The Role of Alpha Lipoic Acid in Diabetic Neuropathy

According to Mayo clinic pain research has led to discoveries that alpha lipoic acid may work in relieving painful symptoms. Much can be done to alleviate the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and prevent further damage.

What is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

It’s a naturally occurring fatty acid in our bodies. It’s also known as lipoic acid, thioctic acid or abbreviated as ALA but shouldn’t be confused with alpha linolenic acid.

Alpha lipoic acid is found in most foods especially in animal internal organs such as the kidney, alphabuildersanddevelopers liver and heart. It can also be sourced from plants such as spinach, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprout, rice bran and yeast extract. Because it is covalently bound, the naturally occurring type is not available so that extracting it from natural sources yields poor results. As such, supplements in the market are chemically synthesized.

The chemical structure of alpha lipoic acid shows 2 thiol or sulfur groups. When reduced the result is called dihydrolipoic acid and when in an oxidized form alpha lipoic acid. It has an asymmetric carbon and can result in two isomers that are “mirror images of each other,” the R-LA and S-LA. The R-isomer is produced in the body and bound to protein. Supplements may contain both L and R forms.

Functions of Alpha Lipoic Acid in the Body

It is a fatty acid and as such it is used by the body to produce energy for the body’s functions. It converts glucose into energy.

It is one potent antioxidant. This characteristic is significant in neuropathy. If compared to most antioxidants, it’s both water and fat soluble. Being so, it easily penetrates nerve cells and protects the integrity of nerve cells from oxidative damage. It scavengers for radicals and protects the integrity of the nerve cells. Another one of its significant function is its ability to renew vitamin C and glutathione when these antioxidants are in low supply. Glutathione is another essential antioxidant that eliminates harmful toxins. They cooperate together to protect the harmful effects of free radicals and protect the integrity of cells from oxidative damage.

Research on Alpha Lipoic Acid and Neuropathy

Preliminary studies suggest that it may help in diabetic neuropathy. In one of the largest studies, 181 people took 600 mg, 1200 mg or 1800 mg of alpha lipoic acid or a placebo. After 5 weeks, those who consumed the supplement have shown improved symptoms. A 600 mg daily dose was best tolerated which also provided the best benefits.

Research conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute has shown the following evidence regarding the role of alpha lipoic acid in diabetes and in diabetic neuropathy:

· improves glucose utilization in type 2 Diabetes mellitus by enhancing insulin sensitivity. The result of three different research studies as reported by the institute suggested that the maximum effective dose is 600 mg /day. The R-isomer of ALA may be more effective in improving insulin sensitivity than the L-isomer.

· by some mechanism it increases glucose uptake in fat and muscle cells

· improves the function and conduction of neurons in diabetes

· A neuropathic complication characterized by reduced heart rate variability was “significantly improved” by treatment of 800 mg daily of the racemic form.

· Beneficial effects are related mostly to its antioxidant properties. As an antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid scavenges reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that can cause damage to DNA, proteins and lipids in cell membranes. An antioxidant such as Vitamin C, glutathione and Coenzyme Q10 can be oxidized when scavenging harmful free radicals. It is a potent reducing agent capable of renewing the potency and ability of Vitamin C, glutathione plus Coenzyme Q10. Moreover, it increases glutathione synthesis. Alpha lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid also inhibit copper and iron mediated oxidative damage. It prevents excess iron and copper accumulation in the body and is a good treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

· may help in diabetic end-stage renal disease on hemodialysis.

· Research show a significant improvement in electrophysiological tests of nerve conduction after two years of treatment with 1200/mg or 600/mg than those on placebo.

· Apart from its beneficial role in diabetes, it helps in metabolic syndrome, halts Alzheimer’s progression and age-related cognitive dysfunction and many others.

Recommended Alpha Lipoic Acid Dose

As you age the capacity of your body to produce alpha lipoic acid diminishes and you can benefit from its numerous benefits.

The Linus Pauling institute recommends the R-isomer of 200-400 mg daily for healthy people.

For diabetic neuropathy, the maximum recommended dose is 600 – 1,800 mg /day of the R-isomer.

For cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy a suggested oral dose of 800/day of the R-isomer also is suggested.

Bottom Line

If you decide to supplement your anti-diabetic medication with alpha lipoic acid in the hope of treating your diabetic neuropathy ask your doctors’ recommendation especially if you are taking other medications to lower blood sugar levels.

This antioxidant can help in your diabetes management. Nevertheless, it’s very important to remember that management of diabetes is a lifelong commitment. Take note of your diet, exercise daily and monitor your blood glucose levels regularly. Take your anti-diabetic medications or insulin as directed by your doctor.

Conscientiously observing these things can prevent complications and stop them in their tracks once they have started.

A B Stephens is a chemical engineer by profession. Her passion to help diabetics stems from the fact that members of her family and her husband’s family are diabetics. They launched in 2007 – a one-stop shop for people who have diabetes – a lifestyle store complete with whatever a diabetic would need to live his/her life to the fullest! Numerous studies have proven that Alpha Lipoic Acid nutritional supplements have been shown to help in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.


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