Side Effects and Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid


An antioxidant that's naturally occurring in humans, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) could have several health benefits, including help for those with diabetes, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Though ALA is present in some foods, to experience its maximum benefit, ALA must be supplemented as a vitamin. Side effects of ALA are rare and usually mild.


  • ALA is found in a variety of foods and is readily available in supplements. It is found naturally in liver, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peas and Brussels sprouts. Supplements contain larger amounts of ALA than foods. Take ALA supplements in capsule or tablet form on an empty stomach, one to two hours before eating.

Diabetes Supplement

  • Though the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says more research is needed, ALA is a popular supplement for people with diabetes. NCCAM says that some research has indicated that it affects insulin, glucose metabolism and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University says that ALA improves vascular health in diabetic patients. Supplementation of 300 mg of ALA a day for four weeks improved vascular heatlh by 44 percent in diabetic patients, compared to a placebo. James F. Balch and Mark Stengler, authors of "Prescription for Natural Cures," argue that people with diabetes should take 300 to 1200 mg of ALA daily.

Supplement for Other Diseases

  • ALA may also help people suffering from other conditions. Balch and Stengler say that because ALA is an antioxidant, it could improve vision in patients with glaucoma who take 100 mg twice a day. One hundred mg taken three times a day is also beneficial for poisoning, particularly for medication overdoses, as ALA prevents liver damage. ALA may also prove beneficial for those struggling with Syndrome X, a group of health problems that includes high blood pressure, obesity and abnormal blood fats. Syndrome X can result in insulin resistance; to improve insulin sensitivity, take 300 to 1200 mg of ALA daily. The Linus Pauling Institute says that preliminary research of ALA and multiple sclerosis has shown that the supplement could slow the disease's progression. Those who took 1200 to 2400 mg of ALA for two weeks had a decrease in the cellular activity that causes the disease to progress.

Side Effects

  • NCCAM says that ALA could lower blood sugar levels too much, so those taking ALA as a dietary supplement should carefully monitor blood sugar levels. The Linus Pauling Institute asserts that, overall, ALA has few adverse effects. The most frequent side effects are minor and include allergic reactions that cause rashes, hives and itching. Other side effects include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

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