Alpha-lipoic acid is an organic compound with antioxidant properties in human cells, foods, and dietary supplements. Here is all you need to know about its potential health benefits, dosage, and side effects.

Alpha-lipoic is an organic compound with unique antioxidant properties and is present in human cells, dietary supplements, and some foods. It has gained popularity over the years since studies suggest that it can aid weight loss, diabetes, memory, and inflammation. Still, others doubt its effectiveness, hence the need for further research. This article helps you understand the compound, the truth about its claimed health potentials, its side effects, and the dosage information.

Alpha-lipoic acid: what is it?

Alpha-lipoic acid is an organic compound with powerful antioxidant properties that’s found in foods and dietary supplements, although the human cells also produce it in small proportions. It is among the most unique antioxidants since it can dissolve in water and fats, unlike most antioxidants which dissolve in either water or fats. For instance, vitamin E is fat-soluble, while vitamin C only dissolves in water. The recent popularity that alpha-lipoic acid has gained is due to it being linked to blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, improved memory function, and weight loss, although some experts doubt its effectiveness. Red meat, broccoli, organ meat, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, and rice bran are all rich in alpha-lipoic acid, although in small amounts. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements pack thousands of lipoic acids; hence many people turn to them to complement the human cells and diet.

How alpha-lipoic acid relates to weight loss

One of the claimed health benefits of alpha-lipoic acid is its aid in weight loss, which is why many supplement with the organic compound. Animal studies have resulted in impressive findings, implying that alpha-lipoic acid might be good for their weight loss. For instance, in a study in which rodents were given the organic compound or a placebo, the former group experienced more weight loss. Although the exact mechanism behind this observation was not established, the suppression of the AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) enzyme could be the main reason. When the AMPK enzyme is activated, it increases hunger, resulting in more food and calorie intake. However, its suppression leads to burning the fats in the body, leading to weight loss. Unfortunately, the results were not the same for human studies, which resulted in 1.27kg more weight loss than a placebo group after 23weeks, showing less effectiveness.

Alpha-lipoic acid and diabetes

The claims about alpha-lipoic acid helping with diabetes are more substantiated since it can slow down blood sugar levels, a risk factor for diabetes type 2, in animals and humans. In fact, this organic compound could bring down blood sugar levels by 64%. Research suggests that the effect in human studies is courtesy of increased insulin sensitivity, especially because alpha-lipoic acid can clear the fat tissues that blood insulin, rendering it resistant. Still, it’s not advisable to use alpha-lipoic acid as a complete diabetic mediation or to use it without consulting your doctor since it can counter the functionality of other medications.

Other claimed health benefits of alpha-lipoic acid

Besides weight loss and blood sugar control, alpha-lipoic acid has other claimed benefits, including;

i. It may slow down memory loss

Memory loss is a major problem that results from old age, and many old people have the problem. Although it’s inevitable as one ages, the process can be slowed down by taking supplements, including alpha-lipoic acid. Memory loss and other aspects of cognitive decline are majorly caused by oxidative stress, and inflammation and alpha-lipoic acid may effectively suppress these problems since it can fight inflammation and neutralize free radicals.

ii. It may improve skin condition and reduce signs of skin aging

Alpha-lipoic acid cream has been widely used to improve skin conditions and skin aging. When topically applied on the skin, it protects against harmful ultraviolet rays, reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and aging speed. Besides, it reduces the damage UV rays would cause by increasing the production of other antioxidants and activating them.

iii. It may fight inflammation

Inflammation is one of the main causes of chronic diseases, besides free radicals and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid can reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), ultimately reducing inflammation. Consequently, the organic compound prevents the development and progression of chronic illnesses caused by inflammation, including stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Still, more studies are needed to test the compound’s efficacy and effectiveness before being recommended for any of these roles.

iv. It may boost nerve function

Alpha-lipoic acid is also praised for improved nerve function, a role some studies are supporting. For instance, several studies now increasingly believe that by increasing nerve coordination, alpha-lipoic acid can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, tingling, or numbness of the hand, especially when the condition is diagnosed at early stages. In fact, those with the condition have recovered after supplementing with the organic compound.

Side effects of alpha-lipoic acid

Despite the many potential health benefits, alpha-lipoic acid also has side effects, although not severe. For instance, people reported itching, swelling, and nausea.  More serious side effects include interrupted liver enzymes production and function, strained breast and liver function, and increased oxidation. Few studies have explored how alpha-lipoic acid may affect pregnant women and children, and the results are inconclusive; hence, they should avoid it. In addition, diabetics need to consult a doctor before taking the organic compound due to possible drug interaction.

Alpha-lipoic acid dosage

There is no exact dosage for alpha-lipoic acid supplements, although studies show that 300-600 mg are enough and effective. Since there is no evidence that taking more amounts of the compound will result in more effects, there is no need to take excessive amounts. Still, research has shown that up to 2,400mg may not be harmful.


Alpha-lipoic acid is an organic compound with unique antioxidant properties produced by human cells, although foods like broccoli, tomatoes, red meat, and spinach, and supplements also have it. It is linked to reduced inflammation and blood sugar levels, controlled weight loss, and improved memory function. Although studies show that up to 2,400 mg of its supplements may not be harmful, 300-600 mg are enough and effective.

MS, Lund University, Sweden

Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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