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Lipoic Acid
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Lipoic Acid?

Lipoic acid, also known as alpha-lipoic acid, is a sulfur-containing fatty acid. It is found inside every cell of the body, where it helps generate the energy that keeps us alive and functioning. Lipoic acid is a key part of the metabolic machinery that turns glucose (blood sugar) into energy for the body's needs.

Lipoic acid is an antioxidant , which means that it neutralizes naturally occurring but harmful chemicals known as free radicals. Unlike other antioxidants, which work only in water or fatty tissues, lipoic acid is unusual in that it functions in both water and fat. 1 By comparison, vitamin E works only in fat and vitamin C works only in water. This gives lipoic acid an unusually broad spectrum of antioxidant action.

Antioxidants are a bit like kamikaze pilots,...

Lipoic acid has been widely used for decades in Germany to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy . This is a condition caused by diabetes in which nerves leading to the arms and legs become damaged, resulting in numbness, pain, and other symptoms. Free radicals are hypothesized to play a role in neuropathy, and, on this basis, lipoic acid has been tried as a treatment. However, the evidence for benefit is largely limited to studies that used the intravenous form of this supplement. 2 Another set of nerves may become damaged in diabetes, as well: the autonomic nerves that control internal organs. When this occurs in the heart (cardiac autonomic neuropathy), it leads to irregularities of heart rhythm. There is some evidence that lipoic acid supplements may be helpful for this...

Safety Issues

Lipoic acid appears to have no significant side effects at dosages up to 1,800 mg daily. 3 Safety for young children, women who are pregnant or nursing, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.