Articles

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Introduction

Many scientists believe that Alpha-lipoic acid is an important antioxidant. One of its most key characteristics is that it is both fat-soluble and water-soluble. This enables it to provide antioxidant protection in a much wider range of body systems, which has resulted in some scientists referring to alpha-lipoic acid as the “universal” antioxidant.

Red meat is the best dietary source of alpha-lipoic acid. Smaller amounts occur in the leaves of some plants and in potatoes, carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes.

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

20-600mg daily.

Most Common Dosage

25-50mg, 2 times a day.

Dosage Forms

Capsules and tablets.

Reported Uses

ALA provides antioxidant protection throughout the body. (1) , (2) It may also facilitate the production of energy for cells and enhance the effectiveness of other antioxidants. Lipoic acid may reduce the toxicity from toxic metals such as mercury, (3) cadmium, (4) lead, (5) copper, manganese, and zinc ions. (6)

Alpha-lipoic acid may play an important therapeutic role for HIV-infected individuals by helping to suppress the replication of the virus. (7) ALA may also support healthy vision and help prevent and treat cataracts and glaucoma. (8) , (9) For diabetics, ALA may help the body establish more healthy blood sugar levels while treating some of the neurological side effects of the disease. (10) , (11) , (12) , (13) ALA supplementation may help to prevent the development of hyperglycemia. (14) Evidence of successful treatment of amanita mushroom poisoning has been demonstrated. (15) , (16) , (17) Animal studies indicate that ALA may have protective properties against the normal aging process of the heart. (18)

The antioxidant effects are believed to be effective in improving numerous complications associated with hepatitis C. Three patients with hepatitis C used alpha-lipoic acid along with selenium and silymarin and had various liver complications clear-up. They returned to work, resumed their normal daily activities, and reported feeling healthy, avoiding liver transplantation. (19)

A small study in Germany involving 9 patients reported that there might be a benefit in using ALA in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Six-hundred milligrams per day of ALA for as many as 14 months has reportedly allowed Alzheimer's patients to maintain scores on neuropsychological tests commonly used to assess AD patients. (20) Also, some studies have demonstrated memory improvement in rats when lipoic acid is given in combination with Acetyl-L-carnitine. (21) , (22)

Toxicities & Precautions

Introduction

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General

This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines.

Health Conditions

If you have diabetes or hypoglycemia us this dietary supplement with caution due to its ability to lower blood sugar levels. (23) , (24)

Side Effects

Occasional side effects reported with the use of this dietary supplement include skin rash. Tell your doctor if these side effects become severe or do not go away.

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects specifically related to the use of this dietary supplement in children. Since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.

References

  1. View Abstract: Kagan VE, Shvedova A, Serbinova E, et al. Dihydrolipoic acid--a universal antioxidant both in the membrane and in the aqueous phase. Reduction of peroxyl, ascorbyl and chromanoxyl radicals. Biochem Pharmacol. Oct1992;44(8):1637-49.
  2. Monograph:Alpha-Lipoic Acid. Altern Med Rev. Aug1998;3(4):308-11.
  3. View Abstract: Anuradha B, Varalakshmi P. Protective role of DL-alpha-lipoic acid against mercury-induced neural lipid peroxidation. Pharmacol Res. Jan1999;39(1):67-80.
  4. View Abstract: Sumathi R, Baskaran G, Varalakshmi P. Relationship between glutathione and DL alpha-lipoic acid against cadmium-induced hepatotoxicity. Jpn J Med Sci Biol. Apr1996;49(2):39-48.
  5. View Abstract: Gurer H, Ozgunes H, Oztezcan S, Ercal N. Antioxidant role of alpha-lipoic acid in lead toxicity. Free Radic Biol Med. Jul1999;27(1-2):75-81.
  6. Sigel H, Prijs B, McCormick DB, Shih JCH. Stability and structure of binary and ternary complexes of a-lipoate and lipoate derivatives with Mn2+, Cu2+, and Zn2+ in solution. Arch Biochem Biophys. 1978;187:208-214.
  7. View Abstract: Merin JP, et al. Alpha-lipoic Acid Blocks HIV-1 LTR-dependent Expression of Hygromycin Resistance in THP-1 Stable Transformants. FEBS Lett. Sep1996;394(1):9-13.
  8. View Abstract: Kilic F, et al. Modelling Cortical Cataractogenesis XX. In Vitro Effect of Alpha-lipoic Acid on Glutathione Concentrations in Lens in Model Diabetic Cataractogenesis. Biochem Mol Biol Int. Oct1998;46(3):585-95.
  9. View Abstract: Filina AA, et al. Lipoic Acid as a Means of Metabolic Therapy of Open-angle Glaucoma. Vestn Oftalmol. Dec1995;111(4):6-8.
  10. View Abstract: Jacob S, et al. Enhancement of Glucose Disposal in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes by Alpha-lipoic Acid. Arzneimittelforschung. Aug1995;45(8):872-74.
  11. Packer L. Antioxidant Properties of Lipoic Acid and Its Therapeutic Effects in Prevention of Diabetes Complications and Cataracts. Ann N Y Acad Sci. Nov1994;738:257-64.
  12. View Abstract: Nagamatsu M, et al. Lipoic acid improves nerve blood flow, reduces oxidative stress, and improves distal nerve conduction in experimental diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes Care. 1995;18:1160-167.
  13. View Abstract: Low PA, et al. The Roles of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant Treatment in Experimental Diabetic Neuropathy. Diabetes. Sep1997;46(Suppl 2):S38-42.
  14. View Abstract: Midaoui AE, Elimadi A, Wu L, Haddad PS, de Champlain J. Lipoic acid prevents hypertension, hyperglycemia, and the increase in heart mitochondrial superoxide production. Am J Hypertens. Mar2003;16(3):173-9.
  15. Berkson BM. Thioctic acid in treatment of hepatotoxic mushroom (Phalloides) poisoning. N Engl J Med. Feb1979;300(7):371.
  16. View Abstract: Plotzker R, Jensen DM, Payne JA. Case report. Amanita virosa acute hepatic necrosis: treatment with thioctic acid. Am J Med Sci. Mar1982;283(2):79-82.
  17. View Abstract: Parish RC, Doering PL. Treatment of Amanita mushroom poisoning: a review. Vet Hum Toxicol. Aug1986;28(4):318-22.
  18. View Abstract: Suh JH, Shigeno ET, Morrow JD, et al. Oxidative stress in the aging rat heart is reversed by dietary supplementation with (R)-(alpha)-lipoic acid. FASEB J. Mar2001;15(3):700-6.
  19. View Abstract: Berkson BM. A conservative triple antioxidant approach to the treatment of hepatitis C. Combination of alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid), silymarin, and selenium: three case histories. Med Klin. Oct1999;94(Suppl 3):84-9.
  20. View Abstract: Hager K, Marahrens A, Kenklies M, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid as a new treatment option for Azheimer type dementia. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. Jun2001;32(3):275-282.
  21. View Abstract: Hagen TM, Liu J, Lykkesfeldt J, Wehr CM, Ingersoll RT, Vinarsky V, et al. Feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid to old rats significantly improves metabolic function while decreasing oxidative stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb2002;99(4):1870-1875.
  22. View Abstract: Liu J, Head E, Gharib AM, Yuan W, Ingersoll RT, Hagen TM, et al. Memory loss in old rats is associated with brain mitochondrial decay and RNA/DNA oxidation: Partial reversal by feeding acetyl-L-carnitine and/or R-alpha -lipoic acid. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Feb2002;99(4):2356-2361.
  23. View Abstract: Evans JL, Goldfine ID. Alpha-lipoic acid: a multifunctional antioxidant that improves insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2000;2(3):401-13.
  24. View Abstract: Konrad D. The antihyperglycemic drug alpha-lipoic acid stimulates glucose uptake via both GLUT4 translocation and GLUT4 activation: potential role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in GLUT4 activation. Diabetes. Jun2000;50(6):1464-71.