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Alpha Lipoic Acid


What does alpha lipoic acid do?

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.


ALA is capable of regenerating several other antioxidants back to their active states, including vitamin C,23 glutathione,4 and coenzyme Q10.5 vitamin E,


ALA has several potential benefits for people with diabetes. It enhances glucose uptake in type 2 (adult onset or non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, inhibits glycosylation (the abnormal attachment of sugar to protein), and has been used to improve diabetic nerve damage and reduce pain associated with that nerve damage.6 Most studies have used intravenous alpha lipoic acid, but oral supplementation has nonetheless proved partially helpful in treating at least one form of diabetic neuropathy, using 800 mg per day.7


Preliminary evidence indicates that 150 mg of alpha lipoic acid, taken daily for one month, improves visual function in people with glaucoma.8


ALA has been shown to inhibit the replication of the HIV virus in the test tube; however, it is not known whether supplementing with ALA would benefit HIV-infected people.9


Intravenous administration of ALA has significantly increased the survival rate of people who have eaten poisonous mushrooms.10 Such a treatment should be prescribed by a doctor and should not be attempted on one’s own.

Where is alpha lipoic acid found?

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


Rating Health Concerns

Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.


Who is likely to be deficient of alpha lipoic acid?

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.



How much alpha lipoic acid is usually taken?

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.


Are there any side effects or interactions with alpha lipoic acid?

Side effects with alpha lipoic acid are rare but can include skin rash and the potential of hypoglycemia in diabetic patients. People who may be deficient in vitamin B1 (such as alcoholics) should take vitamin B1 along with alpha lipoic acid supplements. 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.11

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with alpha lipoic acid.