Alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical called an antioxidant. Yeast, liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes are good sources of alpha-lipoic acid. It is also made in the laboratory for use as medicine.
Alpha-lipoic acid is most commonly taken by mouth for diabetes and nerve-related symptoms of diabetes including burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms. It is also given as an injection into the vein (by IV) for these same uses. High doses of alpha-lipoic acid are approved in Germany for the treatment of these nerve-related symptoms.
How does it work?
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to help prevent certain kinds of cell damage in the body, and also restores vitamin levels such as vitamin E and vitamin C. There is also evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can improve the function and conduction of neurons in diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used in the body to break down carbohydrates and to make energy for the other organs in the body.
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to work as an antioxidant, which means that it might provide protection to the brain under conditions of damage or injury. The antioxidant effects might also be helpful in certain liver diseases.
Possibly Effective for
- Diabetes. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or intravenously seems to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, there is other evidence that shows it does not affect blood sugar. Reasons for these differences may be the length of time that the patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, whether or not the patient already uses antidiabetes drugs, or the purity of the alpha-lipoic acid treatment. Alpha-lipoic acid does not appear to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.
- Nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Taking 600-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or by IV seems to improve symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms of people with diabetes. It may take 3 to 5 weeks of treatment for symptoms to improve. Lower doses of alpha-lipoic acid don’t seem to work.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Taking alpha-lipoic acid for up to 16 weeks seems to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in people with or without hyperlipidemia.
- Obesity. Some research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid for 8-48 weeks can slightly reduce body weight in adults who are overweight. But early research shows that alpha-lipoic acid doesn’t seem to improve body weight in children who are overweight or obese.
Possibly Ineffective for
- Liver disease in people who drink alcohol. Taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for up to 6 months does not improve liver function or reduce liver damage in people with alcohol-related liver disease.
- Altitude sickness. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with vitamin C and vitamin E does not seem to prevent altitude sickness.
- Nerve damage in the hands and feet caused by cancer drug treatment. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth during chemotherapy with cisplatin or oxaliplatin doesn’t seem to reduce nerve damage in the arms and legs caused by the chemotherapy. On the other hand, some early research shows that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients reduces nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. The other ingredients in this product might be responsible for this benefit.
- Kidney damage caused by contrast dyes (contrast induced nephropathy). Adding alpha-lipoic acid to standard hydration therapy used before and after a coronary angiography doesn’t seem to help prevent kidney damage caused by contrast agents.
- Vision problems in people with diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 24 months does not improve damage to the retina associated with diabetes.
- Dementia in people with advanced HIV/AIDS. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth has no effect on HIV-related brain problems.
often called the “universal antioxidant” for its ability to help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals in both the water-soluble and fat-soluble compartments in the cell.**