Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid


Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a vitamin-like antioxidant, sometimes referred to as the "universal antioxidant" because it is soluble in both fat and water.1 ALA is manufactured in the body and is found in some foods, particularly liver and yeast.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
3 Stars
Type 1 Diabetes
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid may improve the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy).
Alpha lipoic acid is an important nutrient for mitochondrial function. It has antioxidant properties and can act as a reducer of oxidized forms of vitamins C and E. A number of placebo-controlled clinical trials have found that supplementing with 600 to 1,200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day can improve the symptoms of diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy). Animal studies and early clinical research suggest alpha-lipoic acid may also help prevent diabetes-related damage to the small blood vessels and nerves in the eyes (diabetic retinopathy).
3 Stars
Type 2 Diabetes
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Taking alpha lipoic acid may improve insulin sensitivity and help protect against diabetic complications such as nerve damage.
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful natural antioxidant that protects blood vessels and other tissues from free radical damage. Numerous clinical trials have been conducted to examine its effects in people with type 2 diabetes. The strongest evidence for its beneficial effects comes from trials in subjects with diabetes-related nerve complications (neuropathy). One placebo-controlled trial monitored 460 participants with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and mild to moderate polyneuropathy taking 600 mg per day of alpha lipoic acid or placebo for four years. Those taking alpha lipoic acid had significantly reduced symptoms and progression of neuropathy. In addition, clinical research suggests that alpha lipoic acid may improve insulin sensitivity, blood glucose control, and lipid metabolism, support weight loss, and reduce the impacts of diabetic complications such as retinopathy (damage to the retina in the eye), nephropathy (kidney dysfunction), and erectile dysfunction. Studies reporting benefits have generally used doses ranging from 600 to 1,200 mg of alpha lipoic acid per day.
2 Stars
Migraine Headache
600 mg per day
In a small double-blind trial, supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks.

In a small double-blind trial, supplementation with 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid once a day for three months significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks. However, this improvement was not statistically significant when compared with the change in the placebo group. Additional research is needed to determine whether alpha-lipoic acid is effective for preventing migraines.

2 Stars
600 to 1,200 mg daily
Alpha-lipoic acid may reduce symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and may work best in combination with medical treatment for neuropathy. Its possible benefit in chemotherapy-induced neuropathy needs further investigation.

Several controlled trials have found intravenous alpha-lipoic acid can reduce symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy; however, the effect of oral alpha-lipoic acid is still unclear. Preliminary research has suggested the benefits of supplementing with oral alpha-lipoic acid may be too small to be meaningful, yet one uncontrolled trial found 600 mg of lipoic acid daily for 40 days relieved symptoms and improved quality of life in people with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Other clinical trials have shown alpha-lipoic acid may enhance the efficacy of conventional therapies. A meta-analysis of 20 studies with a combined total of 1,894 subjects with diabetic neuropathy found epalrestat plus alpha-lipoic acid was more effective for reducing symptoms and improving nerve function than either therapy alone. Other meta-analyses have had similar findings.

In a placebo-controlled trial that included data from 70 cancer patients being treated with cisplatin or oxaliplatin, taking 600 mg of lipoic acid three times daily for 24 weeks had no impact on neuropathy. A preliminary trial in multiple myeloma patients being treated with bortezomib, a combination of 600 mg alpha-lipoic acid plus 400 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 60 mg of vitamin C, and 10 mg (15 IU) of vitamin E twice daily for six months appeared to prevent the onset and worsening of neuropathic pain. More research is needed to determine whether alpha-lipoic acid can protect nerves against damage induced by certain chemotherapy agents.

2 Stars
Refer to label instructions
In one trial, obese people who supplemented with alpha-lipoic acid lost a statistically significant amount of weight, compared with a placebo. In another trial, supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid enhanced weight loss in overweight and obese women who were consuming a low-calorie diet.
In a double-blind trial, obese people who supplemented with alpha-lipoic acid (1,200 or 1,800 mg per day for 20 weeks) resulted in a statistically significant weight loss, compared with a placebo. The amount of weight lost was 6.1 pounds with 1,800 mg per day of alpha-lipoic acid, 3.3 pounds with 1,200 mg per day, and 2.1 pounds with placebo. The weight loss was due primarily to a loss of fat mass, as opposed to muscle mass. It is not clear how alpha-lipoic acid works, but it may work by increasing the conversion of fuel to energy in the body. In another double-blind trial, supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid (300 mg per day for 10 weeks) enhanced weight loss in overweight and obese women who were consuming a low-calorie diet. Women who received alpha-lipoic acid lost an average of 3.3 pounds more than women who received a placebo.
2 Stars
Refer to label instructions
In one study, supplementing with a combination of antioxidants including alpha-lipoic acid increased the effectiveness of ultraviolet light therapy.
In a double-blind trial, supplementation with antioxidants for two months before and for six months during treatment with narrowband ultraviolet B light increased the effectiveness of the ultraviolet light therapy. The antioxidant supplement contained daily 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid, 100 mg of vitamin C, 40 IU of vitamin E, and 100 mg of cysteine.
1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Alpha lipoic acid may improve visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.

Alpha lipoic acid (150 mg per day for one month) improves visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.

1 Star
Refer to label instructions
In one trial, a combination of alpha lipoic acid, silymarin, and selenium led to significant improvements in liver function and overall health in people with hepatitis C.

A potent antioxidant combination may protect the liver from damage in people with hepatitis C, possibly decreasing the necessity for a liver transplant. In a preliminary trial, three people with liver cirrhosis and esophageal varices (dilated veins in the esophagus that can rupture and cause fatal bleeding) caused by hepatitis C received a combination of Alpha lipoic acid (300 mg twice daily), silymarin (from milk thistle; 300 mg three times daily), and selenium (selenomethionine; 200 mcg twice daily). After five to eight months of therapy that included other "supportive supplements," such as vitamin C and B vitamins, all three people had significant improvements in their liver function and overall health. Larger clinical trials are needed to confirm these promising preliminary results.

How It Works

How to Use It

The amount of alpha lipoic acid used in research to improve diabetic neuropathies is 800 mg per day and 150 mg per day for glaucoma. However, much lower amounts, such as 20–50 mg per day, are recommended by some doctors for general antioxidant protection, although there is no clear evidence that such general use has any benefit.

Where to Find It

The body makes small amounts of alpha lipoic acid. There is only limited knowledge about the food sources of this nutrient. However, foods that contain mitochondria (a specialized component of cells), such as red meats, are believed to provide the most alpha lipoic acid. Supplements are also available.

Possible Deficiencies

Although alpha lipoic acid was thought to be a vitamin when it was first discovered, subsequent research determined that it is created in the human body—and thus is not an essential nutrient. For this reason, deficiencies of alpha lipoic acid are not known to occur in humans.


Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

Chronic administration of alpha lipoic acid in animals has interfered with the actions of the vitamin, biotin. Whether this has significance for humans remains unknown.2

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Side Effects

Side effects with alpha lipoic acid are rare but can include skin rash and the potential of hypoglycemia in diabetic patients. People who may be deficient in vitamin B1 (such as alcoholics) should take vitamin B1 along with alpha lipoic acid supplements.


1. Kagan V, Khan S, Swanson C, et al. Antioxidant action of thioctic acid and dihydrolipoic acid. Free Radic Biol Med 1990;9S:15.

2. Zempleni J, Trusty TA, Mock DM. Lipoic acid reduces the activities of biotin-dependent carboxylases in rat liver. J Nutr 1997;127:1776-81.

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