Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a vitamin-like antioxidant, sometimes referred to as the “universal antioxidant” because it is soluble in both fat and water.1 ALA is manufactured in the body and is found in some foods, particularly liver and yeast.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
600 mg one to three times per day
Multiple clinical trials have found alpha-lipoic acid can slightly decrease body weight and may reduce waist circumference in people with abdominal obesity.
In a placebo-controlled trial, 360 people with obesity received 1,200 or 1,800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day or placebo for 20 weeks. The alpha-lipoic acid group experienced significantly greater weight and fat loss compared to the placebo group: the average weight loss was 6.1 pounds with 1,800 mg per day of alpha-lipoic acid, 3.3 pounds with 1,200 mg per day, and 2.1 pounds with placebo. A similar trial followed 81 participants with overweight and obesity for 24 weeks and found those taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day experienced slightly more weight and percent body fat loss compared to those given placebo. Another placebo-controlled trial included 97 women with overweight or obesity who followed a calorie-restricted diet and were given 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid or placebo daily for 10 weeks. The women who received alpha-lipoic acid lost an average of 3.3 pounds more than women who received a placebo. An eight-week cross-over design trial found 1,200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily not only led to mild weight loss but also resulted in reduced waist circumference, suggesting it may reduce the most dangerous type of body fat. Meta-analysis of multiple randomized controlled trials has further added to the evidence that alpha-lipoic acid has a small effect on short-term weight loss. Alpha-lipoic acid may even decrease weight gain associated with the use of antipsychotic medications. It is not clear how alpha-lipoic acid works, but some evidence suggests it may reduce inflammatory, appetite, and metabolic signaling.
Type 1 Diabetes
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid may improve the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy).
Alpha lipoic acid is an important nutrient for mitochondrial function. It has antioxidant properties and can act as a reducer of oxidized forms of vitamins C and E. A number of placebo-controlled clinical trials have found that supplementing with 600 to 1,200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day can improve the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy). Animal studies and early clinical research suggest alpha-lipoic acid may also help prevent diabetes-related damage to the small blood vessels and nerves in the eyes (diabetic retinopathy).
Type 2 Diabetes
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Taking alpha lipoic acid may improve insulin sensitivity and help protect against diabetic complications such as nerve damage.
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful natural antioxidant that protects blood vessels and other tissues from free radical damage. Numerous clinical trials have been conducted to examine its effects in people with type 2 diabetes. The strongest evidence for its beneficial effects comes from trials in subjects with diabetes-related nerve complications (neuropathy). One placebo-controlled trial monitored 460 participants with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and mild to moderate polyneuropathy taking 600 mg per day of alpha lipoic acid or placebo for four years. Those taking alpha lipoic acid had significantly reduced symptoms and progression of neuropathy. In addition, clinical research suggests that alpha lipoic acid may improve insulin sensitivity, blood glucose control, and lipid metabolism, support weight loss, and reduce the impacts of diabetic complications such as retinopathy (damage to the retina in the eye), nephropathy (kidney dysfunction), and erectile dysfunction. Studies reporting benefits have generally used doses ranging from 600 to 1,200 mg of alpha lipoic acid per day.
600 mg per day
In a small double-blind trial, supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks.
In a small double-blind trial, supplementation with 600 mg of once a day for three months significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks. However, this improvement was not statistically significant when compared with the change in the placebo group. Additional research is needed to determine whether alpha-lipoic acid is effective for preventing migraines.
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Alpha-lipoic acid may reduce symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and may work best in combination with medical treatment for neuropathy. Its possible benefit in chemotherapy-induced neuropathy needs further investigation.
Several controlled trials have found intravenous alpha-lipoic acid can reduce symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy; however, the effect of oral alpha-lipoic acid is still unclear. Preliminary research has suggested the benefits of supplementing with oral alpha-lipoic acid may be too small to be meaningful, yet one uncontrolled trial found 600 mg of lipoic acid daily for 40 days relieved symptoms and improved quality of life in people with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Other clinical trials have shown alpha-lipoic acid may enhance the efficacy of conventional therapies. A meta-analysis of 20 studies with a combined total of 1,894 subjects with diabetic neuropathy found epalrestat plus alpha-lipoic acid was more effective for reducing symptoms and improving nerve function than either therapy alone. Other meta-analyses have had similar findings.
In a placebo-controlled trial that included data from 70 cancer patients being treated with cisplatin or oxaliplatin, taking 600 mg of lipoic acid three times daily for 24 weeks had no impact on neuropathy. A preliminary trial in multiple myeloma patients being treated with bortezomib, a combination of 600 mg alpha-lipoic acid plus 400 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 60 mg of vitamin C, and 10 mg (15 IU) of vitamin E twice daily for six months appeared to prevent the onset and worsening of neuropathic pain. More research is needed to determine whether alpha-lipoic acid can protect nerves against damage induced by certain chemotherapy agents.
Refer to label instructions
In one study, supplementing with a combination of antioxidants including alpha-lipoic acid increased the effectiveness of ultraviolet light therapy.
In a double-blind trial, supplementation with antioxidants for two months before and for six months during treatment with narrowband ultraviolet B light increased the effectiveness of the ultraviolet light therapy. The antioxidant supplement contained daily 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid, 100 mg of vitamin C, 40 IU of vitamin E, and 100 mg of cysteine.
Refer to label instructions
Alpha lipoic acid may improve visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.
(150 mg per day for one month) improves visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.
Refer to label instructions
In one trial, a combination of alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium led to significant improvements in liver function and overall health in people with hepatitis C.
A potent antioxidant combination may protect the liver from damage in people with hepatitis C, possibly decreasing the necessity for a liver transplant. In a preliminary trial, three people with liver cirrhosis and esophageal varices (dilated veins in the esophagus that can rupture and cause fatal bleeding) caused by hepatitis C received a combination of (300 mg twice daily), silymarin (from milk thistle; 300 mg three times daily), and selenium (selenomethionine; 200 mcg twice daily). After five to eight months of therapy that included other “supportive supplements,” such as vitamin C and B vitamins, all three people had significant improvements in their liver function and overall health. Larger clinical trials are needed to confirm these promising preliminary results.
How It Works
How to Use It
The amount of alpha lipoic acid used in research to improve diabetic neuropathies is 800 mg per day and 150 mg per day for glaucoma. However, much lower amounts, such as 20–50 mg per day, are recommended by some doctors for general antioxidant protection, although there is no clear evidence that such general use has any benefit.
Where to Find It
The body makes small amounts of alpha lipoic acid. There is only limited knowledge about the food sources of this nutrient. However, foods that contain mitochondria (a specialized component of cells), such as red meats, are believed to provide the most alpha lipoic acid. Supplements are also available.
Although alpha lipoic acid was thought to be a vitamin when it was first discovered, subsequent research determined that it is created in the human body—and thus is not an essential nutrient. For this reason, deficiencies of alpha lipoic acid are not known to occur in humans.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Chronic administration of alpha lipoic acid in animals has interfered with the actions of the vitamin, biotin. Whether this has significance for humans remains unknown.2
Interactions with Medicines
1. Kagan V, Khan S, Swanson C, et al. Antioxidant action of thioctic acid and dihydrolipoic acid. Free Radic Biol Med 1990;9S:15.
2. Zempleni J, Trusty TA, Mock DM. Lipoic acid reduces the activities of biotin-dependent carboxylases in rat liver. J Nutr 1997;127:1776-81.
Last Review: 05-23-2015
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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2022.