Alpha Lipoic Acid: What You Need to Know

Alpha Lipoic Acid and Peripheral Neuropathy

­Peripheral neuropathy is a condition characterized by pain and numbness in the hands and feet that occurs in patients with diabetes, nerve pressure (from abnormal bone growth or a tumor), vitamin deficiency, kidney or liver disease and alcoholism. Cancer treatment chemicals can also cause it and HIV patients are prone to it [source: Mayo Clinic].

More than 20 percent of diabetic patients develop peripheral neuropathy -- the leading cause of lower limb amputation. Oral and intravenous ALA is approved for use in Germany for treatment of diabetic neuropathy and in the U.S., research has shown that ALA may be helpful in treating nerve damage in diabetics and in cancer patients [source: American Cancer Society].

In a clinical trial, diabetic patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy who were given 200 mg of ALA intravenously for 21 days reported a reduction in pain. A larger study of diabetics with peripheral neuropathy who were injected with 600 mg of ALA a day for three weeks, followed by 12 weeks of oral supplements, also experienced relief [source: Larsen].

A small study in Austria found that more than half of the cancer patients who took ALA after getting the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin reported an improvement in neuropathy symptoms [source: American Cancer Society]. The National Cancer Institute is currently conducting a phase-3 study on ALA's use in preventing peripheral neuropathy in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment [source: Higdon, American Cancer Society].

To learn more on how ALA could improve your health, visit the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Cancer Society. "Dietary Supplements: How To Know What is Safe." (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • American Cancer Society. "Lipoic Acid." Revised 7/20/2007. (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • Davis, Jeanie Lerche. "How Antioxidants Work." (Accessed 02/26/09)
  • Higdon, Jane, Ph.D. "Lipoic Acid." Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Updated 4/10/2006 (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • Larsen, Hans R., MSc ChE. "Alpha-Lipoic Acid: The Universal Antioxidant." (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. ""Peripheral Neuropathy." Mayo November 3, 2007. (Accessed 2/26/09)
  • National Cancer Institute. "Alpha-Lipoic Acid in Preventing Peripheral Neuropathy in Patients Receiving Chemotherapy for Cancer" (Accessed 02/26/2009).
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-obesity effects of alpha-lipoic acid mediated by suppression of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase." (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. "CAM and Diabetes: A Focus on Dietary Supplements." National Institutes of Health. (Accessed 02/27/09)
  • National Toxicology Program. "Acetyl-L-Carnitine/Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements." (Accessed 02/27/2009)
  • Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplements Fact Sheets." National Institutes of Health. (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • Treadwell, Benjamin V., Ph.D." Alpha Lipoic Acid: A Marvelous Nutrient." (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter. "Wellness Guide to Dietary Supplements: Alpha-Lipoic Acid." (Accessed 02/26/2009)
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Alpha-lipoic Acid." Reviewed 6/18/2007. (Accessed 2/26/2009)