Diabetes is becoming more and more common, and its complications can be severe. Natural strategies that improve blood sugar and protect against oxidative stress offer hope for people with diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Lipoic acid is widely known for its potent antioxidant properties, as well as a number of unique properties.
Lipoic acid is registered as a medicinal drug in a number of European countries, where it is used to treat problems linked to diabetes, alcoholism, and various liver conditions.2,3 Therefore, it is an important part of any knowledgeable person’s healthcare routine.
New research has found that lipoic acid may be helpful in treating glaucoma, migraine, stroke, and bone health problems.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Alpha lipoic acid has many benefits beyond maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and reducing oxidative stress. These benefits include promoting better eye health, offering neuroprotection, preserving bone density, chelating metals, preventing migraines, and maintaining healthy skin. This supplement is regulated as a drug in several European countries, but it is available as a supplement in the United States.
Uses of Alpha-Lipoic Acid
The use of supplements should be determined on an individual basis and approved by a healthcare provider. No supplement is supposed to help with treating, curing, or preventing diseases.
Some integrative medicine healthcare providers claim that ALA might help with some health issues, such as alcoholic liver disease, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, erectile dysfunction, and others. So far, no concrete evidence has been found to back up any of these assertions.
Studies on ALA have largely focused on its role in managing diabetes and nerve pain. ALA may potentially be used to treat the following conditions.
Protection Against Oxidative Stress
Diabetes is partly caused by oxidative stress and the resulting production of free radicals. These free radicals are present in the body and can damage tissues. People with diabetes typically have high levels of glucose in their blood, which makes them more susceptible to oxidative stress. This stress can contribute to the long-term complications associated with the disease.
The damage caused by free radicals can be prevented by antioxidants such as lipoic acid. This is because lipoic acid can neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.3,4 Lipoic acid is an unusual antioxidant because it can act in both water-soluble and fat-soluble domains in cells and tissues. This molecule is easily absorbed and transported into many organs and systems within the body due to its qualities, such as the brain, liver, and nerves. In contrast to antioxidants like vitamin C, which isn’t very lipid-soluble and therefore can’t penetrate the lipid cell membranes well, or vitamin E, which isn’t very water-soluble, this antioxidant is able to penetrate cell membranes well. If you take lipoic acid with other antioxidants, it will help your body fight free radicals better. Additionally, lipoic acid has been shown to help the body recycle glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Lipoic acid has been shown to help regenerate vitamins C and E, as well as help the body recycle glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.
Lipoic acid doesn’t just help the body’s other important antioxidants; it magnifies their effects. It also helps the body turn food into stored energy. Lipoic acid protects mitochondria from damage, ensuring that energy production in the body is efficient.
Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
There is a lot of evidence that lipoic acid is important for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, helping the body use glucose, supporting insulin sensitivity, and improving cardiovascular health.
A just-released review of experimental studies showed that lipoic acid can help relieve several components of metabolic syndrome, which often precedes full-blown type 2 diabetes. This review suggests that lipoic acid may help to improve several conditions, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol. Additionally, lipoic acid may also help to promote weight loss. Lipoic acid is a promising treatment for metabolic syndrome, according to scientists.
Additionally, a study of 36 patients with coronary artery disease found that a combination of lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine reduced blood pressure and improved the function of the brachial artery. This combination of nutrients may be an effective way to support healthy blood pressure levels, especially for people with metabolic syndrome.
Last year, investigators revealed that administering lipoic acid dramatically improves insulin sensitivity in overweight adults suffering from type 2 diabetes. Lipoic acid showed significant improvements in only four weeks of supplementation. This means that the findings could have a big impact as insulin resistance is the main cause of type 2 diabetes.
Although diabetes may cause complications, lipoic acid can still be helpful. A study has found that the treatment is effective for diabetic neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage that is caused by high glucose levels in the blood damaging the nerves. Diabetic neuropathy is characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain best described as “burning” in the extremities.
A large study with 328 patients who had type 2 diabetes showed that lipoic acid improved symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, including burning, tingling, itching, and pain.9 This early study used intravenous infusions of lipoic acid, but later research has shown that oral lipoic acid supplements are also effective. Just five weeks of supplementation with lipoic acid significantly improved the stabbing pain, burning pain, and numbness of the feet in patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy, with the dose-effectiveness range being 600-1,800 mg of lipoic acid dosed orally per day. The dose of R-lipoic acid to achieve this effect in diabetics would be half this amount since it is the “R” form of lipoic acid that is biologically active in the body.
Promoting Better Eye Health
Lipoic acid offers promise in supporting optimal visual health.
As people get older, they become more likely to develop cataracts, a condition where the lens of the eye becomes opaque and causes cloudy vision. One of the issues involved in cataract formation is oxidative stress in the eye’s lens. Lipoic acid was found to prevent cataract formation in an experimental animal model. Scientists believe that lipoic acid may confer this benefit by increasing levels of essential endogenous antioxidant enzymes by working as a coenzyme.
Another common cause of vision loss is glaucoma. A study found that 75 mg of lipoic acid daily for two months, or 150 mg of lipoic acid daily for one month, improved visual function and other measures of glaucoma compared to a control group that received no lipoic acid.
Additionally, a study found that lipoic acid and vitamin E together prevented retinal cell death in animals with retinitis pigmentosa, which is an eye disease that affects humans as well. Although there is no current medical treatment that can prevent retinitis pigmentosa from damaging one’s vision, the recent discovery of a nutritional approach to treatment is very encouraging.
Nerve damage can cause pain, numbness, and other abnormal sensations. The damage is often caused by oxidative stress placed on the nerves by chronic diseases like:
An oral supplement of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) was found to reduce the severity of pain in people with unexplained pain in a clinical trial published in 2021. 400-800mg of ALA was found to be the most effective dose, compared to a placebo.
A review of studies showed that a daily 600 milligrams intravenous dose of ALA, given over three weeks, reduced neuropathic pain. According to another review, it is safe to take 300 to 600 milligrams of a substance intravenously every day for two to four weeks, and doing so can improve neuropathy symptoms. The results of the study can’t be applied to taking oral supplements since the doses were provided intravenously.
The ability of ALA to promote weight loss and calorie burning has been overstated by many diet experts and supplement manufacturers. Much of the research done on using ALA as a supplement to lose weight is only in the beginning stages and does not provide any solid conclusions.
9 A study from Yale in 2017 found that ALA, in doses from 300mg to 1800mg, caused an average weight loss of 2.8 pounds compared to a placebo group. Another study from 2018 found that, compared to a placebo group, ALA caused more weight loss. However, the average weight loss was only 1.5 pounds.9
An extra meta-analysis published in 2020 found that handling with ALA significantly limited body mass index and weight by about 5 pounds when compared to a placebo.
Therefore, the findings of the reviews should be interpreted with caution. The findings of these reviews should be interpreted with caution because the study methods varied greatly among the individual studies. Since the data is inconclusive, it is difficult to come to a definite conclusion.
The reviews discovered that the treatment group lost a statistically significant amount of weight when compared to the placebo group.
It has long been believed that ALA influences weight and health by altering the lipid (fat) composition in the blood. This means improving your “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels while reducing your “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, recent research suggests this may not be so.
The study found that 180 Korean adults who were given 1,200 to 1,800 milligrams of ALA lost 21% more weight than the placebo group after 20 weeks. Despite taking ALA supplements, the participants did not see any reductions in their total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, or triglyceride levels. In fact, higher doses of ALA were linked to increases in total cholesterol and LDL in study participants. A study conducted in 2019 found that there were no improvements in serum lipids when using ALA.
There is evidence that ALA can reduce the levels of markers for inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, interleukin-, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. If you have high levels of C-reactive protein, it means you have a higher risk of developing heart disease.
4 ALA supplementation significantly reduces markers for heart disease. This was found in a 2019 review and again in a 2020 study.
What Are the Side Effects of Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
When used as directed, ALA is considered safe. This applies to taking it as an oral supplement or using it as a topical cream. One FDA report found that it is “safe, effective, and stable” when given intravenously.
The report states that there are no harmful effects associated with taking alpha-lipoic acid. However, some people may experience some side effects, including:
- Low blood sugar
- Rash (when using an ALA cream or ointment)
Since ALA is an acid, it may cause reflux. Snacking on crackers with your medication can help with heartburn or indigestion.
Although ALA supplementation in children has not been extensively studied, some research has been conducted in this area. Therefore, it is not recommended for children.
Like many other supplements, ALA is not recommended for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding. There is not enough research to understand the effects of ALA in these groups.
Alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid found naturally in human cells. The primary role of the substance is to convert blood sugar into energy using oxygen. Many people use CBD oil to help with a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, nerve pain, weight loss, heart disease, and primary mitochondrial disorders.
The side effects of using ALA appear to be mild and only occur when too much is used. Other medications can interact with ALA supplements. It is important for a healthcare provider to know about your health before giving an opinion on whether ALA is safe for you.
More product choices are available if the supplement aisle at your favorite grocery store appears to be getting more crowded. Although this may appear to be positive, it can also be seen as negative as it provides more options and, therefore, more opportunities for indecision. Sometimes, more choices can breed confusion.
You shouldn’t expect to see results from supplements immediately, as they aren’t like prescription medication. If you notice any effect from a supplement, it is likely to be subtle, and it may take time. Although supplements may improve your health, they cannot cure diseases or provide miracles in the form of a pill. If a supplement is making a claim that sounds like it could save your life, it is probably too good to be true.