Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is Alpha Lipoic Acid Good For You?

Is Alpha Lipoic Acid Good For You?
Should you take alpha lipoic acid if you have diabetes? 

What is this stuff anyway? Is it a vitamin or a mineral?

Your body makes alpha lipoic acid and it is found in most foods. Only about 40% of oral alpha lipoic acid is absorbed. Alpha lipoic acid is important for many body processes including energy production.
The chemical structure of alpha lipoic acid is shown below.

Alpha lipoic acid is neither a vitamin nor a mineral.
Although alpha lipoic acid can act as an antioxidant, how an antioxidant acts in your body,
good, bad or neutral, remains unclear. See my post on antioxidants.

Although some studies in the 1990s suggested improvement in  insulin action with alpha lipoic acid supplements, no study has shown a lowering of blood glucose or Hemoglobin A1c with alpha lipoic acid.

Most other studies with alpha lipoic acid have examined effects on diabetic neuropathy. 
The largest randomized controlled trial lasted 7 months and included over 500 patients. 
That study showed no benefit with intravenous alpha lipoic acid followed by oral doses of 600 milligrams three times a day.

Another study involving only 17 patients taking 800 mg. a day showed trivial, clinically insignificant effects on diabetic autonomic neuropathy.

One study of 120 patients with Type 1 and 2 diabetes done in Russia administered alpha lipoic acid intravenously for 14 treatments over 3 weeks and showed benefit in symptoms and nerve function.

The most recent trial lasted 4 years and examined the effects of alpha lipoic acid  600 mg given once a day by mouth on nerve function in 460 patients with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. That study was a randomized controlled multi-center trial. Patients did not have to have pain from neuropathy to be included.
And that study failed. There was no significant difference between alpha lipoic acid and placebo in the primary outcome, the main measurement tested.

But in this last trial, there were a few findings suggesting some minor nerve benefits of alpha lipoic acid. But just how important those are is not clear.
In addition, there were more serious adverse events with alpha lipoic acid as compared to placebo.

And this last study was the among the best done with alpha lipoic acid for any condition.

Could alpha lipoic acid be good for weight loss?

Weight loss was not seen in those neuropathy studies.

But a randomized controlled trial published last year examined weight loss in 360 overweight Koreans  over 20 weeks.  A third of the participants had diabetes. All were instructed to follow a low calorie diet. One third were given placebo, one third got 1200 mg of alpha lipoic acid and the rest, 1800 mg of alpha lipoic acid.

Those given 1800 mg as 600 mg of alpha lipoic acid three times a day,  showed slightly more weight loss as compared to placebo.
But that was a measly 1% more than the placebo group, equivalent to 2.3 pounds. The 1200 mg. dose of alpha lipoic acid was no better than placebo. There was more hives and itching in the alpha lipoic acid groups.

Interesting results but not too impressive.

As far as alpha lipoic acid goes, my recommendations are: don't take it.

Your Diabetes Endocrine Nutrition Group

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