Alpha lipoic acid

Synonyms in a broader sense

  • Lipoic acid, thioctic acid
  • R-lipoic acid
  • Antioxidant
  • Neuropathy drugs
  • Neurotropic drug

Alpha-lipoic acid is a sulphur-containing fatty acid which the human body produces to a small extent itself and which is mostly taken in with food. The substance plays a role as a coenzyme in many metabolic processes and in the defence against free radicals in the body. Due to its defensive function, alpha-lipoic acid is counted among the group of antioxidants.

In medicine, the substance is used in the treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy, a peripheral nervous disease in which sensitivity and sensory disorders such as burning, tingling and numbness can occur. In diabetes mellitus, a permanently elevated glucose level in the blood is present without adequate therapy. Long-term consequences of this condition include narrowing of large and small blood vessels, which can lead to circulatory disorders and organ damage.

One speaks of macro- and microangiopathies. Polyneuropathy is counted among the microangiopathies because small blood vessels supplying the nerves are affected. The circulatory disorder leads to damage and destruction of nerve fibres, this is accompanied by increased formation of free oxygen radicals.

These radicals have a damaging effect on cell membranes and DNA, promote cell aging, cancer development and the progression of chronic diseases. Alpha-lipoic acid, as an antioxidant, can bind these free radicals and increase the concentration of the body’s own antioxidants such as glutathione, thus maintaining the function of the nerve fibres. Alpha lipoic acid also improves the blood supply to the nerves.

Free radicals damage the body. Alpha lipoic acid can be used to remove harmful substances from the body. Alpha-lipoic acid has a detoxifying effect. By binding the radicals, the free radicals are removed from the body. Alpha-lipoic acid is administered for this purpose in capsule form for oral application.

Effect on the thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is also affected by free radical formation. If these are removed by alpha lipoic acid, the risk of degeneration of the thyroid (ulcers) is reduced. The function of the thyroid gland is not significantly affected by radicals.

Alpha-lipoic acid is a drug that has to be purchased in pharmacies. It is available in capsule form or as a film-coated tablet in dosages of 200, 300 and 600 mg. In cases of particularly severe diabetic polyneuropathy, an injection solution or an infusion solution can also be used to deliver the active substance directly into the bloodstream.

Here the dosage is 300 to 600 mg. As a rule, the daily dose is 1 tablet at the dose prescribed by the doctor. The tablet should be taken unchewed with enough liquid. It should be noted that alpha lipoic acid should be taken on an empty stomach about 30 minutes before food intake. Otherwise the rapid transfer into the bloodstream can be hindered. The nerve damage caused by diabetes mellitus is a chronic process, so a lifelong therapy with the drug may be unavoidable.