Lipoic Acid

Every day we run across research that further bolsters the logic of Primal living. However, once in a while we read something that just feels like a good pat on the back, the kind of news that makes us nod our heads smiling or do a little end zone dance if it’s Friday and we’re punchy enough….

The study in question (from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University) highlights lipoic acid, brave biochemical antioxidant, free radical scavenging extraordinaire. Lipoic acid, little known champion of many a physiological process, has once again proven its value and valor, and its recent performance is just one in a long chain of impressive, promising displays.

In this particular study (abstract link), lipoic acid supplementation decreased triglyceride readings in laboratory animals as much as a whopping 60 percent. Some weeks back Mark offered up a rundown of common blood markers. Triglycerides, he proposed, are too often given short shrift in the whole cholesterol analysis/hoopla. Triglycerides, a kind of blood fat, influence the concentration of very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs) in the blood – the real villains in the cholesterol story. They influence the body’s clotting process, and high levels are believed to increase risk for blood clots, stroke, and diabetes. Lipoic acid, the research showed, confronts triglycerides on two fronts: “After eating, lipoic acid supplementation increased the rate of disappearance of triglycerides in the bloodstream. And supplements also reduced the genetic expression of enzymes in the liver that synthesize triglycerides.”

As mentioned, this study is just one feather in lipoic acid’s hat. A 2007 study conducted by the same institute discovered the apparent anti-aging power of the compound. Tory Hagen of the Linus Pauling Institute explains, “In particular, it tends to restore levels of glutathione, a protective antioxidant and detoxification compound, to those of a young animal. It also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory agent, which is relevant to many degenerative diseases.” Lipoic acid gives cellular signaling a good tune-up and reduces mitochondrial breakdown, essentially turning back the clock on cellular functioning.

Want more? Lipoic acid mops up those devious free radicals and then comes back for more by “regenerating” other antioxidants. It inhibits arterial lesions and may even assist with weight loss due to apparent appetite suppressive effects. We ask: what’s not to love?

“Where can I get me some?” you ask, hands eagerly rubbing together. The body itself produces the compound. Primary dietary sources include green leafy veggies like spinach, pastured (grass-fed dairy) butter, the much maligned red meat, and organ meat. But LA is only available in small quantities in food sources. The real action, particularly when it comes to disease treatment, is found in supplementation.

We’ve mentioned before that – as much as we value the cornerstones of Primal living – modern existence sometimes calls for strategic addendums, so to speak. Primal eating and living can, without a doubt, make for good health. A bit of wise supplementation, we say, has the power to make a good thing great. Lipoic acid – our hats are off to you today.

Comments? Questions? Thanks for reading!

Another Pint Please… Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Is Flax Bad?

Grok Didn’t Take Supplements So Why Should I?

Dear Mark: Better Nutrient Forms?

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27 thoughts on “Lipoic Acid”

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  1. Fortunately I get a great healthy dose in my Damage Control Master Formula. I knew the many ingredients in there were good for me, but thanks for specifying the benefits. I think I’m feelin’ punchy and am gonna now do a Friday endzone dance 😉

  2. I’d heard of Lipoic Acid before, usually the fourth or fifth ingredient on one of many supplements (yeah, I’m the guy that keeps GNC in business), but never knew exactly why it was good for me. Thanks!

  3. Hello Mark, your Basic Assurance supplement lists ‘Alpha Lipoic Acid’ as an ingredient. Is this different from the Lipoic Acid mentioned in this article?


  4. Based on what I’ve been studying, lipoic acid helps to recycle Vitamins E and C, and works with both the fat-soluble and water-soluble parts of cells (i.e., it works everywhere!). Both vitamins E and C also help with converting free radicals into less harmful substances.

    Go lipoic acid!

  5. Apurva,

    They are one in the same. It’s an important nutrient for more than one reason which is why it’s been included in all my supplements for years. I found this latest study particularly interesting so I had one of my Worker Bees cover it. As I say, it is extremely difficult to mimic Grok’s lifestyle in the modern world. Despite our best attempts to be healthy the modern world we’ve created conspires against us at every step to make us sick and unhealthy. I find supplementation to be one important way you can mitigate the damage. Hence the name of the product line: Damage Control. Though, supplements in general and my line of supplements in particular isn’t what this blog is all about. Out of the 1500 posts we’ve done over the last 2+ years you could probably count on 2 hands the number of posts we’ve dedicated to supplementation.

    Though I am interested… Are you taking Basic Assurance? How is it working for you?

    1. Hey Mark, I was wondering if you could commment on which form of ALA is in your master formula?

  6. Hey Mark, thanks for the information. Yes I am taking Basic Assurance, along with Vital Omegas. I have been taking them for the last 6-7 months now.

    Its hard to say what influence the supplementation has had on me because I have also made greater and greater efforts to go completely primal at the same time. My produce is now fresh, organic, from the farmers markets. The meat is grass-fed, organic, free-range, etc. I have been diligent with crossfit, cut out grains completely, cut down severely on alcohol, moderated my fruit consumption etc.

    As a result, I feel great. I used to get boils on my face, and ulcers inside my mouth. Those have gone. Sleep is long and peaceful. My skin really glows. I have gained 25 lbs in the last 6 months, but my waist size has stayed the same while my shirt chest and sleeves have tightened (people say that I have buffed up significantly.) At a recent physical, all my numbers were in the normal range (insulin, cholesterol, etc.). So lots of change, and maybe the supplementation has added to it. But I can’t single it out.

    I must thank you for all the information you put out. It is a constant source of inspiration. The practical ideas you share really help in bringing about an effective lifestyle change. In fact, I am going to buy a crockpot and some nice stew meat this weekend 🙂

    The last change I would like to see, and which has not happened yet, is for the stubborn flab around my belly to go. I am sure it will happen. And as you advised a few months ago, I am going to keep on keeping on. The progress is encouraging.

    Thanks once more!

  7. Great article Mark.

    Maybe I missed it, but what amount should we be supplementing a day?


  8. About a year before taking that Graduate Record Exam (at the age of 57), I had started taking alpha lipoic acid and acetyl L carnitine. They are touted for brain benefits. I did nearly 100 points better on the math portion than I had at age 22 and did better on the verbal as well. My earlier scores were not bad. I don’t know how direct a role the supplements played, but I have never stopped taking them as I periodicially encounter favorable info like today’s Daily Apple.

  9. Hey Mark, I was just wondering why is there such a great divide between the master formula and the advanced health formula in terms of lipoic acid. From 250mg down to 25mg? Is this 25mg even worthwhile? All the other ingredients seem to be cut in thirds or even fourths, but to only have 1/10th of the recommended dose? Is Lopoic acid that expensive?

  10. I started Alpha Lipoic Acid in combination with Evening Primrose Oil to combat peripheral neuropathy (there was a useful website about this which is currently unavailable)

    I discovered it was reducing my blood glucose, not a lot but predictably, by about 10 points, and shaving about 10 more points off my postprandials.

    Most importantly I discovered it works on my trick liver – which can dump hordes of glucose when I don’t need it, or refuse to release glucose when I do. I suspect it affects insulin resistance within the control circuitry. Some other diabetics find this, and some insulin users need to reduce their doses: for others it has no effect.

    This is proven when I have discontinued and restarted it. Currently I do 150 or 250 mg x 2 per day.

    This reduction of insulin resistance *may* be the mechanism whereby it reduces trigs, but it seems to have many beneficial effects and few side effects except for the price. Along with vitamin D3 it’s one of my must-have supplements.

    I had my trigs down to 10% of what they were purely through low carbing so can’t be sure what if any extra effect the ALA has had.

  11. Justin,

    My Master Formula is one of the most comprehensive formulas on the planet (if not the MOST). I decided to put ALA (lipoic acid) in it 12 years ago in an amount that would reflect the research. This is how I approach every nutrient in that formula. Yes, ALA is expensive, but cost of materials was not the deciding factor for building the Master Formula – researched-backed dosage was.

    Advanced Health Formula was designed to be a lower cost, less potent alternative to “the world’s highest potency antioxidant formula” for those whose budgets couldn’t fit DCMF. And all that nutrition had to fit into 6 capsules. As such, it has smaller amounts of many of the same ingredients (and lacks some others altogether). BY dropping ALA we kept room for others.

    A lot of people on a budget elect to get the Master Formula and take one 6-capsule packet per day (making it half as potent, but lasting twice as long).

  12. There’s a small typo:
    “…the much aligned red meat, and organ meat.”
    should be:
    “…the much-maligned red meat, and organ meat.

    Interesting article. Thank you, Mark.

  13. Very interesting post. Antioxidant compounds are now routinely used in dental therapy for gum disease, and can be important in oral care for people who have diabetes due to the interactions between gum disease and elevated blood sugar that are associated with inflammation. We write extensively about related issues at

    – Charles Martin, DDS
    Founder, Dentistry For Diabetics

  14. Beside Alpha Lipoic Acid what can be used to lower blood sugar and Cholesterol. Want to get off prescriptive drugs.
    Thank you for you answer, Alycia

  15. IMO nothing has more than minor effects on BG, bitter melon, cinnamon and chromium have some effect on some people, but the major benefit comes from avoidance of dietary carbs

    doing this rigorously for a while will pay major dividends, plus will almost certainly improve your lipids.

    Growing and using muscle works to reduce insulin resistance – endurance stuff like long walks and short bursts of high intensity or maybe Slow Burn works better than cardio intensity, which may shoot your BG up or drop it low.

    I’m currently trialling Pantethine (NOT Pantothenic Acid) as a statin replacement but it’ll be July before I get another lipid panel to see if it works, this and a number of other things may improve lipids but again far and away the biggest effect comes from a suitably low carb diet. When the carbs are low enough you may find you can turn saturated fats into HDL at the expense of LDL.

    NOTHING replaces insulin if you’re Type 1, LADA or certain types of MODY, but for Type 2s with some insulin production you can make it stretch further. The ADA reckons a maximum of 2.9% reduction in A1c but in their very own forums and elsewhere we routinely see 5 – 8% and even 10% reductions following the above or similar protocols. This suggests strongly that their dietary advice is crap.

  16. This post made me purchase some ALA… and it wasn’t expensive either! This will be a staple of the few supplements I take (multi-vit + fish oil for omega-3’s)!

    As always – thanks for the info Mark!

  17. Alphalipoic acid is the ultimate antioxidant being both water and oil soluble can act either way to provide benefits. ALA may help in providing good health.

  18. I’m almost to the bottom of my second bottle of ALA’s – I’ve bought both bottles from Trader Joe’s, and as regularly as 5 days a week, take 200-300mg, split into two doses, per day. However, Like other posters/followers have commented, I can’t single it out as the only ignition of significant differences noticed with Primal/overall healthy living. Although I’m sure it isn’t hurting. 🙂 I’m interested in the potency and bio-availability of the product though. Any references or suggestions on where to find the most potent/bio-available source for this? Is the TJ’s brand sufficient? It is fairly cheap-price wise.

    `Strengthen your roots`

  19. Can anybody explain the difference between ala and R+ala. or the stabilized rala? I had read somewhere that the r version was more easily passed through the blood/brain barrier (I think it was Dr. Michael Colgan). Thanks to all, I have learned a LOT here!

  20. Been doing this for about 6 months… change in my triglycerides so far….