Vitamins & Minerals

Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, & Supplements

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a molecule produced by the body and found in several foods, including organ meats, yeast, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes.

It’s a popular supplement due to its antioxidant properties, which can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. It’s also known for taking the edge off symptoms of diabetes, accelerating weight loss, and improving skin health.

In this article, you’re going to learn what alpha-lipoic acid is, the benefits of alpha-lipoic acid, its side effects, the best alpha-lipoic acid supplement, and more.

What Is Alpha-Lipoic Acid?

Alpha-lipoic acid (not to be confused with alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) is an organic compound produced naturally by the body that’s involved in cellular energy metabolism. It’s also found naturally in some foods (like meat and leafy greens), but you can get much higher amounts through supplementation.

Alpha-lipoic acid acts as a powerful antioxidant and can increase the activity of other antioxidants in the body like vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione. It also works with mitochondria in cells to help convert nutrients into energy.

It’s primarily viewed as an anti-aging supplement due to its ability to boost the body’s defenses against oxidative stress and reverse oxidative damage, but it can also help accelerate weight loss and improve symptoms related to diabetes including nerve damage.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Benefits

Alpha-lipoic acid is supplemented for a variety of reasons. That’s because research shows it can . . .

One of the primary ways alpha-lipoic acid is able to deliver on these benefits is through its antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants help protect your body against oxidative damage caused by free radicals (unstable, highly reactive molecules that can damage cells), which is a major factor in aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders

Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Weight Loss

There’s evidence that alpha-lipoic acid may be able to slightly increase weight loss.

In a meta-analysis conducted by scientists at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, researchers looked at 12 studies on alpha-lipoic acid’s effect on weight loss in obese people. 

They found that alpha-lipoic supplementation did cause weight loss (roughly 5 pounds in 9 weeks), but concluded the effect was “not considerable” from a clinical standpoint (these people were obese, so 5 pounds is nothing to get excited about).  

It’s worth noting that alpha-lipoic acid was more effective at helping unhealthy individuals lose weight than healthy people.

Another review conducted by scientists at Yale University came to similar conclusions, noting that alpha-lipoic supplementation causes “small but significant reduction[s] of body weight.” 

Both reviews found that supplementation was more effective in the short-term, with results becoming less significant the longer alpha-lipoic acid was supplemented.

Alpha-lipoic acid seems to be able to inhibit AMPK, an enzyme that increases hunger and reduces energy expenditure. Thus, alpha-lipoic acid may work by suppressing appetite while also causing you to burn more calories. 

If you want to learn more about how to lose fat as fast as possible without losing muscle, read this article:

The Complete Guide to Safely and Healthily Losing Weight Fast

Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Diabetes

Alpha-lipoic acid has many uses when it comes to diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which your body can’t process carbohydrates properly and sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. This can cause various health issues, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and neuropathy.

Research shows alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood sugar, improve insulin resistance, reduce nerve pain, and reduce the risk of eye damage from diabetes.

That said, it’s worth noting that most research on alpha-lipoic acid in regards to diabetes involved intravenous injections (shots). Oral supplementation of alpha-lipoic acid is less studied, so it’s not clear if swallowing alpha-lipoic acid capsules would have the same benefits.

While alpha-lipoic acid may be able to lessen the symptoms of diabetes, these benefits are small beer compared to the effects of exercise and weight loss. That is, alpha-lipoic acid might help make diabetes slightly more manageable and less damaging, but only diet and exercise can help you make significant, lasting progress. 

If you want to learn how to lower your blood sugar, read this article:

13 Studies Answer: What’s the Best Way to Lower Blood Sugar?

Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Neuropathy

Alpha-lipoic acid is effective for treating neuropathy, which is nerve pain or numbness caused by nerve damage. Neuropathy is often felt as a weakness or prickling sensation especially in the hands and feet.

It can be caused by injury, infection, or an excess of free radicals in the body which damages nerve cells and increases your risk of many diseases.

The most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes, in which dangerously high amounts of blood glucose increase oxidative stress and damage nerves.

Research shows alpha-lipoic acid can reduce symptoms of neuropathy (including pain) and can slow the progression of impairment. In fact, it’s an approved treatment for diabetic neuropathy in Germany. 

Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Skin Health

Alpha-lipoic acid is a promising supplement for skin health. Research shows it may be able to reduce lines and wrinkles when applied topically, protect against radiation damage from the sun, and protect skin against signs of aging.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Side Effects

Alpha-lipoic acid is not associated with negative side effects and most research indicates it’s well-tolerated. That said, abdominal pain and nausea from supplementation are possible, especially when it’s taken in high doses.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Dosage

The clinically effective alpha-lipoic acid dosage (the amount used in studies showing benefits) is not firmly established.

However, it’s usually supplemented in the range of 300 to 600 mg per day, especially in the case of treating diabetes. 

For general health and antioxidant benefits, a dose of 100 mg per day is sufficient, especially when paired with other antioxidants like vitamin C.

That said, up to 1,800 mg per day has been shown to be effective for weight loss, and even 2,400 mg per day is safe.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Foods

Many foods contain small amounts of naturally occurring alpha-lipoic acid, including leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and meats. Here’s a list of some of the best sources:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Yeast
  • Tomatoes 
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Beets 
  • Rice bran
  • Red meat (especially organ meat like kidneys, heart, and liver)

It’s worth noting that these foods do not contain very much alpha-lipoic acid. For example, 100 grams of broccoli contains about 94 mcg of alpha-lipoic acid. In other words, you’d have to eat a kilogram of broccoli to get about 1 mg of alpha-lipoic acid. Thus, the best way to get a sufficient dose of alpha-lipoic acid is to take a supplement.

What Is the Best Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplement?

It’s hard to consume significant amounts of alpha-lipoic acid through food because even the richest sources contain only a few micrograms per serving. That’s why people turn to supplements.

Unless you’re treating diabetic neuropathy, though, high-doses of alpha-lipoic acid are unnecessary and expensive. 

That’s why we included a smaller dose in Triumph, Legion’s sport multivitamin that enhances health, performance, and mood and reduces stress, fatigue, and anxiety.

Specifically, Triumph (both Triumph for Men and Triumph for Women) contains 90 mg of alpha-lipoic acid per serving.

We chose this amount per serving because we wanted to provide general health benefits as well as amplify the effects of CoQ10, another antioxidant that’s also in Triumph, and 90 mg is enough to accomplish this. 

In other words, Triumph contains enough alpha-lipoic acid to give you most of its benefits, without containing so much that it makes the supplement needlessly expensive. For most people, Triumph is the best alpha-lipoic acid supplement.

FAQ #1: What is alpha-lipoic acid used for?

Alpha-lipoic acid is used as a general health antioxidant supplement, for weight loss, for diabetes treatment, and for easing symptoms of nerve damage. It can also be used to help reduce the negative effects of aging on skin health.

FAQ #2: Is it safe to take alpha-lipoic acid daily?

Yes, you can take alpha-lipoic acid daily. It’s usually supplemented daily and has been used in controlled studies for an entire year without serious adverse side effects, and is well-tolerated in studies lasting as long as four years.

FAQ #3: Who should not take alpha-lipoic acid?

Alpha-lipoic acid is safe for most people. However, if you take medications to manage diabetes or lower your blood sugar, it’s possible alpha-lipoic acid could make your blood sugar too low.

It’s also possible alpha-lipoic acid can alter thyroid hormone levels or interfere with thyroid medications, chemotherapy drugs, or blood thinners, so talk to your doctor if any of this applies to you.

+ Scientific References

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