Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant made naturally by the body. Every cell uses alpha lipoic acid to help turn glucose into energy. As an antioxidant it plays an important role in helping to prevent the cell damage caused by free radicals, especially as the body ages. Oxidisation by free radicals is thought to be behind many diseases.
Most antioxidants are either fat or water soluble, but alpha lipoic acid is both, so it can effectively be used throughout the body.
Research has shown that alpha lipoic acid helps to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar. Because of its antioxidant properties, it is also thought to help numb the pain of nerve damage associated with diabetes.
Because alpha lipoic acid is able to bind toxic substances such as heavy metals, it is being investigated for possible benefits in the fight against dementia and other degenerative brain conditions. It is also thought to have a protective effect on eye health, particularly with regard to macular degeneration.
Good sources of alpha lipoic acid in the diet include red meat, especially liver, potatoes, broccoli and brewer's yeast. You can also take alpha lipoic acid in supplement form, usually as capsules.