Alpha Lipoic Acid Health Benefits

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body and is also found in red meat, organ meats, Brewer’s yeast, rice bran and vegetables including broccoli, peas, spinach and tomatoes. Additionally, people can take alpha-lipoic acid as a supplement. Studies with humans are scant, and the research for most possible health benefits is primarily in the animal and laboratory stages, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

Antioxidant Benefits

Antioxidants are beneficial for eliminating waste products in the body called free radicals, which are created when the body converts food to energy. Free radicals can damage cells, organs and tissues, and make it harder to fight off infection. Because alpha-lipoic acid is both fat-soluble (stored in the body) and water-soluble (readily excreted from the body), it works in all cells, unlike other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E. Additionally, alpha-lipoic acid may help regenerate other antioxidants that become depleted when working against free radicals, as explained by the UMMC.

Benefits for People with Diabetes

Studies indicate that alpha-lipoic acid improves insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes, as explained by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Additionally, a review of clinical research cited by the MSKCC found that diabetic patients taking alpha-lipoic acid experienced a significant decrease in neuropathic symptoms that tend to occur in the feet and hands (peripheral neuropathy), such as pain, burning, itching, tingling, and numbness.

Benefits for Alzheimer’s Patients

A study published in the 2007 “Journal of Neural Transmission, Supplementum” noted that the antioxidant effects of alpha-lipoic acid appear to have benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 12 months experienced stabilization of cognitive function, with no deterioration indicated on two neuropsychological tests. In a larger study lasting up to 48 months, patients with mild dementia treated with alpha-lipoic acid had very slow disease progression. Patients with moderate dementia experienced slower disease progression than data reported for untreated patients or those taking choline esterase inhibitor medications.

Skin Benefits

Topical application of lotions and creams containing alpha-lipoic acid may help prevent skin aging, as noted by the Cleveland Clinic. Its antioxidant effects may protect against aging due to sun exposure, help repair existing damage, minimize fine lines and give skin a more healthy appearance.

Brain and Nerve Benefits

Alpha-lipoic acid has protective qualities for brain and nerve tissue. Animals given alpha-lipoic acid showed less brain damage after a stroke than those not given this supplement, as well as a better survival rate, according to the UMMC.

Potential for HIV Patients

Some people take alpha-lipoic acid supplements to treat HIV and AIDS. In the laboratory, alpha-lipoic acid seems to inhibit growth of the HIV virus, according to the UMMC, but research is lacking on the effects of alpha-lipoic acid on people with HIV.

About this Author

Shelley Moore is a freelance writer and owner of an eBay resale business. She specializes in writing about alternative and conventional health care, personal development and psychology, and personal finance.