ALA is naturally made inside your cells, and it serves an important function in intracellular signalling. The more ALA your cells have access to, the better they’ll function. Among other things, alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant, and it helps to reduce oxidative stress, and it’s well-known that oxidative stress shortens your telomeres.
Antioxidants are atoms that have extra electrons that they donate to fill the valences of free radicals, which are oxygen atoms that rampage through the body as they attempt to replace missing electrons. These antioxidants can help protect your cells against free radicals.
Most antioxidants are either fat-soluble or water-soluble, which means they can only be deployed in certain ways. Fat-soluble antioxidants are generally stored in the body for a while, but water-based antioxidants are excreted rapidly. Having an antioxidant that bridges the gap, therefore, is the best way to deploy free radical protection where and when they’re needed.
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high, thus your cell insulin sensitivity decreases. This high blood glucose then can harm your cellular structures. A study found that administering ALA improved insulin-triggered glucose disposal (insulin sensitivity) by 50%. Accordingly, alpha-lipoic acid may help to support insulin sensitivity and therefore some of the diabetes symptoms people experience.
Another study found that daily doses of APA improve insulin sensitivity by 25%, so there’s no clear consensus on exactly how much alpha-lipoic acid helps with this condition. Since the results have been duplicated, however, it appears that there’s a significant reason to believe that supplementing with ALA might support diabetes.
Weight Loss Benefits
It’s clear that ALA has effects that should, theoretically, help you lose weight. Clinical studies, however, have been inconclusive. An analysis of a dozen different studies found that ALA only marginally improved weight loss in human subjects, but for people who are trying to shed a few extra pounds, anything helps.
In animal studies, ALA prevents the expression of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which causes the sensation of hunger. Increasing AMPK also increases resting calorie burn, so taking alpha-lipoic acid every day is a win-win for people who want to lose weight. While it’s likely that these effects are occurring when humans take ALA, these effects just aren’t as profound as some researchers were hoping.