Lipoic acid, also known as alpha-lipoic acid or thioctic acid, is a potent antioxidant with numerous roles in biology and health. Lester Packer, PhD, of the University of Southern California, has described lipoic acid as the “universal antioxidant” because of it myriad activities. The body converts some lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic acid (an even more potent antioxidant), and serves as a precursor to glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant made by the body. It also helps the body to recycle and reuse antioxidant vitamins C and E and glutathione.
Additionally, lipoic acid plays an essential role in the body’s production of energy, as it functions as a cofactor in the glycolysis and the Krebs cycle, cellular processes that break down food molecules to produce energy. Taking a combination of lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine leads to greater physical energy and mental sharpness, according to studies. (Both nutrients are involved in how cells break down food to make energy.)
Here’s a glimpse at some of the research:
1: TYPE 2 DIABETES
Numerous studies have shown that lipoic acid supplements improve insulin function and may also lower blood sugar levels. Considerable research has shown that it improves nerve pain and numbness related to diabetes. Some researchers have studied the potential benefits of alpha-lipoic acid in a variety of other nerve disorders, such as sciatic pain.
Lipoic acid also has potential weight loss applications, a benefit to overweight people with type 2 diabetes. In animal and human studies, it has demonstrated promise in appetite control and weight loss. In one study, South Korean researchers discovered that alpha-lipoic acid regulates the body’s levels of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that led to decreases in food intake and weight in laboratory rats. In a four-week study of 360 obese men and women, people taking lipoic acid lost more weight than people taking placebos.
2. LIVER HEALTH
Lipoic acid has been used to treat life-threatening liver diseases such as hepatitis as well as mushroom poisoning. Burton Berkson, MD, PhD, director of the Integrative Medical Center, Las Cruces, NM, was one of the pioneers in using lipoic acid to treat poisoning from the deadly Amanita mushroom (commonly mistaken for edible mushrooms). Amanita mushrooms can lead to death by blocking the liver’s production of glutathione. However, given soon enough, either orally or intravenously, lipoic acid restores the liver’s glutathione levels and promotes recovery. Alcohol also reduces glutathione levels.
3. BURNING MOUTH SYNDROME
An estimated 1.3 million Americans suffer from burning mouth syndrome (BMS), a painful condition often described as a scalding sensation in the tongue, lips,
palate, or throughout the mouth. BMS can affect anyone, but occurs most often in middle-aged or older women. Lipoic acid supplements can reduce the symptoms of this painful condition. In one study, Italian researchers used lipoic acid or placebos to treat 42 women and 18 men who had been diagnosed with burning-mouth syndrome. The patients were asked to take either 200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid or placebos three times daily for two months. Nearly all of the patients had some improvement in symptoms. Three out of four people benefited from a substantial improvement, with some having a complete recovery. People taking placebos fared poorly.
WHAT TO TAKE
As an antioxidant, take 50 mg daily. For prediabetes, try 100 mg with each meal. For type 2 diabetes and nerve problems, take 200 mg with each meal. You can reduce the dosages with pure R-lipoic acid, but it is more expensive than alpha-lipoic acid.
SOLARAY Alpha Lipoic Acid delivers 50 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per capsule, along with vitamins C and E (as 100% natural D-alpha tocopheryl succinate).
SOURCE NATURALS Alpha Lipoic Acid Time Release This time-release formula provides a steady supply of alpha-lipoic acid throughout the day. Free of yeast, dairy, egg, gluten, corn, soy, and wheat.
TWIN LAB Alpha Lipoic Acid Each capsule supplies 50 mg of this potent antioxidant—and absolutely no added sugars, salt, preservatives, or tablet binders and coatings.