The Best Food Sources for Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that can help support your health and well-being. Not only has research linked it to numerous potential benefits — from reducing inflammation and supporting cognition to aiding diabetes management — but it can also be found naturally occurring in various foods. In this blog post, we will dive into why this antioxidant is essential and provide an overview of the best food sources for alpha lipoic acid so you can easily add more to your diet.

What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a beneficial compound in many plants and animals, including humans. It’s called lipoic acid because it contains two sulfur atoms, which give it a “lipo” or fat-like structure. It’s naturally produced from cysteine and fatty acids and plays a role in energy production within the body’s mitochondria.

It’s also known as thioctic acid and helps to reduce oxidative damage in cells by acting as an antioxidant that scavenges reactive oxygen species. In addition, ALA can also help to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes [1].

What Are The Health Benefits Of Alpha Lipoic Acid?

ALA and its reduced form, Dihydrolipoic acid, have similar antioxidant properties that may help slow memory loss and cognitive decline, lower heart disease risk factors, help protect skin from damage, support a healthy metabolism, body weight, and energy levels, and help boost glutathione.

Studies have shown that ALA can reduce oxidative stress in the brain, which may lead to improved memory and cognitive function [2].

It can also help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, risk factors for heart disease. ALA also helps protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and UV radiation. Additionally, it can help support a healthy metabolism by helping the body convert food into energy more efficiently. It can also help boost glutathione levels in the body, which is essential for detoxification and overall health.

Studies have shown that Alpha-Lipoic Acid can benefit those suffering from diseases characterized by oxidative stress, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and dementia. Diabetes, in particular, is a serious issue globally, as chronically high blood glucose concentrations characterize it.

However, several studies have found that high doses of a-LA, whether taken orally or intravenously, have led to improved glucose utilization, insulin sensitivity, and a decrease in fasting blood glucose concentrations, insulin concentrations, and hemoglobin A1c concentrations, which represents the average blood glucose over the past three months.

For many people with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy is a potential complication that can lead to discomfort or even limb loss.

This condition causes nerve damage that, in turn, can result in weakness or pain in the limbs, particularly in the lower extremities. Clinical studies have found that supplementing with oral or IV lipoic acids may help alleviate these symptoms [3].

In addition, a clinical trial conducted by Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University found that administering lipoic acid as a dietary supplement to overweight but otherwise healthy individuals resulted in weight loss for many participants [4].

What Are The Symptoms Of A Lipoic Acid Deficiency?

Lipoic acid deficiency can cause various symptoms, including nerve pain, problems with muscular growth and control, feeding difficulties, psychomotor delays, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, and headaches [5].

People with Lipoic Acid Deficiency may also experience fatigue and skin rash. Alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes should know about this potential side effect [6].

It’s important to note that several other factors can contribute to nutrient deficiencies and imbalances, such as older age and lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol or smoking. You must speak with your doctor if you suspect you may have a deficiency in Alpha-lipoic acid or any other nutrient.

Which Foods Are Rich In Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Various healthful foods can provide significant amounts of Alpha Lipoic Acid, including the following:

Red Meats & Organs

Red meats such as beef offer some of the highest amounts of ALA available, and organ meats like heart, kidney, and liver also bring in plenty of this powerful acid.

Vegetables

Increasing your intake of food sources like vegetables high in alpha lipoic acid, such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, peas, potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, and Swiss chard, may be helpful as well.

Yeast & Rice Bran

Both yeast and rice bran are good sources of ALA because they contain high levels of thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), which helps convert ALA into its active form. This means consuming these foods can increase your body’s ability to absorb and use ALA more efficiently. Including a variety of these foods may ensure you obtain the full benefits of this key nutrient.

What Increases The Absorption Of Alpha Lipoic Acid?

Absorption of alpha lipoic acid may be improved by taking it on an empty stomach and avoiding food intake at the same time. It may also be helpful to take ALA with other antioxidants like vitamin C or E to enhance its absorption rate.

Around 30-40% of the ALA supplement taken is absorbed into the body, which is its bioavailability [2]. To increase this percentage, one can take higher doses of ALA. Additionally, taking ALA with compounds like vitamin E or C can enhance its absorption rate since they improve ALA’s bioavailability.

It has been suggested that consuming ALA with fatty acids can enhance its absorption rate in the body. Research shows that fatty acids can facilitate the transport and absorption of lipids into cells, which may result in more ALA being absorbed than when consumed alone.

Should I Supplement With Alpha Lipoic Acid? Is Food Enough?

While it is naturally produced by the body and found in certain foods, taking alpha lipoic acid supplements can be beneficial. However, it is important to note that sources of alpha lipoic acid can also be obtained from a healthy diet.

The foods mentioned above are all natural sources of this nutrient. Therefore, depending on your needs and dietary habits, you may not need dietary supplements like APA. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any sources of alpha lipoic acid supplementation.

Alpha Lipoic Acid Foods: Wrap Up

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a fantastic antioxidant that can be used for various conditions and ailments. While research on Alpha Lipoic Acid is still young, it has already shown tremendous potential in promoting overall health and well-being, from helping to improve diabetes symptoms to supporting heart health and cognitive functions.

Of course, as with anything we put into our bodies, practicing moderation and balance is essential. If you plan to supplement with Alpha Lipoic Acid, do research and talk to your healthcare provider; eating foods such as spinach, broccoli, yams, sweet potatoes, and organ meats can help boost your level of ALA naturally.

And while results may vary from person to person, ensuring we get enough ALA in our diets, whether from food, or alpha lipoic acid supplements, can help support better long-term health outcomes.

REFERENCES

[1] Golbidi S, Badran M, Laher I. Diabetes and alpha lipoic Acid. Front Pharmacol. 2011 Nov 17;2:69. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2011.00069. PMID: 22125537; PMCID: PMC3221300.

[2] Molz P, Schröder N. Potential Therapeutic Effects of Lipoic Acid on Memory Deficits Related to Aging and Neurodegeneration. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Dec 12;8:849. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00849. PMID: 29311912; PMCID: PMC5732919.

[3] Anthony RM, MacLeay JM, Gross KL. Alpha-Lipoic Acid as a Nutritive Supplement for Humans and Animals: An Overview of Its Use in Dog Food. Animals (Basel). 2021 May 19;11(5):1454. doi: 10.3390/ani11051454. PMID: 34069383; PMCID: PMC8158713.

[4] Gerd Bobe, Alexander J Michels, Wei-Jian Zhang, Jonathan Q Purnell, Clive Woffendin, Cliff Pereira, Joseph A Vita, Nicholas O Thomas, Maret G Traber, Balz Frei, Tory M Hagen. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Long-Term (R)-α-Lipoic Acid Supplementation Promotes Weight Loss in Overweight or Obese Adults without Altering Baseline Elevated Plasma Triglyceride Concentrations. The Journal of Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa203

[5] Mayr JA, Zimmermann FA, Fauth C, Bergheim C, Meierhofer D, Radmayr D, Zschocke J, Koch J, Sperl W. Lipoic acid synthetase deficiency causes neonatal-onset epilepsy, defective mitochondrial energy metabolism, and glycine elevation. Am J Hum Genet. 2011 Dec 9;89(6):792-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.11.011. PMID: 22152680; PMCID: PMC3234378.

[6] Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21. PMID: 22374556.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.