What Is Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) Good For?

Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2021
alpha lipoic acid benefits
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) is thought to offer health benefits such as improving skin health, boosting memory, aiding in weight loss, and more.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is one of the most powerful antioxidants that our bodies require.

  • It is a vitamin-like sulfur-containing compound that is naturally synthesized in the human body.
  • Its fat-soluble and water-soluble abilities are one of its most important characteristics. 

Because of this, it can provide antioxidant protection in a much broader range of physiological environments throughout the body, prompting some scientists to refer to ALA as the “universal antioxidant.”

14 health benefits of alpha-lipoic acid

The 14 health benefits of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) include:

  1. Powerful antioxidant:
    • ALA is a potent supplement that may aid in the prevention of oxidative stress and can efficiently scavenge free radicals.
    • ALA chelates, or binds to, toxic metals, assisting in their removal from the body. Additionally, toxic metals contribute to oxidative stress.
    • ALA regenerates or enhances other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10.
  2. Skin health:
    • ALA speeds up wound healing in patients with chronic wounds.
    • When applied directly to the skin, ALA increases skin thickness and decreases roughness and sun damage in elderly patients.
    • According to some studies, topical lipoic acid can reverse skin damage caused by cigarette smoke.
  3. Diabetes:
    • ALA appears to have potential benefits in the prevention of diabetes and is approved in some countries as part of a diabetic treatment plan.
    • It has insulin-mimetic activity, which means it improves glucose handling and consumption.
    • ALA lowers blood glucose and improves insulin sensitivity in patients with type II diabetes, including overweight adults with the condition.
  4. Weight management:
    • ALA is a useful addition to a weight loss program; however, ALA alone will not cause weight loss.
    • ALA may improve glucose and fat metabolism, which means that more sugars and fats in foods are broken down and used for energy rather than being stored as fat.
    • Lipoic acid prevents the production of chemerin, a molecule linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome. This could be how lipoic acid aids in the fight against obesity and diabetes.
  5. Brain health and neurological disorders:
    • ALA has shown promising results in various neurological disorders.
    • ALA may act as a neuroprotective agent due to its antioxidant properties. 
    • Through enhanced anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions, studies have reported that ALA may restore damaged neurons and promote long-term functional recovery.
  6. Exercise recovery:
    • Short-term studies report that ALA supplementation protects DNA and cells from oxidative stress caused by exercise. Moreover, it helps men who are physically active regenerate their muscles.
    • ALA changes the internal chemistry of cells, promoting muscle regeneration after injury.
  7. Inflammation:
  8. Heart health:
    • Dietary ALA may benefit heart health. Supplementation reduces low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increases high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol in clinical trials.
    • Many studies have reported that ALA may play a role in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis (artery hardening) and related cardiovascular diseases.
    • ALA increases nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation (blood vessel widening) and promotes anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic (blood clot-reducing) pathways.
    • ALA may help prevent the development of hypertension (high blood pressure) by lowering the level of inflammatory cytokines in the blood and preventing pathological changes to blood vessel cells.
  9. Migraines:
    • Migraines have been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress. Lipoic acid is beneficial in both cases.
    • Lipoic acid increases the efficacy of the migraine medication topiramate. The combination of lipoic acid and topiramate was significantly more effective than either drug alone in reducing the frequency and duration of migraines.
  10. Pain:
    • Although lipoic acid is not as effective as traditional pain relievers, it may reduce the number of pharmaceutical drugs needed to manage pain.
    • To determine its role in pain management, much more research will be required.
  11. Sperm quality:
    • After 12 weeks of eating a healthy, ALA-rich diet, studies report that it can significantly increase total sperm count, sperm concentration, and motility levels.
  12. High-risk pregnancies:
    • Lipoic acid may improve the health of both the mother and fetus in high-risk pregnancies.
    • Furthermore, miscarriage risk may go down with lipoic acid supplementation.
  13. Bone health:
    • Several laboratory studies have reported that lipoic acid prevents inflammation-induced bone loss, reduces inflammation, and improves cartilage degeneration in patients with osteoarthritis.
  14. Longevity research:
    • Many ALA-rich foods are included in a healthy diet, and lipoic acid consumption may be linked to an increase in lifespan.
    • Fighting free radicals is an effective way to protect against cell damage.
    • Lipoic acid may stimulate the enzyme telomerase that helps slow the aging process.

The majority of research on ALA is contradictory. Because the literature on ALA supplements is new and growing, it's difficult to consider the findings more than the preliminary. 

There is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether these theoretical mechanisms will be effective in the long run. These products, like many dietary supplements, have almost no scientific evidence of efficacy.

Some of the early studies used animals (typically rodents) as test subjects rather than humans, whereas others used in vitro experiments (outside of a living organism). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved ALA as a treatment for any medical disorder.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Alpha-Lipoic Acid: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-767/alpha-lipoic-acid