic acid.
For the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, a dosage of 600 mg to 800 mg daily is sometimes recommended for adults. Sources differ on the recommendation of taking alpha-lipoic acid with meals. For general antioxidant support, a dosage of between 50 mg and 100 mg daily may be recommended in adults.
Alpha-lipoic acid is available to the public over the counter in doses that often range from 30 mg to 100 mg per unit. Intravenous doses can only be administered by a physician.
There is a high potential for alpha-lipoic acid to interact with medications. For anyone on prescription medication, it is highly recommended that they talk to their doctor before starting alpha-lipoic acid.
As with most medications and supplements, alpha-lipoic acid has not been tested or studied in pregnant or breast-feeding women. Caution is recommended.
Because alpha-lipoic acid has properties that can lower blood sugar level, it is recommended that patients with diabetes monitor their glucose levels carefully.
Animal studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid can lower thiamine levels (vitamin B1). Because people with alcohol use disorder may already have a thiamine deficiency, it is recommended that supplementation only occur with careful monitoring.
Very few side effects have been reported with alpha-lipoic acid. An allergic skin reaction is the most common.
Alpha-lipoic acid has been documented to have several possible medication interactions:
Diabetes medications: Alpha-lipoic acid may further lower blood sugar.
Chemotherapy medications. Alpha-lipoic acid may interact with chemotherapy drugs, many of which work through mechanisms involving oxidation or oxidative stress.
Thyroid medication: Alpha-lipoic acid may reduce the levels of thyroid hormone.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Alpha-lipoic acid may reduce vitamin B1. Individuals with thiamine deficiency or alcohol use disorder should avoid alpha-lipoic acid in supplement form.