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Lipoic acid is also known as alpha lipoic acid or thioctic acid. It is manufactured by the body but is sometimes taken as a supplement. It is an antioxidant and some studies indicate that it may be beneficial to diabetics.

Cholesterol and triglycerides: Lipoic acid has been studied and shown to improve the lipid profile of patients with diabetes and insulin insensitivity. One study (Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Aug;19(8):1647-53) has investigated 22 obese subjects with IGT (obese-IGT), 13 of whom underwent 2-week lipoic acid treatment, 600 mg intravenously once daily. The patients receiving the lipoic acid had improved insulin sensitivity as well as lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. They also experienced a reduction in inflammatory markers (chemicals that cause inflammation). A meta-analysis of studies (Metabolism. 2018 Oct;87:56-69) also found that giving lipoic acid can lead to an improvement in glucose homeostasis parameters and lipid profiles. 

Neuropathy: There are several studies that show lipoic acid to help prevent and mitigate diabetic neuropathy. In one study (J Int Med Res. 2018 May;46(5):1779-1790) 72 patients with painful diabetic neuropathy were given lipoic acid for 40 days (600 mg/day). The subjects had a reduction in pain and other symptoms of neuropathy. Half of the subjects rated their health condition as ‘very much better’ or ‘much better’ following α-lipoic acid administration. The supplementation also reduced triglyceride levels. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Diabetes. 1997 Sep;46 Suppl 2:S62-6) looked at 328 patients. The researchers concluded, “intravenous treatment with alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) over 3 weeks is safe and effective in reducing symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and oral treatment with 800 mg/day for 4 months may improve cardiac autonomic dysfunction in NIDDM [type 2 diabetes].” Many other double-blind studies found similar results (Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2007 Oct 16;87(38):2706-9; Drugs R D. 2012 Mar 1;12(1):29-34; Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2000;108(3):168-74; Diabetologia. 1995 Dec;38(12):1425-33; Free Radic Res. 1999 Sep;31(3):171-9).

All these studies not only find that lipoic acid is beneficial to diabetics, it is also safe. Supplementation should be considered for improving the lipid profile and for protecting against neuropathy in diabetics.