› What is it?
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a compound found in all human cells that acts as a powerful antioxidant. It is produced naturally by the body and also found in a variety of foods, including organ meats and many vegetables.
› Health benefits
Alpha-lipoic acid is both water- and fat-soluble, which makes it an unusually effective antioxidant. It has been linked to several health benefits:
In studies, ALA lowers blood sugar levels, reduces insulin resistance, lowers fasting blood glucose and lowers hemoglobin A1c levels. Scientists believe it does this by promoting the removal of fat that has accumulated in muscle cells. Additionally, it’s been shown to reduce diabetic complications, including diabetic neuropathy (pain) and eye damage.
Research has shown that ALA has at least a slight effect on human weight loss, by causing the body to burn more calories at rest.
One human study found that cream containing ALA decreased wrinkles and skin roughness. When applied to the skin, it provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It also has been shown to promote wound healing.
ALA has been shown to improve multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, sciatica, burning mouth syndrome and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. It may also prevent migraine headaches.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
ALA has been found to slow the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome, and taking it before and after carpal tunnel surgery improves outcomes.
Lab, animal and human studies have shown that ALA may lower several heart disease risk factors. It reduces oxidative stress linked to increased heart disease risk, improves the ability of blood vessels to dilate, and lowers triglyceride (LDL cholesterol) levels.
ALA has been shown to lower several markers of inflammation, which has been linked to cancer, diabetes and many other diseases.
› How much do I need?
ALA is available to treat diabetic neuropathy in doses ranging from 200 to 800 milligrams per day. Toxicity is very low, and there are no reported side effects at these doses. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels, and consult your pharmacist, physician or other healthcare professional before using.
› In food
The body produces only small amounts of alpha-lipoic acid. It is found in organ meat and red meat, as well as to a lesser degree in yeast and plant foods—including broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach and brussels sprouts.
› Dietary supplements
Alpha-lipoic acid is available in capsule form.
Source: Food and Drug Administration, University of Rochester Medical Center, Healthline
Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.