ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID Overview Information
Alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical called an antioxidant. Yeast, liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes are good sources of alpha-lipoic acid. It is also made in the laboratory for use as medicine.
Alpha-lipoic acid is most commonly taken by mouth for diabetes and nerve-related symptoms of diabetes including burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms. It is also given as an injection into the vein (by IV) for these same uses. High doses of alpha-lipoic acid are approved in Germany for the treatment of these nerve-related symptoms.
How does it work?
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to help prevent certain kinds of cell damage in the body, and also restores vitamin levels such as vitamin E and vitamin C. There is also evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can improve the function and conduction of neurons in diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used in the body to break down carbohydrates and to make energy for the other organs in the body.
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to work as an antioxidant, which means that it might provide protection to the brain under conditions of damage or injury. The antioxidant effects might also be helpful in certain liver diseases.
Possibly Effective for:
- Aging skin. Early research suggests that applying cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid might reduce fine lines and skin roughness caused by sun damage. Also, taking a specific product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients seems to improve elasticity and reduce wrinkles and roughness of aging skin.
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Research suggests that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium up to 2 months before and 1 month after surgery seems to decrease complications following CABG surgery.
- Diabetes. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or intravenously seems to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, there is some inconsistent evidence that shows it does not affect blood sugar. Reasons for the inconsistencies may relate to the length of time that the patient has been diagnosed with diabetes, the use of antidiabetes drugs, or the purity of the alpha-lipoic acid treatment. Alpha-lipoic acid does not appear to improve blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes.
- Diabetic nerve pain. Taking 600-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or by IV seems to improve symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms of people with diabetes. It may take 3 to 5 weeks of treatment for symptoms to improve. Lower doses of alpha-lipoic acid don't seem to work.
- Bladder inflammation. Bladder inflammation in women can cause pain in the whole pelvis area. A drug called amitriptyline is sometimes used to help these women. In women already using amitriptyline, taking a specific product containing alpha-lipoic acid, along with some types of fat, vitamins, and minerals, helps to reduce pelvic pain and pain with sex.
- Weight loss. Research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid for 8-48 weeks can slightly reduce body weight in people who are overweight.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Alcoholic liver disease. Taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for up to 6 months does not improve liver function or reduce liver damage in people with alcohol-related liver disease.
- Altitude sickness. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with vitamin C and vitamin E does not seem to prevent altitude sickness.
- Heart-related nerve problems (cardiac autonomic neuropathy). Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth seems to improve measures of heart-related nerve problems, but not the associated clinical symptoms.
- Nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth during chemotherapy with cisplatin or oxaliplatin doesn't seem to reduce nerve damage in the arms and legs caused by the chemotherapy. On the other hand, some early research shows that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients reduces nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. The other ingredients in this product might be responsible for this benefit.
- Kidney damage caused by contrast agents. Adding alpha-lipoic acid to standard hydration therapy used before and after a coronary angiography doesn't seem to help prevent kidney damage caused by contrast agents.
- Damage to the retina caused by diabetes. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 24 months does not improve damage to the retina associated with diabetes.
- HIV-related brain problems. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth has no effect on HIV-related brain problems.
- Alzheimer's disease. Some early evidence suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid in combination with a class of drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors might slow mental decline in people with Alzheimer's disease better than taking cholinesterase inhibitors alone. However, higher quality research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid alone with vitamin E and vitamin C doesn't improve mental function in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.
- Amanita mushroom poisoning. The use of alpha-lipoic acid in treating mushroom poisoning is controversial. Some reports suggest it might help, but these reports are unreliable. Some researchers recommend against using alpha-lipoic acid for this purpose.
- Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Some people with a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation get surgery. However, after surgery, the irregular heartbeat can start again. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid does not help to prevent this recurrence. But bigger studies are needed.
- Bipolar disorder. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with acetyl-L-carnitine doesn't seem to improve depression in people with bipolar disorder. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid when taken alone are unclear.
- Burning mouth syndrome. The effect of alpha-lipoic acid in people with burning mouth syndrome is conflicting. Some early research suggests that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day for 2 months improves pain in people with this condition. However, other research suggests that taking 800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 2 months doesn't help. Reason for the conflicting results is not entirely clear. However, the cause of burning mouth syndrome might influence whether alpha-lipoic acid is beneficial. There is some early evidence that alpha-lipoic acid might help reduce symptoms of burning mouth syndrome caused by stress but not depression or drug-induced dry mouth. Higher-quality research is needed to confirm these results.
- A disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid twice daily along with insulin for 4 months improves heart function in children with diabetes who show early signs of a heart muscle disorder.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain and weakness in the hand. It's cause by pressure on a nerve in the wrist. Taking alpha-lipoic acid after surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't seem to help the nerve recover. But it might prevent pain from developing on the sides of the incision. Other early research shows that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and gamma-linolenic acid can improves function in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Damage to kidneys caused by diabetes. Early research shows that giving alpha-lipoic acid with alprostadil by IV improves markers of kidney damage in people with diabetes and early kidney damage.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Early research shows that giving alpha-lipoic acid with alprostadil by IV increases erections in men with erectile dysfunction (ED).
- Glaucoma. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 1 month improves visual function in people with glaucoma.
- Heart failure. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C reduces pressure in the arteries and improves blood flow in people with heart failure.
- HIV/AIDS. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 6 months improves white blood cell counts in people with HIV who did not respond to antiretroviral therapy.
- High blood pressure. Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily with the blood pressure-lowering medication quinapril does not decrease blood pressure compared to taking quinapril alone.
- Prediabetes. Early research suggests that giving alpha-lipoic acid by IV once daily for 2 weeks improves post-meal blood sugar and insulin in people with prediabetes.
- Infertility in men. IVF is a procedure where the sperm fertilizes the egg outside of the body. Healthy sperm have a better chance of fertilizing the egg, resulting in pregnancy. Early research shows that when men with sperm problems take a product containing alpha-lipoic acid and other ingredients, there is a better chance of pregnancy success in their partners after IVF.
- Migraine headache. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 3 months improves the severity and frequency of migraines. However, it does not improve the number of monthly migraine attacks.
- Neck pain. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid plus superoxide dismutase daily for 2 months reduces chronic neck pain when used along with physiotherapy.
- Nonalcholic liver inflammation (steatohepatitis). Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 2 months reduces liver size and symptoms in people with nonalcoholic liver inflammation.
- Clogged arteries (peripheral artery disease). Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid twice daily might reduce pain associated with exercise in people with clogged arteries.
- Premature labor. During premature labor, the cervix can shorten. This can increase the risk of preterm birth. Early research shows that inserting alpha-lipoic acid into the vagina can prevent the cervix from shortening after premature labor without delivery. But it's not clear if alpha-lipoic acid helps prevent premature birth.
- Radiation exposure. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid alone or together with vitamin E for 28 days might reduce symptoms of radiation exposure in children living near areas contaminated with radiation.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 12 weeks doesn't improve pain or swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Schizophrenia. One very small study shows that alpha-lipoic acid can improve symptoms of schizophrenia when taken along with prescription medications for this condition. But another early study shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid with certain fatty acids doesn't prevent relapse in people with schizophrenia who respond to prescription medicines.
- Leg weakness and pain (sciatica). Early research shows that taking alpha-lipoic acid daily for 60 days improves leg pain and weakness due to damage of the sciatic nerve. However, it does not seem to benefit sleep quality in people with this condition.
- A skin disorder that causes white patches. Early research suggest that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, and polyunsaturated fatty acids starting 8 weeks before UV phototherapy and continuing during phototherapy treatment increases the likelihood of repigmentation in people with skin discoloration characterized by white patches.
- Wound healing. Early research suggest that taking alpha-lipoic acid one hour before and one hour after hyperbaric oxygen therapy administered daily for 2 to 4 weeks reduces wound area compared to hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Heart disease.
- Lyme disease.
- Wilson's disease.
- Other conditions.
ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID Side Effects & Safety
Alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth for up to 4 years, when used intravenously for up to 3 weeks, or when applied to the skin as a cream for up to 12 weeks. People taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth might get a rash. People at risk for thiamine deficiency should take a thiamine supplement.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy: Taking alpha-lipoic acid during pregnancy is POSSIBLY SAFE. Pregnant women have safely taken up to 600 mg daily for up to 4 weeks. Alpha-lipoic acid has been started as early as the 10th week of pregnancy and continued as late as the 37th week of pregnancy.
Breastfeeding: Not enough is known about the use of alpha-lipoic acid during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children and infants:Taking alpha-lipoic acid in large amounts is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Seizures, vomiting, and unconsciousness has been reported for a 14 month-old girl and a 20 month-old boy who took up to 2400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid in a single dose.
Diabetes: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. Your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Surgery: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. In theory, alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Tell people to stop taking alpha-lipoic acid 2 weeks before elective surgical procedures.
Excessive use of alcohol/thiamine deficiency: Alcohol can lower the amount of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Taking alpha-lipoic acid when there is a shortage of thiamine might cause serious health problems. If you drink a lot of alcohol and take alpha-lipoic acid too, you should take a thiamine supplement.
Thyroid disease: Taking alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with treatments for under-active or over-active thyroid.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications for cancer (Chemotherapy) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant. There is some concern that antioxidants might decrease the effectiveness of some medications used for cancers. But it is too soon to know if this interaction occurs.
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. But more evidence is needed to know if this interaction is a big concern. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID Dosing
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating type 2 diabetes and improving symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms: 300-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day.
- For aging skin: a combination product containing 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid, 30 mg of pine bark extract, 90 mg of vitamin C, 18 mg of vitamin E, 18 mg of vitamin B3, 62 mg of red clover extract, 40 mg of tomato extract, 12 mg of soya extract, 12 mg of zinc, 8 mg of vitamin B5, 2 mg of copper, and 350 mg of marine protein complex has been taken twice daily for 6 months..
- For coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery: taking 100 mg of coenzyme Q10 three times per day, 400 mg of magnesium orotate three times per day, 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid three times per day, 300 mg of omega-3 fatty acids three times per day, and 200 mcg of selenium once per day for up to 2 months before and 1 month after surgery has been used.
- For weight loss: 300-1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day has been taken for 48 weeks.
- For aging skin: a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid applied to the face twice daily has been used.
- For diabetes and improving symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms: 500-1200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per day administered by a health care provider.