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How Alpha Lipoic Acid Helps with Weight Loss: The Complete Guide (2017 Edition)

When it comes to weight loss there are very few supplements that actually work

​After all, if it were as easy as taking a supplement to lose weight wouldn't it be on the cover of every national newspaper? 

While most of the claims for weight loss with other supplements tend to be over hyped there​ are actually some supplements that can help you lose weight. 

The supplement we are going to be talking about today is Alpha Lipoic acid and how exactly this supplement stands apart from the rest and can help with weight loss. ​

No, these aren't miracle weight loss pills - but they act through various ways to help reduce inflammation, activate mitochondrial energy production to help your body burn fat. ​

Of course we will be using a combination of scientific studies and my personal experience using this to show how ALA can help you lose weight. ​

More...

Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid

​Beyond the benefits to weight loss this nutrient is very powerful. 

It's so powerful that it can be used for a variety of conditions and has been well studied (as far as supplements go).

In some instances even conventional Doctors have started to use this to treat conditions like peripheral neuropathy! (Now THAT is interesting).

​I'm going to talk more about the benefits to weight loss but I want to take a second to describe how I use alpha lipoic acid in my practice. 

alpha lipoic acid helps with weight loss

​First:

ALA can be used in conjunction with other supplements (it works better in combination therapy) to help treat and reverse insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is the driver behind many chronic medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, dementia and weight gain.

​Second: 

ALA works particularly well if used to treat weight loss as part of a comprehensive plan.

This means that I will use it in combination with other supplements, hormones and lifestyle changes for maximum benefit.

Don't expect to take this supplement by itself and lose a ton of weight. It doesn't work that way.

How to take alpha lipoic acid for weight loss

Third:

​ALA works really well in the setting of insulin resistance, especially if the patient also has evidence of fatty liver disease (we will discuss this below). 

I've also found great benefit in women who have high levels of testosterone (likely due to insulin resistance).

Obviously there are many more reasons to use ALA, but these are the three primary patient populations I have personally had the MOST success with. 

Below you will find a full list of conditions that alpha lipoic acid has been scientifically shown to help:

​Now that you have an idea of the potential that this nutrient has on multiple medical conditions let's talk about how ALA can help with weight loss. 

How Alpha Lipoic Acid Influences Weight & Helps with Weight Loss

​The weight loss effects from ALA are likely due to multiple different factors. 

As you probably are already aware, weight gain and loss loss is more complex than a simple calories in/calories out model.

Weight gain results from a complex change in hormones usually a direct result of lifestyle disturbances like poor diet (nutritionally deficient), high stress (from job or other factors), lack of exercise (altering muscle mass) and decreased activity (lack of exercise).

With this in mind that means supplements (or other therapies) designed to treat weight loss should focus on correcting these hormone imbalances in the body.

This is how supplements can help you lose weight without a change in diet. 

With that in mind let's talk about how alpha lipoic acid can influence these hormes...

  • Bottom Line: Weight gain is due to hormonal changes and effective weight loss therapies target these hormonal imbalances. 

#1. Increases Insulin Sensitivity

​The effect of alpha lipoic acid on insulin resistance is probably its most powerful effect in terms of how this supplement influences weight loss. 

ALA attenuates (decreases) insulin resistance and helps lower fasting blood sugar

All of these changes are mediated through insulin and insulin resistance. 

alpha lipoic acid lowers blood sugar and insulin

​Why is lowering insulin and blood sugar helpful for weight loss?

​First:

Insulin is a growth hormone.

It is responsible for cellular growth, especially fat cells.

While helpful in small amounts (it can help regulate blood sugar) high levels of insulin (AKA insulin resistance) leads to weight gain and a number of other chronic conditions.

Couple that with the fact that up to 50% of the US population has some form of insulin resistance and you see why this is important.

Second:

​Insulin resistance is often ignored by many physicians UNTIL you present with type II diabetes

But what about patients with pre-diabetes or high fasting insulin levels that don't meet criteria for diabetes by blood sugar testing?

These patients are largely ​left untreated, despite the fact that they still have issues with weight and weight loss resistance. 

For this reason it is very important for you to understand both your fasting blood sugar levels and insulin levels because there are treatments outside of medications that can help lower insulin levels.

​Third:

Focusing on diet alone is often not enough to complete reverse insulin resistance and lead to weight loss. 

Up to 50% of patients may experience some weight loss when changing to a low carbohydrate diet, but that leaves 50% of people who need additional therapies for further weight loss. 

These therapies can be from either supplements or medications designed to treat and reverse insulin levels.

  • Bottom Line: ALA can help to lower insulin levels and reverse insulin resistance in some patients. Because high levels of insulin cause weight gain, low insulin levels are very important for long term weight loss. 

#2. Increases Mitochondrial Energy Production

Alpha lipoic acid ​is required for proper mitochondrial enzyme function and therefore energy production

Low levels of ALA may slow down mitochondrial energy production leading to several symptoms including the subjective sense of fatigue (or decreased energy) that many people have today.

ALA helps increase mitochondrial energy production

If you are interesting weight loss then you want proper energy production in mitochondria for several reasons:

First:

Proper energy production helps set your basal metabolic rate (AKA your metabolism). 

The constant amount of energy required to keep you alive, breathing and moving requires a lot of energy.

In fact your basal metabolic rate determines how many calories you burn at rest simply living.

And this amount of calories is significantly more than any calories you burn while exercising. 

Which means that your metabolism is paramount in terms of importance when trying to lose weight. ​

Second:

​More energy production means a higher sense of subjective energy. 

The symptom of "fatigue" is common and plagues many patients. 

Taking ALA may help boost energy levels which will allow you to get up be more active, build more lean muscle mass and further improve your metabolism. ​

  • Bottom Line: ALA may help increase metabolism and energy production through its effects on mitochondrial enzymes. 

#3. ​Reduces Inflammation

​ALA has been shown in several studies to help reduce markers of inflammation in the body (specifically hsCRP in this study). 

​We all know that inflammation is a "bad guy", but do you really know why?

Or how about why inflammation is bad when you are trying to lose weight?

High levels of inflammation not only impact hormone levels, they directly impact your fat cells. 

Your fat cells (like other tissues in your body) can become inflamed, and when they are inflamed the medical term is known as adiposopathy or adipositis.

And inflammation in your fat cells is a big deal.

Here's why:

Your fat cells do more than just give you cellulite. They are responsible for hormonal signals that tell your brain to burn fat and increase metabolism.

High levels of inflammation lead to dysregulation of these hormones and contribute to the condition known as leptin resistance.

Leptin resistance is one of the main causes of weight loss resistance which basically makes weight loss almost impossible. 

​In addition to the changes in your fat cells, high levels of inflammation also lead to problems with thyroid function. 

Inflammation reduces the conversion of T4 to T3 leading to high levels of reverse T3 - this process further blunts your metabolism and leads to weight gain.

​As I'm sure you are aware, proper thyroid function is critical for weight loss because thyroid hormone also has a heavy impact on your metabolism and energy production. 

  • Bottom Line: ALA helps lower inflammation in the body which can help weight loss by reducing fat cell inflammation and potentially improving thyroid function. 

#4. The Combination of Alpha Lipoic Acid + Prescription Medications Boosts Weight Loss​

​As mentioned previously one of the best ways to use Alpha lipoic acid is as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes medications and/or other supplements. 

This synergy is emphasized in several studies...

The First study:

​This study showed that the combination of testosterone + alpha lipoic acid on type II diabetic patients resulted in significant improvement in multiple parameters. 

alpha lipoic acid and testosterone

These patients ​experienced a reduction in BMI (weight loss), an improvement in glycemic control (lower blood sugar levels), an improvement in lipid profile (lower cholesterol), and an improvement in libido (sex drive). 

​This combination therapy is particularly interesting considering that many patients (both men and women) have the combination of low testosterone + insulin resistance. 

Alpha lipoic acid may promote an increase in testosterone by virtue of its insulin lowering effects.

The Second study:

​In this study researchers compared the effects of metformin therapy vs metformin + alpha lipoic acid in patients with insulin resistance. 

This study showed that patients using both metformin plus alpha lipoic acid had more weight loss, better cholesterol and a reduction in blood sugar compared to metformin alone. 

Metformin plus ALA on insulin and weight

This is ​actually a big deal if you are a patient with insulin resistance, considering that much of your treatment is reliant upon your practitioner. 

​The addition of alpha lipoic acid might have other benefits when coupled with other therapies, medications and hormones. 

In my practice I've also noted a similar benefit with combination therapy and this is how I would recommend you consider supplementing (compared to taking the supplement by itself). ​

  • Bottom Line: ALA can provide a synergistic effect to weight loss, cholesterol and blood sugar when combined with other medications and hormones like Testosterone and Metformin. 

How to use ALA for the Best Results​

​If you've read through this post so far and you feel that alpha lipoic acid may have some benefit then the following information may help guide you further. 

When supplementing with ALA there are a few things to consider:

Alpha lipoic acid generally has more benefit when it is in a sustained release or delayed release form.

This allows for a sustained level of alpha lipoic acid to be absorbed throughout the day.

In addition it is also important to make sure that your dose is high enough to get symptomatic improvement. 

​Below we are going to discuss everything you need to know before you start supplementing with ALA. 

How to Supplement with Alpha Lipoic Acid

Why I like it

May increase energy levels through mitochondrial pathways

May help with weight loss by sensitizing the body to insulin

Helps multiple conditions including cognitive disorders

Generally well tolerated with few side effects

How to tell if you Need it

Patients with the following conditions should consider using ALA (alpha lipoic acid)

  • Patients with weight loss resistance or chronic weight gain
  • Patients with insulin resistance (as evidenced by an elevated fasting insulin greater than 5) 
  • Patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy
  • Patients with cognitive decline or a history of dementia
  • Patients with high levels of non specific inflammation (as evidenced by elevated ESR and/or CRP) 
  • Patients with non alcoholic fatty liver disease (as evidenced by AST/ALT values > 20) 
Elevated insulin and CRP
How to Use

  • Take up to 1,800mg per day (depending on tolerance)
  • Start titration at 600mg per day and increase as tolerated
  • Length of treatment may vary depending on condition, but should last for several months at least
My Recommended Brand and Product:

Make sure the Dosage is high enough

To get the most benefit from alpha lipoic acid your dosage should range from 600mg to 1,800mg.

In some cases doses as high as 2,400mg per day may be necessary.

Use this as a general guide based on your medical condition...​

Dosage for peripheral neuropathy: 600mg per day minimum for 3+ months

Dosage for insulin resistance: 1,200mg per day x 6+ months

Dosage for weight loss: ​1,800mg per day x3 months minimum and should be combined with other therapies, medications and hormones for optimal results. 

​The length of therapy largely depends on your condition but you should expect to use ALA for at least 3 months minimum and up to 6+ months if you are getting improvement. 

Remember, whenever possible, your ALA should be in a sustained release form. ​

Side effects to watch out for

Alpha lipoic acid is generally very well tolerated with few side effects.

The most common side effects include: itching, small rashes and/or urticaria (hives).

These changes usually occur at only higher doses (typically 1,800mg or higher), but can occur at lower levels as well.

In my opinion many of these side effects are due to a "detox" like reaction from ALA's action as an anti-oxidant.

It doesn't meant that these side effects are necessary bad, but instead may represent a purging of various breakdown products stored in adipose tissue. ​

Adding other supplements to boost results

Just like other medications can be added to ALA to boost results, so too can supplements be added to ALA for even more benefit.

Recall that I generally do not recommend the use of ALA in isolation, so if you know what your medical condition is you can target it with the addition of these supplements. ​

Other supplements designed to treat insulin resistance:
  • Chromium: Chromium helps reduce insulin sensitivity. Dose should be 500mcg per day. 
  • Magnesium: Magnesium helps in a number of ways but can also help weight weight loss (read more here), start with 200mg per day and titrate up as needed. 
  • Berberine: This supplement has been shown to be as powerful as metformin at lowering blood sugar and Hgb A1c. Use up to 2,000mg per day for maximum benefit. 
  • For best results combine 3+ supplements targeted at insulin resistance, blood sugar and for weight loss. 
Other supplements designed to lower inflammation:

Patients with non specific inflammation generally have markers such as CRP, ESR and hsCRP elevated on their blood tests. 

These inflammatory markers are frequently accompanied with insulin resistance, leptin resistance and weight gain (for reasons stated above).

When inflammation is present treat aggressively with 2-3+ anti inflammatory supplements: ​

  • Omega 3 fatty acids with Astaxanthin: Helps reduce inflammatory cytokines. Dose should be up to 2 grams per day and 1 mg of astaxanthin.  
  • Curcumin: Works by activating PPAR-gamma levels to reduce inflammation, also has been shown to delay the onset of type II diabetes from pre diabetes. Dose should be up to 1,000mg per day in sustained release form. 
  • Quercetin + Bromelain: Powerful anti oxidant that can help boost immune function and especially helpful in patients with GI problems and/or chronic runny nose. 

Foods High in Alpha Lipoic Acid

If you prefer to try and get ALA through your diet then I've also included a list of recommended foods naturally high in ALA.

Foods high in ALA:

  • Spinach
  • Organ meats like liver, kidney and heart
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli

​It should be noted that the sources of ALA in these foods may be somewhat limited, and for patients with serious medical conditions they will likely need higher or supraphysiologic doses of these supplements for maximum benefit. 

​This means a combination of ALA supplements + foods high in ALA may be the best approach versus eating foods high in ALA alone. 

​Recap + Final Thoughts

Alpha lipoic acid is a very strong nutritional supplement that can help with multiple medical conditions. 

Due to its various effects on inflammation, hormones, insulin and acting as an anti-oxidant this supplement can actually help with weight loss as well.

​To get the most benefit from using ALA make sure you find a high quality supplement without added fillers/dyes, in a sustained release form and in a high enough dose. 

This will help you achieve your desired results.

Also remember that ALA can be combined with other medications and hormone like testosterone and metformin to boost weight loss results

Now it's your turn:

Are you using alpha lipoic acid?

Has it helped you with weight loss?

Why or why not?

Leave your comment below and I will personally respond. ​

Dr. Westin Childs
 

I'm Dr. Childs and I write these posts. I'm a physician that specializes helping patients lose weight, have more energy and FEEL better. My practice focuses on hormone imbalances, thyroid issues and weight loss resistance. My goal is to provide the BEST information out there on the internet that is both actionable and trustworthy. Get my free ebook: Hashimoto's Diet Guide here. You can also find more about my personal journey back to health here.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 21 comments
Ruby - January 16, 2017

Hi Dr.Childs,
I’ve been on T3 only medication (50mcg) for 8 months now but instead of losing weight, I’m gaining weight at a rapid speed and no matter what I do, I go to the gym x3 a week, I do swimming, home exercises etc but I just can not lose even an ounce! Do you reckon I could be insulin resistant? Should I just give ALA a try and see how it goes?

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 16, 2017

    Hey Ruby,

    It’s relatively easy enough to test your insulin and blood sugar levels (the tests are standard even for PCP’s), you can always choose to supplement without knowing but whenever possible it’s always better to know what is going on inside your body.

    Reply
Daniela - January 17, 2017

Thank you so much for the updated information on ALA, Dr. Childs! This important info came to me just on time as I am at the crossroad with my Hashi and all extras that are linked with it including weight gain and IR. RESPECT to all you do for people like me!

Reply
Becky - January 18, 2017

Do you know if this supplement can be taken at the same time as Levothyroxin? Also, is it better to take it in the morning or at bedtime? Thanks for the great article.

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 18, 2017

    Hey Becky,

    I hope you found it helpful. In general you should avoid taking supplements around the time you take your thyroid medication to avoid issues with absorption. ALA can be taken at night or at bedtime without issues as long as it is not taken within several hours after your thyroid medication.

    Reply
Pepper - January 24, 2017

Alpha Lipoic never helped me lose weight.

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 24, 2017

    Hey Pepper,

    It doesn’t work for everyone, but you have to use it the right way if you want to get the best results. That is in combination with other supplements, at the right dose, with a sustained release capsule and for the right duration of time.

    Taking it by itself in a small dose will not lead to significant weight loss.

    Reply
Barbara - January 24, 2017

I have had a thyroidectomy in 2012 & am on Levothyroxine & finding it hard to lose weight I am also on a blood pressure medication – would ALA help & is it available in NZ?

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 25, 2017

    Hey Barbara,

    I have no idea if ALA is available in NZ, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out through some research. ALA may help if your weight gain is due to insulin resistance.

    Reply
      rodrigo - January 25, 2017

      Hey Dr. Childs,

      Let’s say i find a good doctor who treat well my hypothyroidism with the right medication & dosage + i’m doing all the others things ( diet , Hit , fasting with IF , supplement , good sleep ).
      Can i heal my hormonal problems, depression, chonic fatigue, loose weight for real and be done with it ? Or i’m gonna be stuck with all them bad symptoms + medecation for life ?
      Thank you so much.

      Reply
        Dr. Westin Childs - January 25, 2017

        Hey Rodrigo,

        Symptomatic management is actually relatively easy to control provided you know how/what to treat. Getting you off of therapies is another issue entirely and largely depends on what problems you had to begin with and how much you are willing to change.

        For instance – it would be wishful thinking to assume you will be able to get off of thyroid hormone or testosterone therapy if you are unable to give up refined sugars/carbs, etc.

        Reply
Josephine - January 25, 2017

Hi Dr. Childs, can you speak to the difference between regular alpha lipoic acid and R-lipoic acid? I was told the latter is better and double the strength and absorbency.

Reply
Joanna Seib - January 25, 2017

Hi. Dr Childs, just read that ALA could actually have a negative effect on the T4 to T3 conversion. What is your opinion on it?

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 25, 2017

    Hey Joanna,

    One study showed lower T3 levels when T4 was combined with ALA, but that same study showed that other ALA + T4 had better effects on the body than ALA or T4 alone. I think this is largely blown out of proportion due to a lack of understanding about how thyroid hormone works. I’ve used ALA with many thyroid patients successfully without any issue.

    Reply
      Joanna Seib - January 26, 2017

      Thank you for your answer. One more concern, I have a sluggish liver, wich is confirmed by my lab tests and high rt4, low ft3 despite taking T3 medication. I am concerned about ALAs ability to detoxify, will my liver be able to get rid of the toxins if I start taking ALA? Thank you for all the wonderful information and the very structured way you are presenting it!

      Reply
Christine - January 26, 2017

Hello, I love all your information! I have been diagnosed with hashimotos since 32 (I’m turning 50) and love all the information I’ve read. What caught my attention is that your post said that alpha lipoic acid helps with peripheral neuropathy. My son who is now 22 years old, was diagnosed with stage 2C testicular cancer when he was 18. He had chemotherapy bepx3 and the Platinum caused pretty intense peripheral neuropathy in his feet/lower legs that he still struggles with today. He was prescribed Lyrica and gabapentin which both gave awful side effects so he stopped the meds. He also suffers from pretty severe Raynaud’s from the bleomycin. My questions (if you can answer) are is ALAcid worth trying for his situation, and is the dose the same as what you mentioned in the post? I apologize in advance if it’s off topic from what you were trying to discuss, but I have researched for 3 years about what could help my son with his neuropathy issues.thank you for reading either way.

Reply
    Dr. Westin Childs - January 26, 2017

    Hey Christine,

    I’m glad you enjoy it. In regards to peripheral neuropathy there are actually many therapies that can help ease (in some cases reverse) peripheral neuropathy completely – many of these are back with literary studies. ALA is one of those therapies that can potentially help, but like most complex issues treatment usually requires a combination of therapies for the best results. For peripheral neuropathy, you would usually need higher doses of ALA and used in combination with other therapies.

    Reply
Roxana - February 15, 2017

I’m happy to have found this article. I have my own success story. My history: Graves Disease with ablation, 2002, I take daily levothyroxin, dx insulin resistan with metformin started in 2013, insulin 18. Life long weight issues. I got it down to 14 and creeping back up over 18 months. I was loosing some weight during this battle. I added organic cinnamon 500 mg w ALA 150 bid. 3 months later my insulin was 9. October 2016 level was 7. Since 2013 I have lost 50#. My doctor is supportive of my wholistic approach wherever possible and my metformin is being tapered down. I love sharing my story.

Reply
Julie - February 21, 2017

Loving reading all your brilliant articles. I have hashis adrenal issues and am on bioidenticals to help low hormones.in addition to this my fasting sugar a low 100s–not bad but I have blurred vision and candida symptoms when I eat sugar. What is the difference between ala and r lipoic acid? Which one would beneift me best with my issues?

Reply

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