Nutrition Notes

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplementation and Reduced Risk of Obesity

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has antioxidant properties and helps regenerate vitamins E and C, and glutathione to further increase antioxidant capacity, which may help aid in weight loss to reduce the risk of obesity and its complications. Although the exact weight-loss mechanisms remain under investigation, potential mechanisms include the role of ALA as an essential cofactor in the enzymes involved in mitochondrial cellular respiration and fat oxidation, in addition to the suppression of 5'-adenosine monophosphate–activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity. AMPK is one of the main regulators of energy expenditure, and it also regulates appetite and satiety, thereby affecting food intake.

Many potential factors remain involved in the complexity surrounding body composition, obesity, and obesity-related illnesses. Studies have found that supplementing with ALA may be an additional, potential component of a comprehensive protocol for reducing the risk of obesity. Although human study results have been mixed regarding the association between supplementation of ALA and obesity, a recent meta-analysis on studies involving nonpregnant adults found that supplementation with ALA significantly reduces body weight and body mass index (BMI).

This meta-analysis combined several study results to determine that supplementing with ALA led to a statistically significant 0.49 reduction in BMI. There was also a significant reduction in body weight, with a mean difference of −2.29 kg. There was a trend toward a reduction in weight circumference with a mean reduction of 2.57 cm, but this trend did not reach statistical significance. However, in the subgroup analysis, there was a significant reduction in waist circumference in women after taking the ALA supplements.

The researchers also looked to determine an ideal dosage and/or duration for optimal effects. However, the data for the ideal dose and duration did not impact BMI, whereas supplementation in general did provide a reduction. There was a significant nonlinear relationship between the duration of ALA supplementation and waist circumference reduction. 

Meta-analysis studies are believed to provide some of the best data for assessing efficacy because they combine the results of many studies. However, more research remains to be necessary to fully elucidate the connection. This meta-analysis demonstrates the potential of ALA to take a positive role in the use of this supplement as part of a weight-loss protocol.

The factors contributing to obesity and its prevention remain complex, but research has identified the potential for ALA supplementation to provide some support in maintaining a healthy body weight. This supplement may work well as a component along with other factors to target weight loss. For example, there’s an association between cumulative exposure to heavy metals and obesity, in addition to other obesity-related conditions. Therefore, a product that supports the detoxification of heavy metals and contains ALA may synergistically aid in supporting normal body weight maintenance and overall health.

By Kendra Whitmire, MS, CNS