Sunday, December 04, 2005

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

You may be familiar with vitamins C and E, both for their essential role in maintaining healthy tissues and organs, and for their antioxidant abilities. Maybe you regularly take supplements of these vitamins, with the expectation they'll reduce free-radical damage, a condition more common in people with diabetes. (High blood glucose levels increase free radical production.)

If so, you may want to consider adding another antioxidant to your supplement regimen: alpha-lipoic acid.

Alpha-lipoic acid, known as thioctic acid in Europe, is a naturally occurring compound involved in energy production in our body. It's also a potent antioxidant and has the ability to regenerate vitamins C and E when they've lost their antioxidant capacities in the process of neutralizing free radicals.

A number of studies in the last decade have investigated alpha-lipoic acid's therapeutic value for lessening symptoms of diabetic neuropathy - a condition that can be worsened by the oxidative damage wrought by free radicals:
  • ALADIN I Study (1995)1
  • ALADIN II Study (1999)2
  • ALADIN III Study (1999)3
  • DEKAN Study (1997)4
  • OPRIL Study (1999)5
  • SYDNEY Trial (2003)6
  • NATHAN Study (Ongoing)7
Results of the last study listed above, NATHAN, are due shortly.8 It should be able to discuss effective daily dosages of alpha-lipoic acid for managing diabetic neuropathy. In the meantime, you may opt to experiment with amounts used in the neuropathy studies; they ranged from 600mg to 1800mg daily. Smaller amounts, from 50mg to 400mg, were used in antioxidant studies.

A note of caution: Alpha-lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity.9 Although this is a desirable effect, it may necessitate changes to any diabetes medications you're taking to avoid bouts of hypoglycemia. If you use insulin, consult with your doctor before supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid. If you don't use insulin, it's still a good idea to monitor your blood glucose while taking the supplement and report changes to your doctor.


1 Treatment of symptomatic diabetic peripheral neuropathy with the anti-oxidant alpha-lipoic acid. A 3-week multicentre randomized controlled trial (ALADIN Study)

2 Treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy with the antioxidant thioctic acid (alpha-lipoic acid): a two year multicenter randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial (ALADIN II)

3 Treatment of symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid: a 7-month multicenter randomized controlled trial (ALADIN III Study)

4 Effects of treatment with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid on cardiac autonomic neuropathy in NIDDM patients. A 4-month randomized controlled multicenter trial (DEKAN Study)

5 Effects of 3-week oral treatment with the antioxidant thioctic acid (alpha-lipoic acid) in symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy. The Oral Pilot (OPRIL) Study

6 The sensory symptoms of diabetic polyneuropathy are improved with {alpha}-Lipoic Acid: The SYDNEY Trial

7 Neurological Assessment of Thioctic Acid in Neuropathy Study (NATHAN)
A long-term multicenter study in North American and Europe. NATHAN I investigates oral therapies. NATHAN II investgates intravenous therapy.

8 Thioctic Acid for Patients with Symptomatic Diabetic Polyneuropathy: A Critical Review

9 Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial