Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

What is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha Lipoic Acid, more commonly referred to as ALA, is a naturally-occurring fatty acid found inside every cell of the human body. Its primary role is to convert blood sugar (glucose) into energy using oxygen, a process referred to as aerobic metabolism. ALA has recently gained a reputation as an antioxidant, meaning it neutralizes harmful compounds called free radicals that damage cells at the genetic level.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a medication used to manage and treat chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as diabetic neuropathy, and slow down the onset of metabolic syndrome by acting as an antioxidant. Due to its strong antioxidant properties, ALA is extremely beneficial in several oxidative-stress-associated conditions such as ischemia-reperfusion or radiation injury.

When ALA is taken with avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, which are extracts made from avocado and soybean oils, ALA is shown to significantly suppress prostaglandin E-2 production, a key cytokine in the pathogenesis of inflammation.

ALA possesses an excellent way of removing toxic heavy metals from the body, a process known as chelation. Our environment is filled with heavy metals including lead from previously-leaded pipes, paints and gasoline, mercury, often found in fish, as well as barium and gadolinium which are used in medical imaging studies. 

What does ALA help with in the body? 

ALA is used to treat a variety of conditions, including mostly diabetes and nerve pain, but also alcoholic liver disease, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, erectile dysfunction, and more. 

What have the studies shown?

ALA may aid in the control of glucose by speeding up the metabolism of blood sugar. This could potentially help manage diabetes, a disease characterized by high blood glucose levels.

Data demonstrates daily oral supplementation of 300 mg of ALA over the course of 3 months maintains and improves functional vision in type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. A 2018 review of 20 randomized controlled trials looked at ALA use in people with metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes. Results showed ALA supplementation lowered fasting blood glucose, insulin concentration, insulin resistance, and hemoglobin A1C levels. 

A review published in 2019 suggested ALA reduced fasting blood glucose and A1C levels. However, a more recent systematic review found that ALA supplementation reduced insulin and insulin resistance but did not reduce A1C levels.

Neuropathic pain is the medical term used to describe the pain, numbness, and abnormal sensations caused by nerve damage. The damage is often caused by oxidative stress placed on the nerves by chronic diseases like:

A clinical trial published in 2021 found that people with pain from unknown causes reported less severe pain scores when they took between 400 milligrams and 800 milligrams of an oral ALA supplement compared to those who took a placebo.

ALA’s ability to enhance calorie burning and promote weight loss has been exaggerated by many diet gurus and supplement manufacturers. A 2017 review of studies from Yale University found that ALA supplements, ranging in doses from 300 milligrams to 1,800 milligrams daily, helped prompt an average weight loss of 2.8 pounds compared to a placebo. Another review of studies published in 2018 similarly found that ALA resulted in more weight loss compared to placebo. However, the average weight loss was only 1.5 pounds. An additional meta-analysis published in 2020 found that treatment with ALA significantly reduced body mass index and reduced weight by about 5 pounds as compared to a placebo.

ALA has long been believed to influence weight and health by altering the lipid (fat) composition in the blood. One study showed that 180 Korean adults who were given 1,200 milligrams to 1,800 milligrams of ALA lost 21% more weight than the placebo group after 20 weeks. However, they experienced no improvements in total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, or triglycerides.

However, there is some evidence that ALA can reduce markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (which promotes insulin resistance and is associated with obesity-induced, type 2 diabetes). High levels of C-reactive protein are considered a risk factor for heart disease.

A 2019 review found a significant reduction in these three markers with supplementation of ALA. In addition, another study published in 2020 found that 600 milligrams of ALA given orally for four months significantly reduced these same markers.

What are some contraindications?

ALA is considered a safe supplementation without any side effects. A daily dose of 200 to 2400 mg/day of ALA is deemed safe without side effects. However, there is no reported safety dose in children.

Some people may experience some side effects, including:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Nausea
  • Rash (when using an ALA cream or ointment)
  • Vomiting

One study supports the safety of the drug in which an adult can take up to 2400 mg without experiencing any harmful side effects. High doses of ALA are not recommended as it doesn’t provide any extra benefits. 

Thus far, few studies have analyzed the safety of ALA supplementation in pregnant women or children. 

There are very few studies on the contraindications in using ALA. If you have any of the following conditions, it would be best to discuss with your doctor before regularly taking ALA:

  • Liver disease
  • Consumption of large amounts of alcohol 
  • A thiamine deficiency 


For more information about ALA:   

Compare to: Pure Encapsulations – Alpha Lipoic Acid 400 mg ($51)