Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Last Updated: December 22 2022

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a mitochondrial compound involved in energy metabolism. It is commonly taken with L-Carnitine supplements, as they are related in mechanisms. ALA provides a short but potent reduction of oxidation by increasing antioxidant enzymes, and may decrease blood glucose acutely.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid is most often used for

What is alpha-lipoic acid?

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), or thioctic acid, is a sulfur-containing antioxidant that is involved in energy production in the mitochondria. It scavenges reactive oxygen species, and is produced in plants, animals, and humans from cysteine and fatty acids.[93][94][95]

What are alpha-lipoic acid’s main benefits?

ALA may have a protective effect on neurons, as it was found that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) supplementing with ALA for 2 years experienced a smaller decrease in brain volume than expected.[96] Furthermore, ALA may reduce disability scores and improve walking performance in people with MS.[94]

ALA has inconsistent benefits for the treatment of complications from type 2 diabetes such as pain from diabetic neuropathy.[97][98][99]

ALA has a small but consistent body of research supporting its ability to improve semen parameters like sperm concentration and sperm motility.[100][101][102] It also appears to be beneficial for female fertility processes like oocyte maturation, fertilization, and embryo development in the context of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).[102]

What are alpha-lipoic acid’s main drawbacks?

ALA is generally found to be safe and tolerable,[96][103][97] though it may cause gastrointestinal upset, headache, rash, and rarely, renal dysfunction.[96][103]

How does alpha-lipoic acid work?

ALA is involved in cellular respiration in the mitochondria by serving as a cofactor of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, a key enzyme involved in energy production.[96]

ALA may benefit neurological health by increasing Nf-e2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), which increases phase II detoxification and antioxidant genes, potentially reducing oxidative damage.[104][105] ALA’s role in decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation may benefit vascular health as well.[106] ALA also mildly increases flow-mediated dilation (a measure of vascular function), possibly by increasing endothelium-derived nitric oxide.[107]

What else is Alpha-Lipoic Acid known as?
Note that Alpha-Lipoic Acid is also known as:
  • ALA
  • thioctic acid
  • 1 2-dithiolane-3-pentanoic acid
Alpha-Lipoic Acid should not be confused with:
  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (omega-3 fatty acid)
Dosage information

Standard dosages of Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) tend to be in the range of 300-600mg, with little differentiation based on whether the racemic mixture of ALA (S- and R- isomers) or Na-R-ALA results in higher blood levels.

ALA appears to be absorbed via transporter-related means, and despite being inherently fat-soluble it does not require dietary fatty acids to be absorbed from the gut. ALA supplementation can be taken in a fasted state.

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