Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): Sugar Cravings, Diabetes And Weight Loss
Alpha lipoic acid (also referred to as ALA, lipoic acid, and occasionally, thioctic acid), is a very exciting nutrient, offering tons of benefits with no known side-effects.
Body builders, diabetics, anyone with outrageous sugar cravings and anyone trying to lose weight will find alpha lipoic acid to be extremely beneficial. I personally love the stuff, and take it daily. More on my story a little further below.
What`s really exciting about this stuff is…
Alpha lipoic acid is one of those rare supplements that are cheap, accessible, and actually work!
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) Benefits
So what are the benefits of alpha lipoic acid (ALA)?
First of all, it’s a fantastic antioxidant, meaning it prevents the free radical damage (much like the vitamins C, E and beta-carotene do) that compromises cellular integrity and accelerates the degradation of all the systems in the human body… which contributes to premature aging and degenerative diseases.
Of course, intense exercise increases exposure to free radicals, so all athletes and body builders will find alpha lipoic acid to be beneficial for this reason alone.
Powerful Glucose Moderating Effect
Alpha lipoic acid has also been shown to effectively help shuttle glucose more efficiently to the muscle cells, which is why you’ll find it a “mainstay” ingredient in creatine transport system products like MuscleTech’s Cell-Tech Hardcore.
Research has shown that the combination of simple sugars + creatine + alpha lipoic acid enhances creatine uptake beyond either creatine alone, or creatine + sugar (Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Sep;13(3):294-302).
Blood Sugar Moderation
Perhaps the most exciting benefit of alpha lipoic acid is its moderating effect on blood sugar levels. The research has been sufficiently impressive (Nutr Rev. 2008 Nov;66(11):646-57), that Dr. Atkins (author of the famed Atkins diet) wrote…
“Few compounds have greater value to someone with diabetes.”
“…I’m convinced that lipoic acid is destined to become our single most effective therapy for diabetic neuropathy.”
“Anyone who is overweight or follows a high carbohydrate diet risks developing an insulin disorder, so lipoic acid is potentially useful to most of us.”
(From “Dr. Atkins’ Vitanutrient Solution: Nature’s Answer to Drugs”)
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Weight Loss
Recent clinical data suggests that a potent dose of ALA (1800 mg per day) can lead to modest weight loss in obese individuals.
To date, most positive clinical data supporting ALA’s weight loss effects were animal-based (see J. Anim. Sci. 2005. 83:2611-2617, Nature Medicine Volume 10, Number 7, July 2005, The FASEB Journal. 1999;13:411-418), so this is good news.
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“Racemic” vs. “R” alpha-lipoic acid: what’s the difference?
The alpha lipoic acid used in most supplements is synthetic, and like many synthesized compounds, it’s a “racemic” mixture – meaning that there are two “mirror images” (enantiomers), which are designated “R” and “S”. They’re chemically identical, yet certain common elements are in different positions. Like your right and left hands, they look the same, yet cannot be superimposed on one another.
Racemic ALA is 50% “R” and 50% “S”. The “R” form is the natural, biologically-active form of alpha-lipoic acid, and is now also available as a supplement, in addition to the racemic form. R-ALA is a lot more expensive than the racemic version, however, since the process of producing it is more complex.
Beyond the obvious fact that – say – 600mg of R-ALA contains twice as much active compound as 600mg of racemic ALA, is there any real difference between the two? Is it “healthier” to take R-ALA? Marketers would have you believe this, but there is little hard proof… the reality is that most of the human studies demonstrating the benefits of ALA supps have used the racemic form. This is why the Linus Pauling Institute currently recommends the racemic form to healthy people who choose to take ALA.
Some R-ALA supplements also come in the form of sodium (Na) or potassium (K) salts. According to one small, manufacturer’s study, the salt form is more soluble, stable and bioavailable than pure R-ALA.
My Experience With Alpha Lipoic Acid
I’ve been taking ALA on and off for years and always found it very helpful for combating sugar cravings.
However, for the last 6 months or so, I’ve been taking 1800 mg daily (3 X 600 mg ALA) along with 200 mcg of chromium polynicotinate at each of my main meals (I`ll show you where to get this a little further on).
You see, about two years or so ago, my doctor ordered a glucose tolerance test for me.
This test, unfortunately, showed my sugar levels to be high, and over the next year and a bit, modifications to my diet and additional moderate intensity cardio at the gym did nothing to slow the inevitable march towards diabetes. About 6 months ago, my doctor suggested a drug called Metformin, indicating it would be helpful since I was now borderline diabetic.
Now, I have nothing against drugs. But they are expensive, come with a range of side effects and I knew that if I started taking Metformin I`d be taking it until the day I die. So I told her I wanted to experiment with a supplement stack (ALA and chromium). I agreed that if I could not get my blood sugar under control with it, I would take Metformin as she requested.
Long story short, I started with this stack, did the follow up blood work and hooked up with my doctor about 6 weeks later.
And my fasting blood work showed that my blood sugar levels had dropped significantly enough for her to be comfortable taking metformin completely off the table for now. I am, obviously, very happy with this. I feel a ton better, since I do not have the vacillations in sugar levels after eating and I have also had to punch a couple of new holes in my belt (lost about 3 pounds or so).
If you are diabetic or taking Metformin and want to try this experiment for yourself, you must see your doctor first. You definitely do NOT want to add ALA and chromium into the mix of other diabetic medications without a serious discussion beforehand.
And you will need regular, fasting bloodwork to determine whether this stack is working for you.
I am lucky that I have a great and open minded doctor. If yours is not, I would suggest printing off some of the study abstracts that I have linked to in this article, and bring them to him and her when you discuss the possibility of this experiment. If you say that you read something on the Internet, your doctor will probably roll his or her eyes, and with good reason.
The study abstracts will demonstrate that there is real, verifiable science behind this supplement and that you did your homework.
Alpha Lipoic Acid Bottom Line
I love this stuff. I really do.
When one considers that alpha lipoic acid offers…
- Powerful antioxidant activity.
- Glucose moderating and sugar craving control.
- Anti-diabetes effects.
- Reasonable cost.
… it becomes a “no-brainer” supplement – especially for those who require some sort of blood sugar management (if you have cravings, are on a high-carb diet, and/or have periods of severe energy fluctuations or are hypoglycemic or pre-diabetic).
Where to Buy ALA?
You can buy ALA almost anywhere. However, it is usually overpriced in grocery stores and pharmacies and often only available in 100 mg capsules. You`ll need a much more potent dose if you expect to reap the benefits outlined in this article; I use 600 mg capsules (I use the Doctor`s Best brand) purchased from iHerb.com.
I`ve been ordering from iHerb for years. They`re fast, accurate (never screwed up an order yet) and reliable.
Click here to order the 600 mg caps from iHerb today.
Where to Buy Chromium Polynicotinate?
I use the Solgar brand, which comes in an honest-to-goodness glass bottle! Yes, really!
Click here to order 200 mcg capsules of chromium polynicotinate from iHerb today!
P.S. If you end up trying this stack, please come on back and leave a comment below! I would love to hear how it worked for you!