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Is it a useful nutritional supplement?

Lipoic acid is a nutritional supplement that is talked about a lot. It plays a major role in our energy metabolism. It is also a powerful antioxidant, which not only neutralizes several types of free radicals, but is also able to replenish the entire spectrum of key antioxidants within cells. These two functions make lipoic acid an essential nutritional supplement to stimulate our energy metabolism and complement our antioxidant strategy. In this article, I will also tell you how to choose the best lipoic acid supplement.


  • Lipoic acid plays a key role in energy metabolism and acts as a powerful antioxidant.
  • It is able to replenish other cellular antioxidants, making it particularly effective against oxidative stress;
  • Clinical studies have shown that lipoic acid can improve neuropathy in diabetics.

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What is lipoic acid?

Lipoic acid, or alpha-lipoic acid (AAL), was discovered in 1937. It is a molecule similar to the stearic acid molecule (fat molecule), but surrounded by two sulfur atoms (in yellow). The two sulfur atoms give it oxidation properties.

Structure of lipoic acid
© Ben Mills, Wikimedia Commons

In our cells, within compartments called mitochondria, the biosynthesis of lipoic acid (from octanoic acid) takes place.

Mitochondria are bean-shaped cellular organelles that act as energy generators within our cells. In fact, calories from our food are used in the mitochondria to produce energy, which our cells will then use to ensure their functions (muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, etc.).

Lipoic acid is manufactured in our mitochondria, in these little power plants, and this molecule has a key role in our energy metabolism. This lipoic acid actually plays the role of a cofactor for many enzymes of the Krebs cycle, a cyclic metabolic pathway important for our energy metabolism. Specifically, lipoic acid is a cofactor for alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase and pyruvate dehydrogenase in the Krebs cycle.

Therefore lipoic acid supplements will help Stimulate our energy metabolism. These supplements will therefore be very useful in cases of chronic fatigue, but also support cellular tissues that are more energy-intensive, such as the nervous system, or cellular tissues with rapid renewal (energy-intensive cell divisions) such as skin, hair, nails or the intestinal wall.

Broad spectrum antioxidant

Lipoic acid is Amphiphilic molecule. This means that this molecule can dissolve in both water (water-soluble) and lipids (fat-soluble). In our bodies, lipoic acid can exert its activity Antioxidants act in aqueous environments, i.e. intracellular and extracellular environments, but also in phospholipid cell membranesEspecially at the level of nerve cells. Thanks to its dual binding to aqueous and fatty environments, lipoic acid is able to optimally fulfill its role in antioxidant protection in all tissues of the body.

In addition, lipoic acid is Broad spectrum antioxidants : It is able to neutralize a wide range of free radicals (reactive oxygen species), such as superoxide radicals, singlet oxygen, and hydroxyl radicals. Therefore, it is very useful in combating oxidative stress.

An antioxidant capable of regenerating other cellular antioxidants

In addition to being a broad-spectrum antioxidant, lipoic acid is also Able to replenish other antioxidants Intracellular. Lipoic acid replenishes vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, but also glutathione, also known as the king of antioxidants.

We therefore understand that lipoic acid, because of its broad antioxidant role, its ability to act in all tissues of the body (aqueous and fatty environments), and its ability to replenish other key antioxidants, is of fundamental importance in combating oxidative stress. It will therefore be an essential supplement for people with chronic or inflammatory diseases, smokers or people exposed to a polluted urban environment, or for anyone who wants to benefit from the anti-aging effects of antioxidants.

Improves neuropathy in diabetics

Furthermore, several clinical studies have strongly supported the role of lipoic acid in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. In fact, in diabetic individuals, lipoic acid has been shown to improve nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation in the endothelium, thereby improving microcirculation in patients with diabetic neuropathy.(1).

Why use supplements?

Lipoic acid is naturally synthesized by almost all living organisms. Therefore, we find it in our food, especially in offal (liver and heart), spinach and cauliflower.

However, the amounts in the diet remain low, and eating alone does not provide beneficial effects. Only nutritional supplements can provide lipoic acid in therapeutic doses. I suggest you see below how to choose your lipoic acid supplements.

What are the best lipoic acid supplements?

Lipoic acid is a chiral molecule. This means that it exists in two shapes: the R-shape, and another shape that corresponds to its reflection in the mirror: the S-shape.

Only the R form is made naturally, and this is the biologically active form.

The synthesis of lipoic acid, intended for the manufacture of dietary supplements, was originally homologous. This means that both the R and S forms are produced in the same proportions. With the development of synthesis processes, it is now possible to perform so-called asymmetric synthesis, making it possible to produce only the desired chiral conformation R.

When choosing a lipoic acid-based supplement, it is very important to choose a formula that specifies that it is in the R form: R-alpha lipoic acid or R-lipoic acid. If the composition of the complement does not specify that it is an R form, then it is very likely that the complement contains a mixture of R forms and S forms in equal amounts, coming from a lower quality enantiomer composition. Since the S-shape, in addition to the absence of any biological activity, will have a negative effect, it will be very important to pay attention to this property when purchasing.

When to take lipoic acid?

Absorption of lipoic acid requires the presence of two non-specific transporters in the intestine. If you take your supplements during a meal, these transporters will be largely mobilized by intestinal absorption of the meal and will therefore be poorly available for lipoic acid absorption.

To ensure optimal absorption of this nutritional supplement, it is recommended to take the lipoic acid supplement outside meals, on an empty stomach. It is recommended to take it with a large glass of water to speed up stomach emptying.

Is it a useful nutritional supplement?

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