2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

What Is It?

In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid, a compound initially classified as a vitamin when it was discovered three decades earlier, possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. In fact, this vitaminlike compound has proved to be many times more potent than such old guard antioxidants as vitamins C and E. As a perk, it even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.

Because it dissolves in both water and fat, this so-called “universal antioxidant” is able to scavenge more wayward free-radical cells than most antioxidants, the majority of which tend to dissolve in either fat or water but not both. Alpha-lipoic acid can reach tissues composed mainly of fat, such as the nervous system, as well as those made mainly of water, such as the heart.

Also known as lipoic acid or thioctic acid, alpha-lipoic acid is mainly derived from dietary sources (spinach, liver, brewer’s yeast), although scientists have discovered that the body does manufacture small supplies of its own. In order to get the concentrated doses needed to treat specific ailments, however, many experts recommend supplements.

Health Benefits

In addition to functioning as an antioxidant, this hard-working nutrient assists the B vitamins in producing energy from the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats consumed through foods.

Intravenous forms of alpha-lipoic acid are administered in hospitals to treat cases of acute mushroom poisoning and for other cases of acute poisoning that affect the liver.

Studies indicate that alpha-lipoic acid supplements hold promise for treating various disorders, including HIV infection, liver ailments, and glaucoma. But it has been most intensively studied for preventing complications from diabetes.

Specifically, alpha-lipoic acid may help to:

Treat symptoms of nerve damage in people with diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid has been used for decades in Europe to counter nerve damage in people with diabetes (types 1 and 2). Known as diabetic neuropathy, this often very painful condition tends to develop in people who have had uncontrolled diabetes for a long time. The neuropathy may be caused in part by free-radical damage to nerves resulting from poorly regulated blood sugar (glucose). As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid helps to block such damage. In addition, because of its effect on glucose metabolism, lipoic acid my improve the glucose-lowering action of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar). In one clinical trial, 328 people with diabetic neuropathy received either 100 mg, 600 mg, or 1,200 mg a day of alpha-lipoic acid for three weeks. Participants who took 600 mg daily had the greatest reduction in pain and numbness. And in a separate study, blood sugar levels dropped in 74 people with type 2 diabetes who took 600 mg or more of alpha-lipoic acid daily.

Alpha-lipoic acid may also aid the large percentage (approximately 25%) of people with diabetes who risk sudden death from nerve-related heart damage. In one study, improved heart function was observed in people at risk for this complication who took 800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for four months.

Preserve brain function in aging adults. Results from animal studies indicate that alpha-lipoic acid may improve long-term memory. Much remains to be learned about whether this occurs in humans, but it may be worth trying this powerful antioxidant when a disease such as Alzheimer’s starts to erode memory. In addition, alpha-lipoic acid holds promise for preserving brain cells following a stroke or other type of trauma that restricts blood flow to the brain.

Prevent cancer. As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid holds promise for protecting the body against changes in healthy cells that lead to cancer. The evidence for this cancer-preventive effect is still preliminary, however.

Lessen numbness and tingling. Alpha-lipoic acid may benefit anyone whose limbs tend to tingle or become numb, or “fall asleep” due to nerve compression. In animal studies, alpha-lipoic acid increased blood flow to the nerves and improved transmission of nerve impulses.

Protect the liver in cases of hepatitis and other types of liver disease. As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid shields the liver from potentially harmful cell changes and assists it in flushing toxins from the body. This makes it useful in treating such liver disorders as chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements have also proved effective in minimizing liver toxicity following exposure to poisons such as heavy metals (including lead) and toxic industrial chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride.

Combat chronic fatigue syndrome. Because it plays a part in cellular energy production, some nutritionally oriented physicians recommend alpha-lipoic acid for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. While evidence of its effectiveness for this condition is anecdotal, alpha-lipoic acid is a broad-spectrum antioxidant and immune system booster. This means it may be able to play a valuable role in increasing energy and maintaining overall health in chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers.

Reduce the incidence of cataracts. Alpha-lipoic acid has kept cataracts from forming in animals, an effect that may occur in humans, too, but still requires more investigation. The compound also increases the potency of vitamins C and E, both nutrients that protect the eye’s lens from harmful ultraviolet light.

Forms

tablet
capsule

Dosage Information

Special tip:

You can buy alpha-lipoic acid either as a single supplement or in combination products with other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.

For general antioxidant protection: Take 100 mg twice a day.

To preserve brain function in aging adults: Take 100 mg twice a day.

To prevent complications of diabetes: Take 200 mg twice a day to guard against related conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and heart disease. In addition, make sure to get 1,000 mg vitamin C and 400 IU vitamin E daily.

For diabetic neuropathy: Take 200 mg three times a day.

For numbness and tingling: Take 200 mg twice a day.

For hepatitis: Take 100 mg twice a day. In addition, take 1,000 mg vitamin C and 400 IU vitamin E daily.

For preventing cataracts: Take 100 mg twice a day. Be sure to check our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Alpha-lipoic Acid, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.

Guidelines for Use

Alpha-lipoic acid can be taken either with or without food.

General Interaction

If you have diabetes, taking alpha-lipoic acid for long periods may require an adjustment in your dosage of insulin or other diabetes medications. Consult your doctor for guidance. Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our WholeHealth Chicago Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.

Possible Side Effects

Alpha-lipoic acid is very safe at commonly recommended dosages, although occasionally it causes mild stomach upset and in rare cases it can trigger an allergic skin rash. If you experience any of these reactions, reduce the dose or stop taking the supplement.

Cautions

If you suffer from any type of medical condition, consult your doctor before trying alpha-lipoic acid supplements.

Don’t take alpha-lipoic acid if you are pregnant.

For product recommendations and orders click here for the Natural Apothecary or call 773-296-6700, ext. 2001.


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops


**Winter Solstice Celebration: An evening of Acupuncture and Shamanic Healing
Tuesday, December 17, 5:45–7:30pm
Hosted by Katie Oberlin, HTCP and Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enter the stillpoint of the Winter Solstice, reflect on the lessons of 2019, and set intentions for the new year. This will be an evening of individual and group healing, ceremony, and celebration. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • Infertility Issues? Start With The Guy

    I’ve lost track of the number of couples we treat at WholeHealth Chicago who are involved in one of the hormone injection/surgical procedure stops on the conveyor belt of infertility centers. Currently, it’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of couples are struggling with infertility, half of them due to male factors. The infertility docs are nice enough and certainly well-meaning, but I note a Read More

  • Issues with Endocrinologists: Thyroid Approaches and Big Pharma

    My beefs with endocrinologists pretty much center on how they manage thyroid gland concerns, though they rarely win prizes for managing adrenal issues either. I don’t know any endocrinologists personally and rarely refer my patients to them. Occasionally, a patient with newly diagnosed hypothyroidism (low thyroid) will want to confirm the diagnosis with an endocrinologist. I suggest she prepare for a scolding if she’s taking Read More

  • Six Beefs With Rheumatologists

    If you find yourself in the waiting room of a rheumatologist, you’re likely there because your joints hurt and have been hurting, often for years. You’ve been getting by on aspirin or Advil for the pain, but with things worsening your primary care doctor suggests you should see a joint specialist, a rheumatologist. And because there’s a shortage of physicians in this specialty, your appointment Read More

Join our Discount Program!

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION