Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid comes with all the benefits of an antioxidant and can treat a number of health conditions.

You can take it regularly to supplement a healthy diet, increase your energy, heighten your metabolism, and help you fight common infections.

This nootropic is also an effective treatment for diabetes, especially nerve pain resulting from diabetic neuropathy. Its capacity to prevent and reduce cell damage also results in anti-aging properties.


Alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid found in the mitochondria. Our natural intake of alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA, primarily comes from red meat, organ meats like liver or kidney, yeast, broccoli, and potatoes.

It is an approved treatment for diabetic and nerve problems in Europe, although, in the US, it is often sold as an herbal supplement.

Many people primarily know and take alpha-lipoic acid as an antioxidant supplement. Its antioxidant properties increase your metabolism by converting glucose into energy. Alpha-lipoic acid also restores vitamins E and C, which helps you fight infections.

Alpha-lipoic acid is also a popular nootropic for diabetes. Research has suggested that it can help lower blood sugar levels.

It is an effective way to increase insulin sensitivity, so it can be beneficial those who have developed an insulin resistance. ALA can be taken for those with prediabetes.

Most research on the subject proves its effectiveness in treating diabetes-related neuropathy. Some people experience nerve pain due to their diabetes, including burning and itching sensations.

Alpha-lipoic acid can help manage the pain and has shown no adverse side effects.

Also known as:

ALA, α-lipoic acid, Acetate Replacing Factor, thioctic acid, Biletan, 1, 2-dithiolane-3-pentanoic Acid, Lipoicin, Thioctan, Tiolept

Be careful not to confuse it with Alpha-Linolenic Acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, also sometimes called ALA.

Editor’s Note

I take alpha-lipoic acid primarily as an antioxidant supplement but have heard high reviews of the supplement as a way to treat diabetes-related nerve pain.

It seems to act more quickly than other antioxidants I’ve tried, a result of being both water and fat soluble.

If you lack sufficient antioxidants in your diet, alpha-lipoic acid is a good choice.

As the “universal antioxidant,” it is one of the most effective supplements you could take, as it functions in multiple areas of the body. Taken with vitamins C or E, alpha-lipoic acid supplements can help you not only feel but look healthier.

Many people ask about ALA’s potential for anti-aging and weight loss. There is more evidence to show its effects as an anti-aging agent, but this goes for most antioxidants.

Any supplement that removes and reduces the effects of oxidizing agents should in time have positive results on aging, such as brightening the skin or reducing wrinkles.

The role of alpha-lipoic acid on weight loss is still a fluid area of research. Since ALA increases your metabolism, it naturally can result in an increase of fat burning in the body, but I would warn against relying solely on the supplement for weight loss.

When combined with exercise, ALA can produce substantial benefits. Taking ALA before or after exercise not only increases your body’s fat burning potential but can help your muscles heal more quickly.

As a workout supplement, I give alpha-lipoic acid an A+, and it’s one of the very few nootropic supplements I take every day.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Reviews

I did an extensive scan through online nootropics communities. These were some of the positive things users had to say about alpha-lipoic acid:

“I first became aware of the alpha lipoic regimen by Dr. Burt Berkson in the late 90’s. Early on in his career, while an internist, he was given several patients who were expected to die from hepatitis C…He learned that alpha lipoic acid had some impressive experimental support. Remarkably, although these patients were expected to die within a few weeks, they all completely recovered!

As many of you already know, I am not fond of recommending many supplements, but I do believe that antioxidants make sense for many of us.”
-Dr. Mercola

“I have had type 2 diabetes for 10 years and my A1c glucose level was slowly creeping upwards. I started taking one 600mg Alpha Lipoic tablet per day and my blood sugar levels dropped dramatically. My doctor was suprised but had never heard of Alpha lipoic. I am now stable around 6 and have had no side effects. It should be better known and more widely used in my view.”


“I decided to try ALpha-Lipoic Acid after reading about its potential to help people manage living with Relapsing Remitting MS, as well as, a variety of other chronic health challenges…I was amazed at how quickly I experienced results. This product has helped to reduce MS fatigue. It is also helping to decrease neuropathic pain that I have in one foot.”

Benefits and effects

Antioxidant Properties

As an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid prevents and reduces damage from free radical agents. These agents can arise in the form of chemicals, pollution, or a bad diet, among other factors.

They are impossible to avoid. They can cause damage to cells in the shape of bad cell growths, cardiovascular disease, and aging.

Reducing oxidative stress, or free radical agents in the body, is one of ALA’s primary functions. Alpha-lipoic acid raises the levels and effectiveness of two other essential compounds: glutathione and coenzyme Q10. These two antioxidants help the body fight against diseases and aging.

People who have diabetes are at greater risk from oxidative stress, which is why ALA is often used to treat symptoms related to diabetes.

Reduce Muscle Damage and Cramping

Due to its control of free radical agents, alpha-lipoic acid can also contribute to reducing muscle damage by reducing oxidative effects in the body.

One study observed the impact of ALA on exercise causing muscle damage and strain. Researchers compared groups of trained and untrained men. Experimental groups took a daily 600 mg dosage of alpha-lipoic acid.

ALA supplementation reduced oxidative damage, mitigating the effects of muscle-damaging exercise. It could not make up for the differences between trained and untrained men, the former having more active glutathione antioxidant systems, but increased the antioxidant response in both groups.

Some research also found that alpha-lipoic acid might be effective in encouraging wounds to heal more quickly. Combined with oxygen therapy, 300 mg of an alpha-lipoic supplement reduced injuries resulting from ulcers.

Another study on walking tolerance for patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) found that alpha-lipoic acid could provide pain relief during exercise. For three months, subjects took 600 mg a day and reported less pain and cramping.

Diabetes, Prediabetes, and Diabetes-related Nerve Problems

For type 2 diabetes, ALA increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It can also lower blood sugar levels, so those taking alpha-lipoic acid should be cautious.

It is also possible to treat prediabetes with alpha-lipoic acid. Prediabetes is a condition in which a person has high blood sugar, but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes.

If addressed early and efficiently, treatments including ALA can prevent the patient from developing type 2 diabetes.

ALA has long been used for diabetic neuropathy or nerve pain associated with diabetes. This condition causes nerve damage, which can result in pain, numbness, burning, and itching in the arms and legs.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a common treatment for peripheral neuropathy in Germany. Treatment is primarily given through intravenous (IV) methods.

However, an increasing number of studies examine the effects of oral alpha-lipoic acid. ALA has been shown to reduce the symptoms of neuropathy and had no adverse effects, including no change to glycemic control.

ALA might also help autonomic neuropathy, another diabetes-related nerve condition that affects internal organs.

One study tested participants with cardiac autonomic neuropathy who took 800 mg of ALA orally. Compared with the placebo group, those taking alpha-lipoic acid showed favorable results after four months.

Anti-Aging Properties

While more research is needed to confirm these effects, current studies suggest a connection between alpha-lipoic acid and anti-aging effects.

One study followed found that a facial cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid helped combat sun damage to the skin. Participants showed reduced fine lines and roughness on the face.

Researchers also found that taking oral supplements that contained ALA twice a day reduced fine wrinkles and increased skin thickness after six months.

Alpha-lipoic acid has the potential to improve many other diseases and health conditions. One study showed positive results for patients with HIV who took 900 mg or ALA for six months.

Increased intake of the fatty acid raised the blood glutathione level and increased overall immune system effectiveness.

How It Works

Alpha-lipoic acid converts glucose into energy for the body and attacks free radicals, which are harmful elements that occur naturally in the body.

It increases your metabolism, reduces the adverse effects of oxidation, and restores vitamin levels, primarily vitamins C and E, in the body.

Although alpha-lipoic acid is a fatty acid, it is also water soluble. Most supplements are only soluble in fat or water, not both.

This attribute makes alpha-lipoic acid unique and more efficient in more parts of the body, also leading it some to call it the “universal antioxidant.”

When taken orally alpha-lipoic acid is absorbed in the gut, taken in by transporters. Unlike other fat-soluble supplements, it doesn’t require dietary fatty acids to be absorbed. As a result, you can take ALA while fasting, or on an empty stomach.

Once you take alpha-lipoic acid orally, it is taken in quickly and only stays active in the body for about 20 minutes.

However, you should be cautious about taking ALA too frequently, as this increases the risk of side effects.

Alternatives are available to extend the effects of ALA. R-alpha-lipoic acid and DL-alpha-lipoic acid are forms of the nootropic enhanced to stay in your body longer.


You can take alpha-lipoic acid as capsules or visit a physician to receive it as an injection. The appropriate dosage varies widely by your intended use. The supplement can and should be taken without food.

For those taking ALA as an antioxidant supplement, 50 to 100 mg is enough. Since you are only using it for long-term preventative maintenance, you don’t need to take the supplement every day.

Two to four times a week is enough, but you may want to vary your dosage according to your diet. Those already eating an antioxidant-rich diet should take this nootropic less frequently.

When treating a disease or health condition, 300 to 600 mg is the standard range. Neuropathy treatment is usually a daily dose of 600 mg.

Doctors may also recommend 800 mg a day in a divided dose for diabetic neuropathy or diabetes.

Side Effects

Alpha-lipoic acid can low blood sugar, so people with diabetes should be careful to monitor their levels while taking this supplement. ALA could result in a rash for those taking it orally.

Other minor side effects include headaches and itchiness.

You should avoid taking alpha-lipoic acid with monocarboxylic acids, Benzoic acid. These can compete for absorption and reduce the potency of both compounds.

Raw egg whites might also reduce or counteract the benefits of alpha-lipoic acid.

Alpha-lipoic acid could also interact some medications or supplements, including diabetes medication, as it lowers blood sugar levels, chemotherapy medication, thyroid medication, and vitamin B1, or thiamine. Those who have low levels of thiamine, a condition often seen in alcoholics, should avoid taking alpha-lipoic acid.

There is no research on the effects of ALA on children, so it is not recommended for pediatric use. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also take caution, as studies in this area are scarce and still inconclusive.

Long-term, high dosages are not recommended as they could have more serious effects. In a study on the effects of high dosage, results showed that long-term high-dose treatments of ALA damaged the liver’s mitochondria and hindered regeneration.


Alpha-lipoic Acid and L-Carnitine Stack

L-carnitine is another antioxidant that functions in the mitochondria. It is involved in lipid metabolism. The two supplements boost the other’s activity to fight off free radical cells more efficiently, as well as increase metabolism and fat burning processes.

Once a day, take:

  • 200 mg of Alpha-lipoic acid
  • 1,000 mg of L-carnitine

Once a day, take:

  • 400 mg Alpha-lipoic acid
  • 2,000 mg L-carnitine

Alpha-lipoic Acid, Vitamin E and Coenzyme Q10 Stack

Taking ALA with vitamin E has been shown to increase its antioxidant potential. It was effective in a study that tested 59 diabetic participants as a way to control type 2 diabetes complications.

Two times a day, you should take:

  • 100 mg Alpha-lipoic acid
  • 200 mg vitamin E
  • 60 mg hydrosoluble Coenzyme Q10

Alpha Lipoic Acid Alternatives

1. Piracetam

Piracetam is another nootropic shown to have positive effects on peripheral neuropathy. It is primarily known for its ability to treat cognitive damage but also has produced anti-aging effects.

If you’ve had an adverse reaction to ALA, but are still looking for an effective nootropic, try piracetam

  • Treats cognitive impairment, including aging-related impairment
  • Help prevent blood clotting and used in cardiovascular health
  • Water-soluble and can be taken without food
  • Dosage: 1200 to 4800 daily for adults
  • Safe for children; dosage: 40-100mg per kilogram of body weight for children
  • Similar cost to ALA

C60-Olive Oil

If anti-aging is your primary concern, c60-olive oil is an excellent alternative. Studies have documented c60-olive oil’s ability to increase longevity and reduce the impact disease.

Since this supplement isn’t intended to target any disease, but function as a long-term preventative measure, not much is required to show gradual and cumulative effects.

Scientific research on this supplement is still sparse and has been tested primarily in rats. However, c60-olive oil is composed of completely natural elements that have been purified for consumption.

It may help those who experience unwanted side effects from ALA.

  • Can be taken as oral supplement
  • Thought to extend the life span
  • Protects the liver
  • Absorbed quickly with no side effects shown
  • Dosage: 1.5mg to 4 mg a day
  • More costly than ALA

Liposomal Glutathione

Liposomal glutathione is a glutathione promoter like ALA and provides many similar benefits to the mitochondria. It reduces oxidation and attacks free radical agents.

Liposomal glutathione has many of the same benefits as alpha-lipoic acid and is also safe for children. Although the cost is higher, it is worth considering.

  • Found in most fruits and vegetables
  • Reduces effects of oxidation and free radical agents
  • Strengthens the immune system and repairs cell damage
  • Taken as liquid, can be mixed with water or juice
  • Dosage: 200 to 400mg on an empty stomach, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
  • Safe for children; dosage: 50 to 100mg or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for every 30lb of body weight
  • More costly than ALA


Closing Thoughts

Alpha-lipoic acid can be a natural healthy supplement for your diet or reduce real pain and risk.

Those suffering from diabetes complications, prediabetes, or diabetic neuropathy don’t have to suffer.

ALA is a natural supplement with little risk of side effects. In addition to lessening pain, it strengthens your body to reduce cell damage and the effects of aging. It may also lower your risk for other conditions, like cardiovascular disease.

Taking alpha-lipoic acid with exercise can help you see faster weight loss and increased muscle mass in a shorter amount of time.

The supplement also enables your body to repair muscle damage more quickly and reduce cramping, making it a great post-workout supplement.

For those looking to treat diabetes-related pain, slow the aging process, or improve their general health, alpha-lipoic acid could be a good choice.