Diabetes is a serious disease that affects many people. It is so prevalent in the UK, that one in ten people over the age of 40 now have type 2 diabetes.
In fact, 4.7 people now live with diabetes mellitus, and by 2030, 5.5 million people will have it.
Diabetes mellitus is caused by increased blood glucose, which then leads to insulin resistance in the body. This usually occurs after blood sugar levels are very high for a long time.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for this disease, as is living an unhealthy lifestyle and having heart disease.
Since so many people have diabetes, it is more important than ever to find ways to treat it.
One of the more popular treatments for those living with type 2 diabetes is alpha-lipoic acid. This natural substance is found in our bodies and in some of the foods we eat. It’s also a popular supplement.
But what exactly is alpha-lipoic acid, and how can it help you if you have diabetes mellitus? Let’s find out! Here is everything you need to know about alpha-lipoic acid and diabetes.
What is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring compound that is made in the mitochondria of plant and animal cells.
It is a fatty acid and a potent antioxidant, which can be used to fight the effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals on the cells in our bodies.
Alpha-lipoic acid is unique in that it can cross the blood-brain barrier. This makes it even more useful than some other antioxidants.
Our bodies also naturally make alpha-lipoic acid (or ALA), and you can find it in various foods like spinach, broccoli, potatoes, liver, kidneys, red meat, and brewer’s yeast.
Alpha-lipoic acid is sometimes used as an alternative treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy. This is because ALA can treat neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include burning, stinging, tingling, and numbness in both the legs and feet of diabetic patients.
ALA is also used for diabetic patients as a natural way to lower blood sugar levels. Those with diabetes must keep their blood glucose levels in safe ranges to avoid severe complications from this disease.
ALA works with the body’s insulin, produced by the liver, to reduce blood sugar naturally.
ALA can also be used for a variety of other conditions. These include obesity, brain diseases (like Alzheimer’s disease), heart disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, fatty liver disease (thought this must be the type not caused by alcohol), osteoporosis, burning mouth syndrome, and even some types of cancer.
However, more research needs to be done to understand exactly how alpha-lipoic acid treats these diseases or if it helps at all.
Who should consider taking Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Patients with diabetes who have developed neuropathy may want to use ALA. Neuropathy is another word for nerve damage caused by type 2 diabetes. Most often, neuropathy manifests as pain and tingling in the feet.
Neuropathy is a frequent side effect of type 2 diabetes and can very serious. It cannot be healed and depending on the symptoms, it can be challenging to treat.
Benefits and Uses of Alpha Lipoic Acid for Diabetes
While ALA can be used as a treatment for diabetic patients to help lower blood sugar and ease the pain caused by diabetic peripheral neuropathy, it also has other benefits.
- Alpha-lipoic acid can lower something called the C-reactive protein. This protein, also known as CRP, is an inflammation marker.
When this is found in the blood, it is often linked to high levels of inflammation caused by both type 2 diabetes and cancer.
This means it can significantly reduce the symptoms of diabetic polyneuropathy by lowering the inflammation that causes nerve damage.
- In addition to lowering C-reactive proteins, ALA can decrease tumor necrosis factor-alpha. This is another compound that can be found in your blood and is usually a marker for inflammation.
Tumor necrosis factor-alpha is also a marker for cardiovascular disease, so decreasing these levels is incredibly important for our overall health.
- Alpha-lipoic acid also improves both the functioning and conduction of neurons in those who have diabetes. This is another way this powerful antioxidant can relive the symptoms of your nerve damage from diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
- ALA can also restore antioxidants in your body by increasing vitamin levels in your cells. It helps both vitamin E and vitamin C levels return to normal.
- Finally, weight loss is another result of ALA. This is because ALA uses the carbs that are stored in your body for fuel. It breaks them down and uses them as energy for other organs to use.
Fewer carbohydrates mean less sugar and less fat storage. Research in clinical trials has shown that continuous use of ALA led to weight loss for those who are overweight or obese, as compared to those who were given a placebo.
Further Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid for Health
ALA may also help improve your brain functioning. This is because of its powerful antioxidant properties.
Oxidative stress can cause memory loss and diminish your overall brain health. Research is also being done on ALA’s ability to slow the progression of some types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease.
In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, it is often linked to high blood sugar. ALA has a positive impact on your body’s ability to metabolize blood sugar. This reduces the amount of blood sugar left in your blood, which greatly reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Finally, alpha-lipoic acid may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. Randomized controlled clinical trials are ongoing to study the effect of this fatty acid and its ability to stop diseased cells from spreading in the body.
Another way ALA can help those with MS is by reducing inflammation and thereby reducing pain and symptoms of the disease.
How long does it take for Alpha Lipoic Acid to start working?
Alpha-lipoic acid does not work overnight. Keep in mind that only 30 – 40% of ALA is actually absorbed by your gut. Therefore, you may get better results if you always take your supplement on an empty stomach.
In general, it will probably take 3 – 5 weeks before your diabetic symptoms begin to decrease. If you have not seen any improvements in that time, your doctor may increase your recommended dosage.
Side effects of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Even though alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant, it is considered very safe to take. Most people can take supplements with ALA and experience no side effects.
Adults can usually take up to 2,400 mg of ALA with no fear of side effects. Taking higher doses is not recommended since there is no research supporting the benefits of the higher dosage.
It’s always best to consult with your doctor, who can give you the recommended dosage. They can consider your other medications and prescribe the correct dose.
While side effects are rare with alpha-lipoic acid, they can occur. Most people who had side effects from taking high doses of ALA reported itching, rashes, and nausea. Fortunately, these effects are usually mild.
What drug interactions does Alpha Lipoic Acid have?
Alpha-lipoic acid can interact negatively with some medications. You should not take ALA without talking with your doctor if you take insulin or other oral diabetes medicines.
This is because ALA can lower your blood sugar levels and, when combined with your current diabetic medication, may cause your blood sugar to dip into dangerously low levels.
ALA also negatively interacts with levothyroxine and other medicines for underactive thyroids. It may also cause complications if you are undergoing chemotherapy.
In addition to these medications, ALA should not be taken with other health supplements that naturally lower your blood sugar. There are a wide variety of herbs and supplements available that are advertised to lower your blood sugar.
These include, but are not limited to, garlic, fenugreek, horse chestnut, psyllium, devil’s claw, guar gum, and both Panax and Siberian ginseng. If you combine these supplements, you may force your blood sugar to dip too low and cause a medical emergency.
Best Supplements for Diabetes
While your body does make alpha-lipoic acid on its own, it is only in small amounts. The ALA amounts found in our foods are also minimal. Therefore, if you are interested in getting more ALA in your body, it is best to take supplements.
However, knowing what supplement to choose can be very confusing! There are a lot of supplements on the market, and it is essential to be informed before deciding.
Alpha-lipoic acid goes by several different names. You may see it labeled as ALA or thioctic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid is derived from octanoic acid, so you may see this name on the label of supplements, as well.
How can you choose the best Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement to treat your diabetes?
When choosing a supplement, look for ones that are certified by a third party. Unfortunately, many supplements claim to have quality ingredients, but cannot support their claims.
Many supplements package more than one ingredient together to provide the best supplementation for your health. Be sure to read the labels carefully to see if there are additional vitamins or minerals included.
Ben’s Glyco-Optimizer is an all-natural, clinical-grade supplement designed to work as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle to help manage type 2 diabetes.
It contains a powerful blend of nutrients, including 200mg Alpha-Lipoic Acid. It works to restore cell function and lower blood sugar levels, preventing oxidative damage and preventing a progression of diabetes.
Where can you find the best Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements?
Always shop at trusted sources for your alpha-lipoic supplementation. You may find that your local pharmacy or grocery store can advise you.
You can always trust us as well. We review the best supplements that have the most reliable mix of ingredients so that you know you’re safe when you take your ALA every day!
A diabetes diagnosis has a significant impact on your life. However, it does not mean that you can no longer have fun or enjoy life! Instead, it means that you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle and diet to live a healthy, happy life.
In addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet, and weight loss, supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid is a great way to increase insulin sensitivity and lower your blood sugar levels.
This is especially important as high blood glucose numbers can cause serious complications from diabetes like diabetic polyneuropathy.
In addition to providing treatment for the symptoms of neuropathy, ALA can also make you healthier overall. This will improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of developing more severe complications from diabetes.