Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation and diabetes
Diabetes is a common metabolic disorder that is usually accompanied by increased production of reactive oxygen species or by impaired antioxidant defenses. Importantly, oxidative stress is particularly relevant to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Alpha-lipoic acid (LA), a naturally occurring dithiol compound, has long been known as an essential cofactor for mitochondrial bioenergetic enzymes. LA is a very important micronutrient with diverse pharmacologic and antioxidant properties. Pharmacologically, LA improves glycemic control and polyneuropathies associated with diabetes mellitus; it also effectively mitigates toxicities associated with heavy metal poisoning. As an antioxidant, LA directly terminates free radicals, chelates transition metal ions, increases cytosolic glutathione and vitamin C levels, and prevents toxicities associated with their loss. These diverse actions suggest that LA acts by multiple mechanisms both physiologically and pharmacologically. Its biosynthesis decreases as people age and is reduced in people with compromised health, thus suggesting a possible therapeutic role for LA in such cases. Reviewed here is the known efficacy of LA with particular reference to types 1 and 2 diabetes. Particular attention is paid to the potential benefits of LA with respect to glycemic control, improved insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, and neuropathy in diabetic patients. It appears that the major benefit of LA supplementation is in patients with diabetic neuropathy.