Alpha lipoic acid is getting an increasing amount of attention for its alleged ability to support weight loss. Although it’s still not one of the more commonly used weight loss pill ingredients, it’s slowly becoming more popular with supplement manufacturers.
But does alpha-lipoic acid offer genuine value as a weight-loss aid or are the claims about its virtues just clever marketing hype?
This article provides an insight into the benefits it may offer, and the potential side effects.
What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
It is a vitamin-like compound that has antioxidant capabilities. It’s present in every cell of the human body.
The body can manufacture small quantities of alpha lipoic acid within the cells, where it has the task of aiding energy production.
Certain foods, including broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and liver, provide the body with additional quantities.
However, the amount food provides is insignificant compared to the amount supplements can deliver.
A good supplement can provide up to 1,000 times more alpha lipoic acid than you could get from food.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Weight Loss
Research suggests alpha-lipoic acid may support weight-loss in a number of ways.
Don’t get too excited though. Any weight loss benefits the compound provides is likely to be slight.
Studies involving animals show alpha-lipoic acid inhibits the activity of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Active PK is good example of a supplement that puts the theory to use.
This is an enzyme that’s present in the hypothalamus area of the brain.
High levels of AMPK activity may increase hunger. However, lower levels of activity may increase the number of calories your body uses when it is at rest.
The results of one study, involving aged mice, are particularly interesting.
In addition to increasing energy expenditure, alpha lipoic acid also caused increases in muscle mass, along with improvements in glucose tolerance.
Weight-loss often involves some degree of muscle loss, which can slow metabolism. Gaining muscle mass is a far better scenario.
Don’t worry. The weight-loss enhancing ability of alpha lipoic acid has been put to the test in human studies as well.
A systematic review of 12 clinical trials shows study participants supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid lost, on average, 1.52 pounds (0.69 kg) more than the placebo group.
The average study time frame was 14 weeks, so that’s hardly earth-shattering.
Another analysis, conducted by a different research team, showed slightly better levels of weight loss.
This time, the researchers evaluated the data from 10 studies.
The results of their evaluation show the participants taking alpha-lipoic acid lost an average of 2.8 pounds (1.27 kg) more than the placebo group.
So, although research proves alpha-lipoic acid increases weight loss, it also shows it’s a slow-acting option.
It has value in several areas and shows particular promise in the management of diabetes.
This is partly due to its ability to improve glucose tolerance. In some studies involving animals, it has lowered blood sugar by up to 64%.
Human-based studies involving adults with metabolic syndrome show alpha-lipoic acid may reduce insulin resistance as well.
Additionally, research proves the compound is capable of reducing the risk of nerve and eye damage due to uncontrolled diabetes.
Researchers believe the latter two abilities may be due to the powerful antioxidant properties of the compound.
The antioxidant capabilities of alpha-lipoic acid also appear to furnish it with the power to slow memory-loss due to Alzheimer’s disease.
A systematic review of 11 clinical trials shows that, in addition to its other abilities, alpha-lipoic acid can reduce inflammation as well.
Potential Side Effects?
Research suggests alpha-lipoic acid is a safe ingredient that presents little to no side effects for the majority of people.
Most adults should be able to take up to 2,400 mg without having to worry about negative issues.
However, a minority of individuals may find supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid causes them to experience rashes, skin irritation, nausea, and/or other mild side effects.
Doses in excess of 2,400 mg are not recommended because higher doses are unlikely to provide no additional benefit.
Animal studies suggest overly-high doses may have the potential to alter liver enzymes, placing an unnecessary strain on this important organ.
Additional Usage Considerations
Very few of the studies conducted to date have explored the possible safety issues presented when children supplement with alpha lipoic acid.
The same is true for pregnant women and women who are nursing a child.
For this reason, people who are under 18-years of age and women who are pregnant or nursing should take the precaution of getting a doctor’s approval before using this type of supplement.
Due to the way alpha-lipoic acid affects blood sugar and insulin, it’s also unwise for diabetics to take it in supplement form without the prior approval of their doctor.
Although it may have a role to play in controlling the condition, its use will need the correct medical supervision.
Does Alpha Lipoic – The Bottom Line
There is plenty of research that supports using alpha-lipoic acid as a weight-loss aid.
For most people, it will also be a very safe supplement option that presents little or no risk of side effects.
Unfortunately, research also shows its ability to support fat loss is a poor match for the abilities of many of the more popular weight-loss ingredients like green tea and capsicum extract.
However, in most cases, it is not used as a standalone ingredient.
This is an important consideration because the compound has an ability that makes it particularly interest-worthy.
Especially for bodybuilders and other individuals who regularly engage in sporting/fitness pursuits.
Loss of muscle mass is a problem all dieters face.
Even if you disregard the fact that muscle loss can slow metabolism, the average person who has spent time building muscle will not want to lose any of it.
Building muscle is hard work. It’s the result of a considerable time investment and a lot of sweat.
When blended with other fat-burning ingredients, alpha-lipoic acid may act like a valuable safety net that helps people to lose fat without losing muscle.
In fact, it’s sometimes included in sports supplements for exactly that reason.