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Can alpha-lipoic acid supplementation shed some pounds?

The evidence for alpha-lipoic acid's effect on weight loss is conflicting. This meta-analysis casts some light on the issue

Study under review: Alpha-lipoic acid supplement in obesity treatment: A systematic review and metaanalysis of clinical trials

Introduction

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring antioxidant[1] synthesized in small amounts by plants and animals, including humans. It plays an important role[2] as a cofactor for several mitochondrial functions necessary for energy production and the metabolism of amino acids. Additionally, ALA can directly neutralize[3] free radicals and regenerate[4] other important antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and glutathione, as shown in Figure 1.

One hypothesis[5] to explain the exacerbation of obesity and associated complications is that a low-grade inflammatory state promotes oxidative stress that blunts the use of fat as an energy source and facilitates fat storage. It has been proposed[6] that oxidative stress increases as body fat accumulates, which contributes to the development of cardiometabolic diseases. Therefore, antioxidants like ALA have been suggested[7] to have potential therapeutic value in treating obesity.

Aside from antioxidant functions, ALA could hypothetically benefit obesity through its effects on AMPK in fat, muscle[8], and the liver that result[9] in improved glucose uptake and fat oxidation. ALA has also been demonstrated[10] to inhibit AMPK in the hypothalamus, leading to the suppression of appetite and food intake in rodents. The reduction in food intake appears to range from 18[11]-30[12]% relative to unsupplemented control animals. Additionally, ALA may be able to reduce[13] glucose absorption in the intestines secondary to inhibiting its transporter. Other research[11] in mice has reported that ALA supplementation increases energy expenditure and reduce fat synthesis[14] in the liver.

Several clinical trials looking at the effect of ALA supplementation on weight loss in humans have been conducted, but their results have been conflicting. The study under review is a meta-analysis that sought to address this issue by quantifying the efficacy of supplemental ALA on bodyweight and BMI in adults, using data from randomized controlled trials.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring antioxidant believed to have potential for the treatment of obesity. ALA supposedly works by reducing the oxidative stress associated with obesity, suppressing food intake, reducing nutrient absorption, increasing energy expenditure, and reducing fat synthesis. The study under review is a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that sought to quantify the efficacy of ALA on bodyweight and BMI in adults.

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The big picture

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Other Articles in Issue #35 (September 2017)