Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant.  Intravenous infusions of ALA have been found to be helpful in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and hepatitis.

Antioxidants protect the cells and tissues from oxidative damage.  ALA was first isolated in 1953 and it was discovered that it was very important in the Krebs cycle which is the body’s main process for converting carbohydrates into energy.  ALA is a medium length (8 carbon atoms) fatty acid containing 2 sulfur atoms.  It is readily made in the body and is well absorbed from the diet through the stomach and intestines. LA is found in all muscles and internal organs.  Liver and yeast are especially good dietary sources of ALA.

ALA scavenges hydroxyl radicals, singlet oxygen and hypochlorous acid, can remove heavy metals by chelation and regenerates other antioxidants like glutathione, vitamin C, CoQ10 and indirectly vitamin E.

Researchers have found that administration of ALA intravenously and orally is effective in alleviated many of the problems accompanying diabetes.  Animal experiments have shown that ALA can prevent the development of type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes and enhances glucose uptake in Type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes. A recent clinical trial showed that IV administration of ALA (200mg/day) for 21 days markedly reduces the pain caused by polyneuropathy (peripheral nerve disease) in diabetes patients.  Another larger study of diabetics with polyneuropathy involved IV injection of 600mg/day of ALA for 3 weeks followed by 12 weeks of oral supplementation of 600mg/day.  Marked pain reduction was again evident. Experiments have also shown that ALA supplementation can reduce the risk of cataract formation in diabetics.  Diabetics taking ALA need close monitoring of their blood sugar levels as ALA supplementation may decrease the need for insulin and other diabetic drugs.

Heart attacks and strokes involve a disruption of the oxygen supply to the affected areas.  When the oxygen supply is restored a burst of free radicals is produced which can cause additional tissue damage (ischemia-reperfusion injury).  Animal experiments have shown that ALA is effective in preventing or ameliorating ischemia-reperfusion injury.

Oxidative stress plays a major role in the development and progression of neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Animal experiments have shown that ALA supplementation can reverse age-related memory loss and there is some evidence that ALA may be useful in the treatment of epilepsy.

Very exciting work is being done with ALA for liver disease.  ALA is being used very effectively intravenously to stimulate liver regeneration.  See the book The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough by Dr. Bert Berkson MD. PhD for more information.  We follow his protocol at the office for the treatment of liver disease, including hepatitis C.

The protocol includes assessing liver parameters using various blood tests. In particular we track albumin levels (which will be low in liver disease), platelets (will also be low in liver disease) and prothrombin time (the liver produces clotting factors and prothrombin time would be elongated with liver disease).  IV alpha lipoic acid is used to regenerate the liver.  IV dosages start at 75 to 100mg per day.  We watch for hypoglycemia and slowly increase the dosage to 600mg per day.  In addition we give oral selenium at 200mcg twice daily.  Viruses appear to monitor selenium levels. When selenium levels are high, viruses remain dormant. When they are low, they replicate.  Selenium is used as a “birth control pill” for viruses.  We also use milk thistle as it protects the liver from further damage.  Milk thistle is given at 300mg 4 to 6 capsules per day.