Alpha Lipoic Acid and Neuropathy - dummies

By Toby Smithson, Alan L. Rubin

Alpha lipoic acid has been examined in relation to diabetes from several different angles. Since many facets of diabetes, and the common complications of diabetes, have a foundation in oxidative stress, this powerful antioxidant has been a candidate for improving insulin sensitivity, damage to arteries and blood vessels, and damage to nerves.

Some studies have, in fact, shown improvements to insulin sensitivity, glucose uptake into cells, and to A1C levels in patients treated with higher dose of alpha lipoic acid. The clearest benefit, however, has been in reducing the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, or nerve pain.

In Germany, for instance, high doses of alpha lipoic acid are routinely used as a treatment for neuropathy. Unfortunately, improvements to diabetes-related issues are most effective when the compound is administered intravenously, and less effective when taken as a pill.

Alpha lipoic acid is a unique antioxidant because it is soluble — it dissolves — in both water and fat. The molecule was identified in the early 1950s from what had been previously known as potato growth factor, an extract from potatoes necessary for some bacteria to grow. Alpha lipoic acid is also involved in the energy cycle, where the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate is produced, and seems to help regenerate the vitamin antioxidants.

Foods containing alpha lipoic acid include potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, red meat, liver, and brewer’s yeast. Your body can make alpha lipoic acid, and there is no established recommended daily intake from food or supplements. Unless your doctor recommends a supplement, or concurs with your intentions to supplement with this antioxidant, your best strategy, as always, is to eat a diet which includes a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables.