Another well-known keto supplement is alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), also called lipoic acid, thioctic acid, dihydrolipoic acid, and r-lipoic acid.
When you see alpha in front of lipoic acid it means it’s made in a lab. If it’s made by your body, it’s simply called lipoic acid.
ALA is endogenous, which means that your body naturally produces it. Because of this, ALA has not been listed as an essential nutrient, let alone given vitamin status.
Recent studies show how remarkable the effects of alpha lipoic acid are, as it may help with some of the biggest health problems Americans face — diabetes, stress-related health issues, and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2014, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry published a study showing alpha lipoic acid supplementation decreased levels of LDL cholesterol and helped to promote recovery in fatty liver disease[*].
- A 2016 animal study showed that alpha lipoic acid supplementation decreased signs and symptoms of hypertension[*].
- Another 2016 animal study showed that ALA supplements improved dependent memory[*].
Found in certain veggies, organ meats, and other food sources[*], alpha lipoic acid is one of the most recommended supplements on a keto diet. Why?
For starters, a 2017 meta-analysis showed that ALA supplements help with the digestion and transformation of carbohydrates, helping to promote weight loss. This happens because ALA increases your energy metabolism and converts these carbs into an efficient fuel source for your body[*].
Another one of ALA’s functions is to restore both vitamin C and vitamin E in your body. Both these vitamins have potent antioxidant properties, which are crucial for the health of immune cells (or T cells), helping the body to develop natural defenses against disease[*].
ALA can also help to lower glucose levels, enabling your body to use insulin more effectively when getting into ketosis[*].
5 Amazing Health Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid supplementation shows great promise in boosting memory, lowering blood sugar, and keeping free radical damage at bay. Below are a handful of its beneficial effects.
Alpha lipoic acid is also known as the universal antioxidant. It gets its nickname thanks to it being both water- and fat-soluble, which is quite rare. Alpha lipoic acid helps eliminate free radicals and replenish other antioxidants so they can continue to get rid of free radicals[*].
Free radicals are compounds that cause oxidative damage to tissue in your body and, over time, this might leave you susceptible to everything from progressed or premature aging to cardiovascular disease to cancer[*].
Antioxidants are compounds that help to prevent oxidative damage, thus assisting in preventing early signs of aging and serious health conditions. Because of this, ALA is often sold as an anti-aging supplement, like most other antioxidant supplements[*].
The universality of alpha lipoic acid also comes from its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and because it replenishes other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
On top of all of that, ALA has also been found to detoxify or pull excess harmful metals from your body, including lead, mercury, and excess iron and copper[*].
This prevents those harmful metals from causing damage to your body, especially to your neurological system.
As ALA is able to both cross the blood-brain barrier and to act as an antioxidant in several different ways, it has great health benefits for the brain.
Optimal cognitive function means your brain is operating at maximum potential and you’re able to learn better. You learn better when you think clearly, are mentally stable, and have minimal damage to your neurons.
For now, it’s understood that ALA’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects offer a significant improvement in overall cognitive function. This seems especially true when ALA supplementation is combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle[*].
Few things are as frustrating as struggling with your memory. For some, it is a short-term issue due to stress or injury. For others, it’s could be age-related or a side effect from Alzheimer’s disease[*].
An animal study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that alpha lipoic acid supplementation helped to significantly improve memory, and reversed or reduced oxidative stress damage[*].
Another animal study found that alpha lipoic acid supplementation has potential to treat people with neurodegenerative disorders[*].
Clinical trials are still ongoing to prove or disprove these same potential benefits in humans. If you’re looking to improve your day to day memory, alpha lipoic acid supplementation may have a protective effect.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States[*].
Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and an overall unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle can contribute to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies have shown that ALA dietary supplement intake combined with a healthy diet can substantially lower blood pressure levels, combat oxidative stress, and help prevent health-related problems[*][*][*].
Type 2 diabetes mellitus happens when your body has difficulty maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Excess sugar can develop a condition known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It causes nerve damage, which in turn causes intense nerve pain, numbing, itching, burning, tingling, and numbing. It usually affects the extremities of your body first, like toes and fingers.
Intravenous ALA supplementation has been used for years across Europe as a primary diabetes care to help and give relief to neuropathy symptoms in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients[*].
A 2013 study found that diabetic patients, both with good and poor glycemic control, saw improved symptoms of neuropathy when they took alpha lipoic acid as part of their treatment plan[*].
Another study showed that five weeks of daily oral ALA supplementation improved symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy (when pain affects many body parts)[*].
If you have a family history of diabetes, taking alpha lipoic acid supplementation, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, may be a good idea.
This is a good place to discuss insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. They are two sides of the same difficult coin known as type 2 diabetes.
Insulin sensitivity is how sensitive your cells are to insulin, the blood glucose regulating hormone. In healthy people the level of sensitivity varies, but it is substantially lower than in those with pre-diabetes, type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes.
The lower a person’s insulin sensitivity, the higher their insulin resistance, and vice versa.
A 2014 animal study found that alpha lipoic acid supplementation slowed the progression of insulin resistance and improved glucose metabolism[*].
When it comes to alpha lipoic acid specifically, it works best when combined with omega-3 fatty acids and other brain-boosting compounds.
The Perfect Keto Nootropic supplement combines 24 vitamins, minerals, herbs, and phytochemicals that help support cognitive function and memory. These include:
- Green tea leaf extract: Naturally contains catechins, a compound with antimicrobial properties to help fight infection[*].
- Cat’s claw bark powder: A great alkaloid source with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties[*].
- Bacopa: An Ayurvedic powerhouse known for its brain-boosting qualities[*].
Very high doses of ALA are not recommended. The exact amount of ALA you need depends on your body weight, gender, age, and medical conditions. Most experts recommend taking ALA supplements on an empty stomach.
Very few side effects have been reported for ALA supplementation. In rare occasions, a skin rash or slight tingling sensation was noted. Since no tests have been done to set safety standards for alpha lipoic acid supplementation by pregnant or nursing women, it’s not recommended if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Speak with your health care provider before taking an ALA supplement if you are on medication(s) for blood glucose regulation or have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia.
Therapeutic doses are much higher than what is recommended for oral administration as the body can only process so much of anything at a time. High doses are typically given intravenously under the care of a doctor and specific to your health condition.
A health care professional will be able to give you proper medical advice about supplementation for your individual needs.
As always, follow the instructions on the supplement’s package.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: Add It to Your Keto Diet
Now that you’ve learned about the great health benefits of alpha lipoic acid, consider adding it to your ketogenic lifestyle, along with a healthy keto meal plan.
If you’re looking for recipe ideas, feel free to browse the Perfect Keto Recipes page, where you can choose recipes by time, meal type, ingredient, or product.