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Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is made in the body which helps convert glucose into energy in addition to destroying free radicals Evidence also links alpha-lipoic acid to the regeneration of other antioxidants, like vitamin C, after they have attacked free radicals 13. Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetics and promote tumor cell death, suggests Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center 13.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reports that alpha-lipoic acid is bound to protein, specifically lysine, in foods 13. These bound compounds are called lipoyllysine. Alpha-lipoic acid is found in large amounts in body tissue that contain high amounts of mitochondria, the cells' powerhouse 13. Organ meats contain high amounts of mitochondria and, consequently, high amounts of lipoyllysine. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that kidney, heart and liver are food sources that contain alpha-lipoic acid 123.
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Chloroplasts are the energy production cells in plants. Alpha-lipoic acid is responsible for energy conversion in cells, so foods with high amounts of chloroplasts will have high amounts of alpha-lipoic acid 13. Plant sources of alpha-lipoic acid include broccoli, spinach, collard greens and chard, explains Linus Pauling Institute 123. Lipoyllysine has also been found in tomatoes, peas and brussels sprouts.
Alpha-lipoic acid can also be found in yeast, specifically brewer’s yeast, which is made from a single-cell fungus 134. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, consumption of alpha-lipoic acid from food does not have a significant effect on the free lipoic acid in plasma, while free lipoic acid in supplements results in significant plasma increases 123. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the bound alpha-lipoic acid in food is difficult to cleave and therefore is less available to enter the blood plasma 13. The free alpha-lipoic acid found in supplements is not bound and easily enters the plasma, where it is distributed widely throughout the body 13.
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- UMM: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Linus Pauling Institute: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- MMSKCC: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- UMM: Brewer’s Yeast
- Gomes MB, Negrato CA. Alpha-lipoic acid as a pleiotropic compound with potential therapeutic use in diabetes and other chronic diseases. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2014;6(1):80. doi:10.1186/1758-5996-6-80
- Akbari M, Ostadmohammadi V, Lankarani KB, et al. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on glucose control and lipid profiles among patients with metabolic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Metab Clin Exp. 2018;87:56-69. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2018.07.002
- Zhang Y, Han P, Wu N, et al. Amelioration of lipid abnormalities by α-lipoic acid through antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19(8):1647-53. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.121
- Mijnhout GS, Kollen BJ, Alkhalaf A, Kleefstra N, Bilo HJ. Alpha lipoic acid for symptomatic peripheral neuropathy in patients with diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Endocrinol. 2012;2012:456279. doi:10.1155/2012/456279
- Kucukgoncu S, Zhou E, Lucas KB, Tek C. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as a supplementation for weight loss: results from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2017;18(5):594-601. doi:10.1111/obr.12528
- Koh EH, Lee WJ, Lee SA, et al. Effects of alpha-lipoic Acid on body weight in obese subjects. Am J Med. 2011;124(1):85.e1-8. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.08.005
- Pagano C, Calarco P, et. al. Development and characterization of new topical hydrogels based on alpha lipoic acid—hydrotalcite hybrids. Cosmetics 2019;6(2), doi:10.3390/cosmetics6020035
- Tolunay O, Çelik T, Kömür M, Gezgin AE, Kaya MS, Çelik Ü. A rare cause of status epilepticus; alpha lipoic acid intoxication, case report and review of the literature. Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2015;19(6):730-2. doi:10.1016/j.ejpn.2015.07.002
- Bao Y, Gao C, Hao W, et al. Effects of dietary L-carnosine and alpha-lipoic acid on growth oerformance, blood thyroid hormones and lipid profiles in finishing pigs. Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2015;28(10):1465-70. doi:10.5713/ajas.14.0604
- Han T, Bai J, Liu W, Hu Y. A systematic review and meta-analysis of α-lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012;167(4):465-71. doi:10.1530/EJE-12-0555
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.