Alpha Lipoic Acid Benefits and Information

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), also known as lipoic acid (or thioctic acid), is a sulfur-containing fatty acid found inside every cell of the human body. The main function of alpha-lipoic acid is to generate the energy required to keep living organisms alive and functioning. Lipoic acid plays a key role in a variety vital energy-producing reactions in the body that turn glucose (blood sugar) into energy.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent biological antioxidant that has been shown to slow the oxidative damage in cells, and in many cases stabilize or even reverse cell damage. Alpha-lipoic acid is so effective as an anti-oxidant because it works on both water and fat-soluble free radicals that cause oxidation and cell damage in the body. Notwithstanding it popularity, the exact mechanism responsible for the medicinal affects of alpha-lipoic acid is still not fully understood.

Some research suggests that certain nerve diseases may occur as a result of free radical damage. Since alpha-lipoic acid can reach all parts of a nerve cell it can potentially protect nerve cells against such damage. This is the rationale behind studies on the potential benefits of alpha-lipoic acid for diabetic neuropathy.

Experimental studies show that alpha-lipoic acid may exhibit a renal protective effect in individuals with diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid increases glucose uptake in the cells and appears to reduce symptoms of diabetic complications including cataract formation, vascular damage, and polyneuropathy (nerve damage). A study published in Diabetic Medicine in 1999 showed that patients treated with 600 mg of ALA 3 times daily for 3 weeks had improvement of diabetic symptoms from polyneuropathy. In another study using 600 to 1,800 mg of ALA daily, individuals treated showed improved insulin sensitivity. Most studies supporting the use of alpha-lipoic acid to reduce symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy employed intravenous alpha-lipoic. Evidence for the use of oral lipoic acid, in connection with diabetes remains weak and contradictory.


The common dosage of alpha-lipoic acid for complications of diabetes is 100 to 200 mg three times daily. In studies that found benefit of supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid, several weeks of treatment were often necessary for effects to develop. However, some studies have indicated as much as 600-1,800 mg per day of alpha-lipoic acid for optimal benefit.

If you are healthy and want to promote optimal health, a dose of 30 - 300 mg per day may be sufficient.

Lipoic acid appears to have no significant side effects at dosages up to 1,800 mg daily.

Supporting Literature

Kagan V, Khan S, Swanson C, et al. Antioxidant action of thioctic acid and dihydrolipoic acid. Free Radic Biol Med 1990;9S:15.
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. 1992;44:1637-1649.
Matsugo S, Yan LJ, Han D, et al. Elucidation of antioxidant activity of alpha-lipoic acid toward hydroxyl radical. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1995;208:161-167.
Ziegler D, Gries FA. Alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic peripheral and cardiac autonomic neuropathy. Diabetes. 1997;46(suppl 2):S62-S66.
Ziegler D, Hanefeld M, Ruhnau KJ, et al. Treatment of symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid: a 7-month multicenter randomized controlled trial (ALADIN III Study). ALADIN III Study Group. Diabetes Care. 1999;22:1296-1301.