Alpha-Lipoic Acid (or plain lipoic acid) is an important antioxidant, an organosulphur compound and derived from octanoic acid (caprylic acid). It is essential for aerobic metabolism where it acts as a cofactor and is found in mitochondria. It is often taken with L-carnitine supplements as they have similar functions in biochemical metabolism. In fact it operates in many ways like a B vitamin (Petersen Shay et al., 2009).
Whilst most food sources derive lipoic acid from meat, there are some fruit and vegetable sources which contain it. It has the interesting property of being both fat and water soluble. It is also a powerful antioxidant and is being studied for a range of benefits from diabetes to vascular disease, hypertension, inflammation, and cancer.
Alpha-lipoic acid supplements have been investigated for treating complications from diabetes such as neuropathy. Recently, a study involving 205 diabetic neuropathy patients showed boosting alpha-lipoic acid levels had several beneficial effects, but there is limited evidence available and studies have been inconclusive. Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to lead to various stomach issues and can’t be recommended as a common treatment.
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Data, P. (1995). Alpha-Lipoic Acid. Arzneimittelforschung, 45, pp. 872-874
Petersen Shay, K., Moreau, R.F., Smith, E.J., et al. (2009) Alpha-lipoic acid as a dietary supplement: Molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1790 pp. 1149-1160. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2009.07.026