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About Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Type 2 Diabetes

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Seems to Help Prevent Certain Kinds of Cell Damage in the Body

WebMD Health News

Reviewed By David Kiefer, MD

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that's in many foods, and it's made naturally in our bodies. For many years, high doses of alpha-lipoic acid supplements have been used in parts of Europe for certain types of nerve damage. Studies suggest that they might also help with type 2 diabetes.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Uses

We have strong evidence that alpha-lipoic acid supplements help with type 2 diabetes. Several studies have found that they can improve insulin resistance. Studies also found that alpha-lipoic acid supplements can help with neuropathy -- nerve damage -- caused by diabetes or cancer treatment. They seem to reduce symptoms like pain, tingling, and prickling in the feet and legs.

Although these uses are promising, diabetes and cancer obviously need proper medical treatment. So don't treat yourself on your own with supplements. Instead, see your doctor and ask if alpha-lipoic acid might help.

There's some early evidence that long-term use of alpha-lipoic acid might help with the symptoms of dementia. Other studies suggest that an alpha-lipoic acid cream might help skin damage related to aging. However, more research needs to be done.

Alpha-lipoic acid has also been researched as a treatment for many other conditions. These include Amanita mushroom poisoning, glaucoma, kidney disease, and peripheral arterial disease. So far, the evidence is not clear.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Dose & Instructions for Use

Because alpha-lipoic acid is an unproven treatment, there is no established dose. However, studies have used between 600-1,800 mg daily for diabetes and neuropathy. Some studies have used injections of alpha-lipoic acid instead of oral supplements.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Food Sources

Many foods contain alpha-lipoic acid in very low amounts. They include spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and rice bran. Red meats -- and particularly organ meats -- are also sources of alpha-lipoic acid.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplement Information

Alpha-lipoic acid often comes in tablets or capsules. It's also sold as a cream for topical use. Like any supplement, keep alpha-lipoic acid in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Warnings

  • Side effects. Generally, side effects are uncommon. These supplements could cause nausea, dizziness, or a rash. Topical alpha-lipoic acid can irritate the skin.
  • Risks. Because alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood glucose, check with a doctor before using it if you have diabetes. Your doctor might want to test your glucose levels regularly while you use alpha-lipoic acid supplements. If you have thyroid problems, a thiamine deficiency, or any other medical issue, talk to your doctor before you start taking alpha-lipoic acid supplements.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines or supplements regularly, see your doctor before you start using alpha-lipoic acid. People with diabetes need to be especially careful. Using it along with diabetes drugs could make blood sugar levels drop too low. Alpha-lipoic acid might decrease the effect of chemotherapy drugs. It could also interact with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, tranquilizers, vasodilators, and drugs for osteoarthritis.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, alpha-lipoic acid is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

SOURCES:

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site, “About Herbs: Alpha-lipoic acid.”

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site, “Alpha-lipoic acid.”

Natural Standard Patient Monograph, “Alpha-lipoic acid.”

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.



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