Alpha lipoic acid: benefits, side effects, dosage, interactions

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Alpha lipoic acid is a compound that occurs naturally in all cells of the human body. Its main function is to convert blood sugar (glucose) into energy using oxygen, a process called aerobic metabolism. Alpha lipoic acid is also considered an antioxidant, which means that it can neutralize harmful compounds called free radicals that damage cells at the genetic level .

The uniqueness of alpha lipoic acid is that it is soluble in both water and fat. This means that you can supply power immediately or store it for future use.

Alpha lipoic acid can also metabolize "wasted" antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and a powerful amino acid compound known as glutathione . When these antioxidants neutralize a free radical, they destabilize themselves and become free radicals themselves. Alpha lipoic acid helps repair them by absorbing excess electrons and converting them back to their stable form.

Alpha lipoic acid is sometimes taken as a supplement, suggesting that it can enhance certain metabolic functions, including fat burning, collagen production, and blood glucose control. There is growing evidence for at least some of these claims.

In addition to supplements, alpha lipoic acid is synthesized in the body and is found in many foods we eat, especially Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, peas, brewer's yeast , potatoes, yams, carrots, rice bran, and meat by-products. .

What is alpha lipoic acid used for?

Much of the research on alpha lipoic acid has focused on preventing diabetes and treating diabetic nerve pain.

Additionally, many alternative health professionals claim that alpha lipoic acid can prevent or treat a variety of health conditions, including alcoholic liver disease, HIV, Alzheimer's disease, bipolar disorder, cardiac arrhythmias, blood pressure discharge, rheumatoid arthritis, preterm labor and schizophrenia. . and erectile dysfunction, among others. To date, there is little evidence to support these claims.

Here are some of the most promising discoveries related to the use of alpha lipoic acid:

Diabetes

Alpha lipoic acid was long thought to help control glucose levels by increasing the metabolic rate of blood sugar. It has the potential to help treat diabetes , a disease characterized by abnormally high blood glucose levels.

A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials of people with metabolic disorders (some with type 2 diabetes, others with other metabolic disorders) showed that lipoic acid supplementation lowered fasting blood glucose, insulin concentration , insulin resistance and blood hemoglobin. A1C levels .

Some scientists believe that oral supplements do not provide the necessary therapeutic effect to prevent or treat diabetes and have begun to investigate whether intravenous (IV) infusion might help.

A 2011 study from China provided a compelling proof of concept for the hypothesis that 12 obese and prediabetic adults experienced improved insulin resistance after two weeks of daily infusions of 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid .

While this approach would not be practical in clinical practice, it still points to the potential benefit of alpha lipoic acid in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes . In contrast, there is no evidence that the supplement can prevent or treat type 1 diabetes , a form of disease commonly associated with a dysfunctional immune system.

Neuralgia

Neuropathy is the medical term used to describe pain, numbness, and abnormal sensations caused by nerve damage. The damage is often caused by oxidative stress on the nerves due to chronic diseases such as diabetes, Lyme disease, shingles, thyroid disease, kidney failure, and HIV.

Some believe that alpha lipoic acid, taken in large enough doses, can counteract this stress by exhibiting potent antioxidant activity. There is evidence of this effect in people with diabetic neuropathy , a potentially debilitating condition faced by people with advanced diabetes.

Review of studies from the Netherlands in 2012 concluded that a daily intravenous dose of 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid for three weeks provides "a significant and clinically significant reduction in neuropathic pain. "

As with previous diabetes studies, oral alpha-lipoic acid supplements tended to be less effective or had no effect at all.

Other studies have examined the effect of alpha lipoic acid in treating other forms of neuropathy. To date, there have been no suggestions about the benefits of treating infectious causes of neuropathy or drug-induced neuropathy (such as chemotherapy).

Currently, only Germany has approved the use of intravenous alpha-lipoic acid for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.

Weightloss

Many nutritionists and supplement manufacturers exaggerate alpha lipoic acid's ability to burn calories faster and promote weight loss. However, there is growing evidence that alpha lipoic acid can affect weight, albeit to a lesser extent.

A 2017 review of Yale University studies found that supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid in doses ranging from 300 to 1,800 mg per day helped reduce weight by an average of 2.8 pounds compared to a placebo .

There was no association between the dose of the alpha lipoic supplement and the degree of weight loss. Also, the duration of treatment appears to affect a person's body mass index (BMI), but not their actual weight.

This means that while it seems like you can only lose weight with alpha lipoic acid, your body composition may improve as fat is gradually replaced by muscle mass.

High cholesterol

Alpha lipoic acid has long been thought to affect weight and health by altering the lipid (fat) composition of the blood. This includes increasing "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reducing "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides . Recent research suggests that this may not be the case.

In a 2011 study from Korea, 180 adults received 1200 to 1800 mg of alpha lipoic acid, lost 21 percent more weight than the placebo group at 20 weeks, but did not improve total, LDL, HDL or HDL cholesterol. triglycerides .

In fact, higher doses of alpha lipoic acid resulted in increases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the study participants.

Sun damaged skin

Cosmetic manufacturers often like to boast that their products have the "anti-aging" properties of alpha lipoic acid. Research shows that these claims can be trusted. The review article notes that it is a powerful antioxidant and its protective effects against radiation damage have been studied .

Possible side effects.

Alpha lipoic acid is generally considered safe when taken as an oral supplement or topical ointment. However, there are few studies investigating the long-term safety of alpha lipoic acid, including at what point a supplement can become toxic. In fact, there have been several reports of seizures and vomiting in children taking doses of 2400 mg or more .

Common side effects of alpha lipoic acid can include headache, rash, muscle cramps, or pins and needles. Side effects are usually mild and usually resolve after stopping treatment.

Alpha lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels. If you are taking medication for diabetes , inform your doctor so that the dose of the medication can be changed if necessary.

Animal studies strongly suggest that alpha lipoic acid can affect thyroid hormone levels. Therefore , people taking thyroid medications such as levothyroxine should be monitored by a doctor if alpha lipoic acid is used.

Due to the lack of safety studies, alpha lipoic acid should not be used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.

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Dosage and preparation

Although it is considered safe, there are no guidelines governing the proper use of alpha lipoic acid. Most oral supplements come in 100 to 600 mg forms. Based on most current data, a maximum daily dose of up to 1800 mg is considered safe for adults .

That said, everything from body weight and age to liver and kidney function can affect what is safe for you as a person. In general, caution should be exercised and always choose a lower dose.

Alpha lipoic acid supplements can be found online, in many health food stores and pharmacies. For maximum absorption, the supplement should be taken on an empty stomach.

What to look for

As a dietary supplement, alpha lipoic acid is not strictly regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To ensure you're getting a quality supplement, choose brands that have been voluntarily tested by an independent certification body such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, and NSF International. This way, you can be sure that the supplements contain the listed ingredients and are manufactured to the highest quality standards.

Other questions

Can I get all the alpha lipoic acid I need from food?

Although almost all foods contain some alpha lipoic acid, the levels are usually low. The only exceptions are offal and some leafy and root vegetables. Therefore, alpha lipoic acid is not considered an essential nutrient because it does not need to be obtained from food.

Instead, alpha lipoic acid is synthesized endogenously (in the body) through a series of biochemical processes involving fatty acids, proteins, and an enzyme known as lipoic acid synthase. By eating a nutritious diet, your body will have all the raw materials it needs to produce alpha lipoic acid.

How do I know if I have an alpha lipoic acid deficiency?

Alpha lipoic acid deficiency is almost unknown. The medical literature describes rare genetic mutations in which the body cannot produce lipoic acid synthase. It is estimated that less than one person in every 1,000,000 is affected.

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