Alpha Lipoic Acid: Surprising Benefits Include Neuroprotection, Heart Health, and More

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Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), a naturally occurring compound found in every cell of the body, is gaining attention for its potential health benefits. As both a water and fat-soluble antioxidant, ALA is uniquely equipped to provide cellular protection against oxidative stress.

This article explores how ALA supplements can support various aspects of health, from enhancing glucose metabolism and improving diabetic conditions to offering nerve pain relief and protecting vital organs like the heart and liver.

What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a special type of antioxidant found naturally in our bodies and in some foods. Antioxidants are substances that help protect our cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can cause problems in our bodies, like aging and certain diseases.

ALA is unique because it can work in both water and fat, which allows it to protect many parts of our cells. It also helps our bodies recycle other antioxidants, like vitamin C and vitamin E, so they can keep working to protect our cells.

Some people take ALA supplements to help with certain health conditions, like diabetes and nerve pain. It may also support heart health, brain function, and the immune system. Foods that contain ALA include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and certain types of meat.

Before taking ALA supplements, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional to make sure it’s right for you and to determine the best dosage for your needs.

What are the Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring compound endowed with a multitude of health-enhancing properties. Its role as a potent antioxidant is perhaps the most notable, enabling it to neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Beyond this, ALA is adept at metal chelation, helping in the detoxification process by binding and neutralizing heavy metals. In terms of metabolic health, it plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, assisting in converting glucose into usable energy, which is vital for cellular function. Additionally, ALA exhibits significant anti-inflammatory effects, offering benefits for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. It also enhances insulin sensitivity, making it a key player in blood sugar regulation. Unique among antioxidants, ALA has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, thereby amplifying their protective effects. Its solubility in both water and fat further extends its range of action, allowing ALA to function effectively in various bodily environments, both within and outside cells. These collective properties make ALA a versatile and valuable compound for promoting overall health.

  • Antioxidant Protection: ALA is known for its potent antioxidant properties. It helps neutralize harmful free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause oxidative damage to cells. Unlike some antioxidants, ALA is both water and fat-soluble, enabling it to work in different environments within the body. This broad-spectrum activity helps protect a variety of cell types and organ systems from oxidative stress.
  • Diabetes Support: ALA has been shown to be beneficial in managing diabetes. It may help lower blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity. This means that cells become more responsive to insulin, improving glucose uptake from the bloodstream. [PMC7721112]. ALA’s ability to improve peripheral neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes, adds to its relevance in diabetes management. [PMC3272801]
  • Nerve Pain Relief: Studies suggest that ALA can alleviate neuropathic pain, especially in individuals with diabetic neuropathy. This benefit is likely due to its antioxidant effects, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation that can damage nerve cells.
  • Heart Health: ALA may support heart health by improving endothelial function, which is the ability of blood vessels to dilate properly. This can lead to better blood flow and reduced risk of atherosclerosis. Its antioxidant action also plays a role in protecting heart tissues from oxidative stress.
  • Brain Function: The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage, and ALA’s antioxidant properties can help protect brain cells. This protective effect might support healthy brain aging and cognitive function, potentially mitigating the risk of neurodegenerative disorders.
    • ALA has been linked to positive effects on diabetes which are significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. In fact, diabetes is sometimes called type 3 diabetes. A study of 126 Alzheimer’s patients were divided based on whether they had diabetes. Their cognitive abilities were measured using a variety of tests. At the end of the 16 month study, 43% of Alzheimer’s patients with diabetes showed improvement in test scores, compared to a 23% improvement in Alzheimer’s patients without diabetes. These findings suggest that ALA therapy could be beneficial in slowing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients, especially those with diabetes. [PMC4437336]
  • Immune System Support: ALA can bolster the immune system by enhancing the body’s antioxidant defenses. This can help protect immune cells from damage, ensuring they function optimally in defending against infections and diseases.
  • Weight Management: It was found that a high dose of alpha-lipoic acid, 1800 mg/d, led to a modest weight loss in obese subjects with diabetes. [PMID: 21187189]
  • Liver Health: ALA has shown potential in supporting liver health. It may help protect the liver from damage due to toxins or diseases, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Its ability to enhance detoxification processes and reduce oxidative stress in liver cells is particularly beneficial.
  • Heavy Metal Chelation: ALA is suggested for heavy metal detoxification, especially for supporting the mercury (Hg) detoxifying process. Mercury is one of the major environmental toxicants, particularly problematic with even limited exposure. [PMID: 30939378]

Food Sources of Alpha Lipoic Acid

Although foods contain ALA, the amounts are very small compared to the doses found in supplements. Including these foods in a balanced diet can help provide some ALA, but if you’re considering taking ALA supplements for specific health benefits, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and safety for your needs.

Is Alpha Lipoic Acid Safe?

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is generally considered safe for most people when taken as directed. It is well-tolerated, and side effects are uncommon and typically mild when they do occur. The most frequently reported side effects are minor and include skin rashes, itching, or gastrointestinal disturbances like nausea or upset stomach. ALA’s safety profile is bolstered by its status as a naturally occurring compound in the body, and its use in supplements merely augments its intrinsic presence. Despite its safety, ALA can interact with certain medications, as with any supplement, underscoring the importance of using it judiciously. Overall, when used responsibly and in recommended doses, ALA is a safe option for those looking to harness its range of health benefits.

Medication Interactions with Alpha Lipoic Acid

  • Insulin and Oral Diabetes Medications: Since ALA can lower blood sugar levels, it can enhance the effects of insulin and other diabetes drugs, potentially leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Close monitoring of blood sugar levels is recommended.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs: ALA may interfere with the action of certain chemotherapy drugs. Its antioxidant properties might reduce the effectiveness of drugs that rely on the generation of free radicals to kill cancer cells.
  • Thyroid Hormone Medications: ALA may reduce the effectiveness of thyroid hormone medications. Patients with thyroid disorders should monitor their thyroid levels if taking ALA supplements.
  • Medications Metabolized by the Liver (Cytochrome P450 System): ALA may alter the metabolism of certain drugs processed by the liver’s cytochrome P450 system. For instance, it could potentially speed up the metabolism of medications like warfarin (a blood thinner), some statins (used for cholesterol management), and certain antidepressants, which might reduce their effectiveness. Conversely, it might slow down the metabolism of drugs like omeprazole (used for acid reflux) or diazepam (a sedative), potentially increasing their effects and side effects.

This list is not exhaustive, and the potential for interactions can vary based on individual health, dosage, and other factors. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, especially if you are on medication.

Supplement Interactions With Alpha Lipoic Acid

  1. Antioxidants (Vitamin C, Vitamin E): When taken with other antioxidants like vitamin C and E, ALA may enhance their antioxidant effects. This combination can provide a more robust defense against oxidative stress.
  2. Herbs or Supplements with Hypoglycemic Potential: ALA can lower blood sugar levels. When combined with other supplements that also lower blood sugar, such as cinnamon or fenugreek, there’s a risk of hypoglycemia, or too low blood sugar.
  3. Iron Supplements: ALA may bind with iron and potentially decrease iron absorption when taken simultaneously. If you’re supplementing with iron, consider taking ALA at a different time of the day.
  4. Magnesium: Similar to iron, ALA might chelate magnesium, affecting its absorption. It’s advisable to separate the intake of ALA and magnesium supplements.

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Alpha Lipoic Acid – 600 mg

  • Free Radical Scavenger*
  • With Grape Seed Extract & Bioperine®

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a versatile free radical scavenger that helps to maintain neural health by promoting nerve cell glutathione production, preserving optimal blood flow, and supporting normal nerve cell glucose utilization.* ALA may help to support the maintenance of healthy neural tissues, proper glucose metabolism, and normal cardiovascular function.* Bioperine® is a standardized pepper extract that is known to enhance the bioavailability of some nutrients.*

Bioperine® is a registered trademark of Sabinsa Corporation.

Take 1 capsule daily, preferably with a meal, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

Serving Size: One Veg Capsule

Amount Per Serving
Alpha-Lipoic Acid … 600mg†
Grape Seed Extract … 30mg†
(Vitis vinifera)(Standardized for Polyphenols)
Bioperine® … 5mg†

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

To Sum It Up

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) supplements offer a spectrum of health benefits, underscoring their role in holistic wellness approaches. By providing potent antioxidant protection, they help shield our cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. For those managing diabetes, ALA’s ability to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels can be particularly advantageous. Beyond these, its potential in alleviating nerve pain, especially in diabetic neuropathy, adds to its therapeutic value. Heart health is another area where ALA shows promise, enhancing blood vessel function and overall cardiac well-being. The compound’s protective actions extend to the brain, where it may support healthy aging and cognitive function. Additionally, its immune-boosting capabilities and liver health support further broaden its range of benefits. The diverse and significant advantages of ALA supplements make them a noteworthy consideration in maintaining and enhancing overall health.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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