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- Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA) -

General Information:

Wikipedia entry:
Dr. Ray Shahelien entry: 


Alpha-lipoic Acid (ALA)

See also Anti-oxidant trio therapy

ALA is available only by prescription in Europe.  It is available over the counter in the U.S.

Alpha-lipoic acid as a new treatment option for Alzheimer's disease--a 48 months follow-up analysis.

Hager K, Kenklies M, McAfoose J, Engel J, Münch G.
Department of Medical Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, Henriettenstiftung, Hannover, Germany.
J Neural Transm Suppl. 2007;(72):189-93.

Oxidative stress and neuronal energy depletion are characteristic biochemical hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It is therefore conceivable that pro-energetic and antioxidant drugs such as alpha-lipoic acid might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease. In a previous study, 600mg alpha-lipoic acid was given daily to nine patients with AD (receiving a standard treatment with choline-esterase inhibitors) in an open-label study over an observation period of 12 months. The treatment led to a stabilization of cognitive functions in the study group, demonstrated by constant scores in two neuropsychological tests (the mini mental state exam, MMSE and the Alzheimer's diseaseassessment score cognitive subscale, ADAScog). In this report, we have extended the analysis to 43 patients over an observation period of up to 48 months. In patients with mild dementia (ADAScog < 15), the disease progressed extremely slowly (ADAScog: +1.2 points/year, MMSE: -0.6 points/year), in patients with moderate dementia at approximately twice the rate. However, the progression appears dramatically lower than data reported for untreated patients or patients on choline-esterase inhibitors in the second year of long-term studies. Despite the fact that this study was not double-blinded, placebo-controlled and randomized, our data suggest that treatment with alpha-lipoic acid might be a successful 'neuroprotective' therapy option for AD. However, a state-of-the-art phase II trial is needed urgently.

PMID: 17982894 [PubMed - in process]

Laboratory studies have also indicated that lipoic acid reverses the age-associated decline in the proper functioning of mitochondria.
[From http://www.raysahelian.com/lipoic.html Need citation!  It could be in mprovement of insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus after oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid.
Kamenova P. Hormones (Athens). 2006 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-8. Department of Diabetology, University Hospital of Endocrinology, Medical University, Sofia, Bulgaria. ]

From the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University:


...Since taking LA with a meal decreases its bioavailability, it is generally recommended that LA be taken on an empty stomach (one hour before or two hours after eating)...

Glucose Utilization

There is limited evidence that high doses of LA can improve glucose utilization in individuals with type 2 DM [diabetes mellitus]...

Cognitive Decline and Dementia

LA alone or in combination with other antioxidants or L-carnitine has been found to improve measures of memory in animal models of age-associated cognitive decline, including rats (62, 63), mice (64) and dogs (65). However, it is not clear whether oral LA supplementation can slow cognitive decline related to aging or other pathology in humans. An uncontrolled, open-label trial in 9 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, who were also taking acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, reported that oral supplementation with 600 mg/day of racemic LA appeared to stabilize cognitive function over a one-year period (66). However, the significance of these findings is difficult to assess without a control group for comparison. A randomized controlled trial found that oral supplementation with 1200 mg/day of racemic LA for 10 weeks was of no benefit in treating HIV-associated cognitive impairment (67). Although studies in animals suggest that LA may be helpful in slowing age-related cognitive decline, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether LA supplementation is effective in preventing or slowing cognitive decline associated with age or neurodegenerative disease.

I think I also read somewhere that ALA is not a strong antioxidant, so it might be broken down disadvantageously if combined with other antioxidants.

Some message board threads about alpha lipoic acid:

Alpha-lipoic acid as a new treatment option for Alzheimer's disease
Alz.org message board Nov. 7, 2007

Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alz.org message board March 26, 2010

Ray Sahelian:  http://www.raysahelian.com/lipoic.html

Dr. Sahelian recommends 10-50mg per day or every other day.  There have been reports that higher doses of ALA can cause tachycardia or heart arrhythmias (in susceptible people).

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-767-Alpha+Lipoic+Acid+ALPHA-LIPOIC+ACID.aspx?activeIngredientId=767&activeIngredientName=Alpha+Lipoic+Acid+(ALPHA-LIPOIC+ACID)&source=2

(r)-, but not (s)-alpha lipoic acid stimulates deficient brain pyruvate dehydrogenase complex in vascular dementia, but not in Alzheimer dementia.
J Neural Transm. 2004 Mar;111(3):295-310. Epub 2003 Oct 24.
Frölich L, Götz ME, Weinmüller M, Youdim MB, Barth N, Dirr A, Gsell W, Jellinger K, Beckmann H, Riederer P.
In dementia of Alzheimer type (DAT), cerebral glucose metabolism is reduced in vivo, and enzymes involved in glucose breakdown are impaired in post-mortem brain tissue. Pyruvate dehydrogenase complex activity (PDHc) is one of the enzymes known to be reduced, while succinate dehydrogenase activity (SDH), another enzyme of oxidative glucose metabolism is unchanged. In dementia of vascular type (DVT), variable changes in glucose metabolism have been demonstrated in vivo, while changes of enzyme activities in post-mortem brain tissue are unknown. Here, PDHc and SDH activity were stimulated with each of the two stereoisomers of alpha lipoic acid in post-mortem parietal brain cortex of patients with DAT, DVT, and one case of Pick's disease and compared to stimulation effects in a control group, matched for age, sex, post-mortem delay, and storage time of brain tissue. PDHc in DAT and DVT, but not in Pick's disease was reduced. PDHc activity could be slightly stimulated by 10 micro M of the physiological stereoisomer (r)-alpha-lipoic acid, in controls and DVT (possibly also in Pick's disease), but not in DAT. In all groups investigated SDH was activated by 100 micro M and 1 mM of both isomers of alpha-lipoic acid, whereas 10 mM of both stereoisomers of alpha-lipoic acid caused an inhibition of both, PDHc and SDH activity. The loss of basal and of (r)-alpha-lipoic acid stimulated PDHc activity indicate that a functional or structural impairment of PDHc may exist in DAT and DVT which is not merely attributable to loss of mitochondria since basal and stimulated SDH activities are similar in controls, DVT and DAT, thus indicating selective vulnerability of PDHc.

Lipoic acid: a novel therapeutic approach for multiple sclerosis and other chronic inflammatory diseases of the CNS.
Salinthone S, Yadav V, Bourdette DN, Carr DW.


The naturally occurring antioxidant lipoic acid (LA) was first described as an essential cofactor for the conversion of pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA, a critical step in respiration. LA is now recognized as a compound that has many biological functions. Along with its reduced form dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), LA reduces and recycles cellular antioxidants such as glutathione, and chelates zinc, copper and other transition metal ions in addition to heavy metals. LA can also act as a scavenger of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. By acting as an insulin mimetic agent, LA stimulates glucose uptake in many different cell types and can also modulate insulin signaling. The p38 and ERK MAP kinase pathways, AKT and NFkappaB are all regulated by LA. In addition, LA activates the prostaglandin EP2 and EP4 receptors to stimulate the production of the small molecule cyclic adenosine 5' monophosphate (cAMP). These diverse actions suggest that LA may be therapeutically effective in treating oxidative stress associated diseases. This review discusses the known biochemical properties of LA, its antioxidant properties, its ability to modulate signal transduction pathways, and the recent progress made in the utilization of LA as a therapeutic alternative for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and diabetic neuropathy.

PMID: 18537699 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Lipoic acid as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Maczurek A, Hager K, Kenklies M, Sharman M, Martins R, Engel J, Carlson DA, Münch G.
Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Australia.
Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2008 Oct-Nov;60(13-14):1463-70. Epub 2008 Jul 4.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that destroys patient memory and cognition, communication ability with the social environment and the ability to carry out daily activities. Despite extensive research into the pathogenesis of AD, a neuroprotective treatment - particularly for the early stages of disease - remains unavailable for clinical use. In this review, we advance the suggestion that lipoic acid (LA) may fulfil this therapeutic need. A naturally occurring cofactor for the mitochondrial enzymes pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, LA has been shown to have a variety of properties which can interfere with the pathogenesis or progression of AD. For example, LA increases acetylcholine (ACh) production by activation of choline acetyltransferase and increases glucose uptake, thus supplying more acetyl-CoA for the production of ACh. LA chelates redox-active transition metals, thus inhibiting the formation of hydroxyl radicals and also scavenges reactive oxygen species (ROS), thereby increasing the levels of reduced glutathione. In addition, LA down-regulates the expression of redox-sensitive pro-inflammatory proteins including TNF and inducible nitric oxide synthase. Furthermore, LA can scavenge lipid peroxidation products such as hydroxynonenal and acrolein. In human plasma, LA exists in an equilibrium of free and plasma protein bound form. Up to 150 muM, it is bound completely, most likely binding to high affinity fatty acid sites on human serum albumin, suggesting that one large dose rather than continuous low doses (as provided by "slow release" LA) will be beneficial for delivery of LA to the brain. Evidence for a clinical benefit for LA in dementia is yet limited. There are only two published studies, in which 600 mg LA was given daily to 43 patients with AD (receiving a standard treatment with choline-esterase inhibitors) in an open-label study over an observation period of up to 48 months. Whereas the improvement in patients with moderate dementia was not significant, the disease progressed extremely slowly (change in ADAScog: 1.2 points=year, MMSE: -0.6 points=year) in patients with mild dementia (ADAScog<15). Data from cell culture and animal models suggest that LA could be combined with nutraceuticals such as curcumin, (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (from green tea) and docosahexaenoic acid (from fish oil) to synergistically decrease oxidative stress, inflammation, Abeta levels and Abeta plaque load and thus provide a combined benefit in the treatment of AD.

PMID: 18655815 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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