Alpha Lipoic Acid: How to Treat the REAL Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
Ask someone what disease they fear the most and many will answer type 2 diabetes…and for good reason.
One out of every 10 Americans has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and millions more are walking around undiagnosed every day.
And if the disease isn’t bad enough, there are the terrifying complications, including:
- Kidney disease
- Heart attack
- Peripheral artery disease
- Diabetic ulcers
The only thing more frightening than what can happen once you get type 2 diabetes is the startling ineffectiveness of the treatments that are most often recommended.
While doctors will tell you, often offhandedly, to lose weight and exercise, they are more likely to prescribe a drug or even insulin, which is a HUGE mistake.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you already have too much insulin in your system. So adding more insulin is like adding gasoline to a fire. It’s the LAST thing you need and it can have serious consequences.1
For example, too much insulin has been shown to:
- Lead to weight gain;
- Increase inflammation in the body;
- Thicken the blood;
- Elevate blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels;
- Reduce HDL cholesterol levels;
- Worsen or even cause depression; and
- Increase your risk for Alzheimer’s and cancer.2
Ultimately, the single most effect thing you can do if you have type 2 diabetes is to modify your diet to include only nutrient-dense, low-glycemic load whole foods and to get moderate daily exercise.
But that requires fundamental changes to your lifestyle, which can take time; so in addition to that, you may consider using a treatment that helps your cells become more sensitive to the insulin that’s already in your body. This way, your body can naturally “hear” insulin’s message and start to lower your blood sugar levels on its own.
Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided you with a very safe and effective solution.
The Universal Antioxidant to the Rescue…
There is an amazing nutrient that has been attributed with everything from cancer prevention and skin rejuvenation to metal chelation and anti-aging properties.
But its real claim to fame is how this antioxidant may help treat and prevent type 2 diabetes.
Originally thought to be a vitamin, alpha lipoic acid (also called lipoic acid or ALA) is a potent antioxidant that, unlike most antioxidants, is both water- and fat-soluble, making it active in virtually every cell in the body.
In addition to neutralizing harmful free radicals, alpha lipoic acid regenerates and increases levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and glutathione within the body.
But what does all this have to do with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance? Let’s see what the research has to say.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Type 2 Diabetes…
Alpha lipoic acid proponents claim that the antioxidant improves insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar, and helps treat complications related to type 2 diabetes, especially neuropathy.
In one study, alpha lipoic acid was indeed found to improve insulin sensitivity.3 Researchers gave 600mg of controlled-release alpha lipoic acid twice a day to six non-diabetic women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
At the end of 16 weeks, the women enjoyed a 13.5 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity, as well as lower triglyceride levels.
While this study is intriguing, there are a few questions that need to be raised. Firstly, the sample size (six) is quite small. Also, while a classic marker of polycystic ovarian syndrome is insulin resistance, women with this condition are not considered type 2 diabetics. It would be interesting to see this type of study performed on people with type 2 diabetes.
To answer this very question, researchers from Germany developed a randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-center study to see how alpha lipoic acid performed in people with type 2 diabetes.4
They divided 74 type 2 diabetics into four groups. One group received 600mg of alpha lipoic acid a day, one received 600mg twice a day (1,200mg total), another received 600mg three times a day (1,800mg total), and the fourth group received a placebo.
At the end of four weeks, all groups receiving the alpha lipoic acid, regardless of dosage, exhibited significantly greater insulin sensitivity as compared to the placebo group. Researchers concluded, “Oral administration of alpha lipoic acid can improve insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
While the design of the study is quite good, we would just like to see the study duplicated with more participants over a longer period of time to really underscore the results.
Finally, a gold standard study—multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled—tested alpha lipoic acid’s benefit for type 2 diabetics with neuropathy.5 (Neuropathy, a common complication of type 2 diabetes, is marked by damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system.)
Researchers divided 181 diabetics into four groups. As in the aforementioned study, the first received 600mg of alpha lipoic acid a day, the second received 1,200mg a day, the third received 1,800mg a day, and the fourth group received a placebo. However, this group received their dosages all at once, rather than divided throughout the day.
After five weeks, those patients taking the alpha lipoic acid enjoyed significantly greater symptom relief than the placebo group, with an average of 50 percent greater decrease in symptoms across all three alpha lipoic acid groups, as compared to just a 32 percent decrease of symptoms in the placebo group.
Researchers concluded “oral treatment with [alpha lipoic acid] for five weeks improved neuropathic symptoms.”
This is a well executed study with a fairly large study group and impressive results…exactly what’s needed to support a natural therapy.
Given the findings of all three studies, it appears safe to say that alpha lipoic acid is an effective, natural treatment option for type 2 diabetes and its related neuropathy.
Caution: Not All Alpha Lipoic Acid is Created Equal…
If you decide to use alpha lipoic acid, make sure you do your homework. There are two forms of alpha lipoic acid: R-alpha lipoic acid and S-alpha lipoic acid.
The R form is alpha lipoic acid in its natural state. It is this form that contains the powerful antioxidant and type 2 diabetes-fighting benefits.
The S form is the evil, inefficient clone of alpha lipoic acid. It doesn’t even exist naturally. Rather, it is the “byproduct” of commercial production of alpha lipoic acid. And, as a result, it is completely ineffective.6
Unfortunately, many commercial alpha lipoic acid products are a 50/50 combination of the R and S forms. So be sure to do your homework and make certain you are getting 100 percent R-alpha lipoic acid.
If the manufacturer doesn’t list the form and appears to be more interested in hype than research, move on to another product.
Also, make sure the manufacturer uses good manufacturing practices (GMP) for the product and be sure you can find all ingredients contained in the product before purchasing. And, if the product contains a trademarked extract, research that extract. Is it safe? Has it been through clinical trials?
Finally, be sure the product you choose is free of preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, lactose, and other allergens. Ideally you’ll also be able to find independent analysis done by a third party to verify the active ingredients and identify any contaminants.
Once you have selected a high quality product, the recommended dosage, based on the studies referenced above, is 600mg of alpha lipoic acid a day.
Some side effects have been noted with alpha lipoic acid, including nausea, vomiting, and skin rash, but are more commonly seen at high dosages.
Additionally, alpha lipoic acid can intensify type 2 diabetes medication, causing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. It may also interfere with some thyroid medications, so check with your doctor before using alpha lipoic acid if you are taking either of these medications.
These well-designed studies, and just simple common sense, say that it’s far more effective to train your body to be more insulin sensitive using a natural therapy such as ALA rather than pumping your body full of excess insulin, which can then wreak havoc on your biology.
But remember, just like all other natural therapies, ALA is no magic bullet and the key to overcoming type 2 diabetes, as with most health problems, is to focus on eating a nutrient-rich, whole foods diet and to engage in moderate daily exercise.
By following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and regaining insulin sensitivity with alpha lipoic acid, you can put yourself on the path to reverse your type 2 diabetes once and for all.
1Gerstein, HC et al. Effects of intensive glucose lowering in type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2008 Jun 12, 358(24), 2545-59.
2Gaziano, JM et al. Fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. 1997 Oct 21, 96(8), 2520-5.
3Masharani, U et al. Effects of controlled-release alpha lipoic acid in lean, nondiabetic patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. J Diabetes Sci Technol 2010 Mar 1, 4(2), 359-64.
4Jacob, S et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Aug, 27(3-4), 309-14.
5Ziegler, D et al. Oral treatment with alpha lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: the SYNDEY 2 trial. Diabetes Care. 2006 Nov 29(11), 2365-70.
6Hagen TM, et al. (R)-alpha-lipoic acid reverses the age-associated increase in susceptibility of hepatocytes to tert-butylhydroperoxide both in vitro and in vivo. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2000 Fall, 2(3), 473-83.
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