Antioxidants in your body are important to prevent damage from normal biological processes and environmental dangers. Alpha-lipoic acid is a natural chemical that functions as an antioxidant throughout your body and helps regenerate other natural antioxidants. Supplements containing ALA are used to improve glucose use, diabetic neuropathy and other conditions, and are best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach.
About Alpha-Lipoic Acid
ALA is soluble both in water and fatty environments, allowing it to be a unique antioxidant that can protect all parts of your body. ALA also serves to recycle other antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and glutathione. Although the mechanism is still unclear, ALA improves uptake and use of glucose and other nutrients by some action on the insulin receptor. Insulin sensitivity and peripheral neuropathy in those with Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders may be improved by ALA supplementation.
ALA is best absorbed on an empty stomach, one to two hours before eating. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a dose of 50 mg or more of ALA results in a significant but transient level of ALA in the blood. ALA can exist in two forms, designated R or S, that are basically mirror images like your left and right hand. R-ALA is the form naturally produced by your body. Supplements containing only R-ALA are more expensive but better absorbed by your body.
Time-Release Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Although ALA levels can be raised significantly with supplements, excess ALA is rapidly metabolized by your body and excreted. Those wishing to take ALA for its antioxidant support or to aid in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, where the recommended dose is 800 mg per day in divided doses, may wish to take a time-release supplement.
ALA is naturally present in the body, and supplementation of up to 1,600 mg per day for six months and 1,200 mg per day for two years have been well tolerated in studies, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Consult your doctor before taking ALA supplements if you are being treated for a medical condition or are taking daily medication, prescription or otherwise. Those who consume large amounts of alcohol or have a vitamin B-1 deficiency should avoid ALA supplements. ALA may help lower blood sugar, but may do so excessively if you are taking other drugs for diabetes.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Medical Reference: Complementary Medicine: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- "Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy"; Development of a Sustained Release Dosage Form for Alpha-lipoic Acid. Ii. Evaluation in Human Volunteers; Bernkop-schnürch et al.; 2004