Alpha lipoic acid (ALA), also known as thioctic acid, is an eight-carbon organosulfur compound derived from caprylic acid (octenoic acid). It is widely understood that alpha lipoic acid is manufactured endogenously within the human body and that its presence is essential for aerobic metabolism, or the means by which the body generates energy via breakdown of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats in the presence of oxygen.
Among individuals who are healthy (without serious medical conditions), the body typically produces optimal amounts of alpha lipoic acid to sustain cellular function and processes (e.g. enzyme systems). In addition to the endogenous production of alpha lipoic acid, lipoic acid can also be attained from food and is highest in foods such as: broccoli, organ meats (heart, kidney, liver) spinach, and yeast extract; that said, the quantity of alpha lipoic acid in foods is considered extremely low.
Because aging and serious medical conditions are associated with alpha lipoic acid deficits, and because preliminary evidence indicates health benefit from alpha lipoic acid supplementation, many persons believe it’s smart to supplement. Though there are many reasons for which one might supplement with alpha lipoic acid, a common reason for supplementation is weight loss – many believe alpha lipoic acid will help burn excess fat.
Can Alpha-Lipoic Acid cause weight loss? (If so, how much?)
Yes. Data from literature reviews, randomized controlled trials, open-label trials, and animal research indicate that daily alpha-lipoic acid supplementation can induce modest, yet significant weight loss – irrespective of age, medical status, and/or body composition. For example, a systematic review by Namazi et al. (2018) revealed that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (1200 mg/day) significantly reduces body weight by an average of 1.52 lbs.
Another review by Kucukgoncu et al. (2017) of 10 randomized controlled trials reported that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation appears safe, well-tolerated, and effective for the induction of weight loss. In the review by Kucukgoncu et al., it was suggested that alpha-lipoic acid (300-1800 mg per day) supplementation reduces body weight by 2.79 lbs. (over a duration of 8 to 52 weeks).
Overweight & obese patients: 0.7 lbs. to 15.43 lbs. – Alpha-lipoic acid appears to promote modest weight loss in patients who are overweight (BMI: 25+) and obese (BMI: 30+).
- Dosage: 1200 mg to 1800 mg per day
- Duration: 8 to 20 weeks
Patients using antipsychotics: 4.38 lbs. to 4.85 lbs. – Alpha lipoic acid appears to promote modest weight loss in patients with schizophrenia who gained weight while using antipsychotics.
- Dosage: 600 mg to 1800 mg per day
- Duration: 8 to 10 weeks
Spinal cord injury: 8.15 lbs. – Alpha-lipoic acid appears to promote moderate weight loss in male patients with spinal cord injury.
- Dosage: 600 mg per day
- Duration: 12 weeks
Meta-Analysis & Review data: 1.52 lbs. to 2.79 lbs. – A review by Namazi et al. (2018) and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by Kucukgoncu et al. (2017) documented modest weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
- Dosage: 300 to 1800 mg per day
- Duration: 8 to 52 weeks
An earlier crossover trial by Li et al. (2017) documented weight loss of 0.7 lbs. over the span of 8 weeks among 166 individuals characterized as overweight or obese following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (1200 mg per day); this amount was significant when compared to a placebo. Additionally, a study by Mohammadi et al. (2017) noted decreased energy intake and weight in 67 stroke patients following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (1200 mg per day) over a 12-week period (relative to a placebo).
A study by Kim et al. (2016) reported an average weight loss of 4.38 lbs. and significant visceral fat loss following the administration of alpha-lipoic acid (600-1800 mg per day) for 12 weeks among patients with antipsychotic-induced weight gain. Other research by Okanović et al. (2015) revealed that the combination of alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg per day) and metformin yields significantly greater weight loss (~3.24 lbs.) over 20 weeks than standalone metformin – among obese adults with diabetes.
A pilot study by Ratliff et al. (2015) recorded an average weight loss of 4.85 lbs. among 12 overweight individuals with schizophrenia receiving alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg per day) for 10 weeks. Furthermore, a study by Mohammadi et al. (2015) involving 58 men with spinal cord injury reported an average weight reduction of 8.15 lbs. following 12 weeks of alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg per day) supplementation; (placebo users in this study gained weight).
One of the largest and well-designed studies supporting the idea that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation induces weight loss was conducted by Koh et al. (2011). In this study, 360 individuals who were overweight or obese received alpha-lipoic acid received: alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg per day or 1800 mg per day) or a placebo.
It was found that recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at a daily dosage of 1800 mg lost a significant amount of weight (6.08 lbs.) over 20 weeks – compared to placebo recipients and recipients of the lower dose (1200 mg per day). Finally, a large-scale open-label trial by Carbonelli et al. (2010) documented substantial weight loss of ~15.43 lbs. among 1127 pre-obese and obese Italians following 4 months of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
In addition to human trial data, there are data from animal studies suggesting that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation causes weight loss. A study by Seo et al. (2012) noted that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation dose-dependently reduces weight gain attributable to a high-fat diet in rats, and work by Wang et al. (2010) reported that administration of alpha-lipoic acid for 1 month improves body composition, glucose tolerance, and energy expenditure in mice.
Overall, the scientific data are consistent in suggesting that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (at sufficient dosages) can promote modest weight loss and/or counteract weight gain in humans and animals. Lastly, there are zero data to suggest that alpha-lipoic acid is incapable of reducing body weight – or to suggest that alpha-lipoic acid causes weight gain.
Note: The amount of weight loss resulting from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation will vary depending upon the specific user and daily dosage. The amount(s) of weight loss listed above as resulting from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation are estimates from studies – and may differ from your personal experience.
Benefits of using Alpha-Lipoic Acid for weight loss (Possibilities)
Included below is a summary of potential advantages associated with using alpha-lipoic acid supplements for weight loss. Perhaps the most significant advantage of using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss is that the weight loss appears to be effortless – most people end up losing weight without implementing concurrent diet and/or lifestyle changes.
- Adjunctive option: A notable benefit of using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss is that it’s generally safe to use as an adjunct with most medications and supplements. (The only substances that alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with include: antidiabetes medications and chemotherapy agents). In most cases, alpha-lipoic acid is unlikely to interact with and/or reduce the efficacy of other substances. Furthermore, some studies suggest that the combination of alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) and metformin yields significantly more weight loss than standalone metformin.
- Body composition improvement: Some research suggests that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation may improve body composition. Human studies have reported decreases in visceral fat (intra-abdominal adipose accumulation); body mass index (BMI); and waist circumference following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. Furthermore, some research indicates that alpha-lipoic acid may increase and/or preserve lean mass percentage relative to body size while bolstering fat loss.
- Diet-induced weight gain: Among individuals who are overweight and/or obese from poor dietary choices (e.g. hyperpalatable foods), alpha-lipoic acid may induce weight loss. Studies in which high-fat diets are fed to animals to induce obesity reported that supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid prevents a significant amount of diet-induced weight gain, fat gain, and attenuates deleterious diet-induced metabolic changes. In other words, even if you’re eating a suboptimal diet, alpha-lipoic acid may promote weight loss.
- Drug-induced weight gain: Some studies suggest that alpha-lipoic acid may help counteract drug-induced weight gain, particularly from antipsychotics. Multiple studies suggest that in patients with schizophrenia who experienced antipsychotic-induced weight gain, alpha-lipoic acid supplementation promotes weight loss whereby a percentage of the medication-induced weight gain is reversed.
- Effortless weight loss: If you lose weight from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, it may be effortless. Most studies suggest that alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss regardless of whether a person alters his/her diet and physical activity level. The effortless weight loss is probably attributable to alpha-lipoic acid’s ability to suppress hypothalamic AMPK and activate skeletal muscle AMPK such that hunger decrease and energy expenditure increases via thermogenesis.
- Evidence-based: Alpha-lipoic acid as a supplement for weight loss is evidence-based. Data from many randomized controlled trials (with moderate-to-large sample sizes) suggest that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation induces weight loss or prevents weight gain. As of current, all data from human studies are consistent in suggesting a modest weight loss effect from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
- Medical comorbidities: In addition to promoting weight loss, alpha-lipoic acid supplementation may improve a variety of medical conditions and/or symptoms including (but not limited to): age-related cognitive impairment; diabetes and diabetic neuropathy; neurodegeneration; systemic inflammation; and oxidative stress. If you have a medical condition for which alpha-lipoic acid proves therapeutic, you may derive added benefit from supplementation (beyond just weight loss).
- Modest weight loss: While some individuals may be dissatisfied with the modest amount of weight loss that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation induces, most professionals agree that even modest weight loss is better than zero weight loss among individuals who are overweight and obese. Even the modest weight loss induced by alpha-lipoic acid has potential to reverse comorbid conditions resulting from being overweight or obese such as: type 2 diabetes; insulin resistance; hyperlipidemia; hypercholesterolemia; and hyperglycemia.
- Tolerability: Nearly all research suggests that alpha-lipoic acid supplements are well-tolerated in humans. In controlled trials, there were no apparent differences in the tolerability of alpha-lipoic acid relative to placebos. Though alpha-lipoic acid may cause side effects at high doses (exceeding 1200 mg/day), these side effects are generally transient and/or of modest severity.
Drawbacks of using Alpha-Lipoic Acid for weight loss (Possibilities)
Although there are some advantages associated with using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss, there are also some disadvantages. Potential disadvantages associated with alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss might include: cost; lack of effect (in some persons); and/or side effects.
- Cost effectiveness: Some researchers have suggested that using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss is not cost-effective. In other words, the amount of money spent on alpha-lipoic acid supplements for weight loss may significantly outweigh the modest weight loss derived from supplementation. The cost of supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid at dosages needed for weight loss will probably range from $20 to $60 – and will probably exceed $60 if ongoing is supplementation is needed to maintain the weight loss; some may consider this expensive relative to the modest weight reduction derived from supplementation.
- Decreased incentive: For some, it’s possible that recommending alpha-lipoic acid supplementation for weight loss might decrease the incentive for an overweight person to make lifestyle (diet and exercise) changes to attain a healthier body weight. Certain individuals might believe that, if they’re using alpha-lipoic acid to promote weight loss, they don’t need to reduce calorie intake and/or exercise. Individuals who perceive alpha-lipoic acid as a “magic bullet” weight loss agent may be better off without supplementation – especially if supplementation attenuates the motivation to live healthier.
- Ineffective: While most studies indicate that alpha-lipoic acid can induce weight loss, there’s a chance that its efficacy might vary among users. This considered, it’s reasonable to suspect that a subset of alpha-lipoic acid users might experience zero significant weight loss (or fat loss) from supplementation – even with high dosages (1200+ mg per day).
- Modest weight loss: Multiple literature reviews indicate that weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation is modest. A 2018 systematic review reported that the average weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation was ~1.52 lbs., whereas a 2017 review noted that the average weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation was 2.79 lbs. The modest weight loss may be disappointing to some individuals who were hoping to lose a moderate and/or substantial amount of weight from supplementation.
- Rebound weight gain (?): Despite the fact that alpha-lipoic acid appears to induce weight loss, it is unknown as to whether the weight lost from supplementation is regained following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. If lost weight is regained as a rebound effect after alpha-lipoic acid discontinuation, then it may be extremely cost-ineffective to spend $120-300 per year on supplements simply to maintain the initial weight loss (and prevent rebound weight gain).
- Side effects & interactions: Though most people can tolerate alpha-lipoic acid without difficulty, a subset of users may report undesirable side effects from high doses. Examples of unwanted side effects resulting from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation could include: nausea, gastrointestinal distress, itchiness, and skin rash. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements might also interfere with the therapeutic effect of antidiabetes medications and chemotherapeutic agents. Due to side effects and/or interactions – not everyone may be able to use alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss.
- Slow weight loss: The weight loss resulting from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation tends to be gradual. In other words, you shouldn’t expect to lose weight overnight – or to lose more than several pounds in a week. Modest weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid usually emerges or becomes noticeable after 2+ months of daily supplementation.
- Weight loss plateau (?): Some studies indicate that weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation may peak and plateau over a moderate-term (several months) and/or slightly decline over a longer-term (up to a year). It is unknown as to whether weight loss actually plateaus from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, however, long-term data (studies lasting a full year) suggest that it might. Furthermore, there aren’t significant differences in total weight lost in moderate-term studies (2-6 months) versus long-term studies (6-12 months). It’s possible that weight loss may plateau from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (possibly via adaptation to its regular administration.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid & Weight Loss (Mechanisms of Action)
Data from human and animal trials in which the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight was assessed – indicates that alpha-lipoic acid facilitates weight loss. Assuming the data are accurate and alpha-lipoic acid supplementation promotes weight loss, below are some hypothesized mechanisms by which the weight reduction might occur.
According to researchers, the most likely mechanism by which alpha-lipoic acid supplementation facilitates weight loss is through modulation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK): suppressing hypothalamic AMPK and activating skeletal muscle AMPK. The downstream effects of hypothalamic AMPK suppression and skeletal muscle AMPK activation include: appetite reduction; metabolic rate enhancement; and increased fat metabolism – each of which could explain weight loss and/or fat loss.
Nonetheless, it is necessary to underscore the fact that these mechanisms of alpha-lipoic acid’s weight loss action in humans are hypothesized – and haven’t been confirmed with robust data. However, if you end up experiencing weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid and want to know how the supplement might be promoting weight loss – the mechanisms listed below should be considered.
Hypothalamic AMPK suppression
The primary means by which alpha-lipoic acid is understood to promote weight loss is via suppression of hypothalamic AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). Hypothalamic AMPK plays an integral role in sensing energy status and modifying energy balance.
- Appetite reduction: Suppressing hypothalamic AMPK leads to decreased food intake. Any decrease in calorie intake relative to one’s maintenance calories should yield noticeable weight loss if maintained for a moderate-term.
- Thermogenesis: Suppressing hypothalamic AMPK leads to increased energy expenditure via upregulation of UCP1 in brown adipose tissue. Upregulation of UCP1 in brown adipose tissue induces non-shivering thermogenesis whereby the body burns more calories than usual to generate heat.
Although it isn’t fully understood as to how alpha-lipoic acid suppresses hypothalamic AMPK, researchers Kim et al. (2004) suggest that it likely reduces hypothalamic AMPK by: enhancing glucose uptake, upregulating glucose metabolism, or a combination of both – within the hypothalamus. When hypothalamic AMPK activity decreases – food intake usually decreases, whereas when hypothalamic AMPK activity increases – food intake usually increases.
In other words, alpha-lipoic acid supplementation might suppress activation of hypothalamic AMPK, which in turn, might reduce your appetite. Any appetite reduction (from alpha-lipoic acid-mediated suppression of hypothalamic AMPK) might yield natural or effortless reductions in calorie intake and/or might make it easier for individuals (who are deliberately attempting to lose weight) to adhere to a hypocaloric diet – for weight loss.
In addition to hypothalamic AMPK suppression promoting weight loss via appetite reduction (and decreased calorie intake), hypothalamic AMPK suppression may also increase energy expenditure to induce weight loss. Research suggests that even small doses of alpha-lipoic acid can upregulate the expression of UCP1 (thermogenin) in brown adipose tissue (BAT) – as a downstream effect of hypothalamic AMPK suppression.
For reference, UCP1 is an uncoupling protein contained within mitochondria of brown adipose tissue that’s involved in the production of heat via non-shivering thermogenesis. Upregulation of UCP1 (thermogenin) in brown adipose tissue will increase non-shivering thermogenesis whereby the body ends up burning more calories (than usual) to generate heat.
The combination of appetite reduction and increased non-shivering thermogenesis, each of which are mediated (at least partially) by hypothalamic AMPK suppression, may yield significant weight loss if maintained over a long-term.
Skeletal AMPK activation
Another means by which alpha-lipoic acid may induce weight loss or enhance body composition is through activation of skeletal AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). Alpha-lipoic acid exerts the opposite effect upon AMPK within skeletal muscle tissue (activating) – as it does upon AMPK within the hypothalamus region of the brain (suppressing).
Activation of skeletal AMPK is understood to increase: glucose uptake, fatty acid oxidation, insulin sensitivity, and muscle regeneration – each of which might contribute to weight loss. For example, increased fatty acid oxidation (FAO) resulting from skeletal AMPK activation has been suggested to increase energy expenditure by eliminating excess lipids from the body – particularly among persons with preexisting obesity.
Furthermore, research by Lindegaard et al. (2013) indicates that activation of skeletal AMPK increases fat oxidation and prevents high-fat diet-induced weight gain in animal models. Assuming skeletal AMPK activation yields similar physiological effects in humans as it does in animal models – it’s reasonable to suspect that this could be another mechanism by which alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss (or prevents weight gain).
Also worth noting is the fact that leptin (a hormone manufactured by adipose tissue to inhibit hunger) activates AMPK in skeletal muscle while simultaneously decreasing hypothalamic AMPK – analogous to the actions of alpha-lipoic acid. Because alpha-lipoic acid exerts similar effects on AMPK (hypothalamic and skeletal muscle) as leptin, some researchers have suggested that alpha-lipoic acid may prove useful inducing weight loss among persons with leptin-resistance.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15195087
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23670974
How Alpha-Lipoic Acid Might Promote Weight Loss (List of Ways)
Included below is a summary of mechanisms by which alpha-lipoic acid might facilitate or promote weight loss. Understand that some of these mechanisms are likely secondary or downstream effects of alpha-lipoic acid’s action upon hypothalamic and skeletal muscle AMPK.
Adipogenesis regulation: Research by Cho et al. (2003) suggests that alpha-lipoic acid may regulate adipogenesis through activation of MAP-kinases (MAPKs) such as ERK and JNK – independent of the IR/Akt signaling pathway. Specifically, Cho et al. reported that the administration of alpha-lipoic acid at high concentrations inhibited adipogenesis, a process by which the body gains fat cells and adipose tissue.
Although inhibition of adipogenesis has been suggested to be counterintuitively suboptimal for long-term weight loss due to the accompanying deleterious metabolic changes, alpha-lipoic acid is understood to facilitate favorable metabolic changes. The combination of adipogenesis inhibition and concurrent induction of beneficial metabolic changes could yield long-term fat loss and/or prevent fat gain.
Worth mentioning is the fact that, according to Cho et al., low concentrations of alpha-lipoic acid appear to promote adipogenesis, whereas high concentrations of alpha-lipoic acid appear to inhibit adipogenesis. Perhaps inhibition of adipogenesis explains why high doses of alpha-lipoic acid (600-1800 mg/day) appear most effective for weight loss and/or fat loss.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12837769
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24530288
Appetite reduction: Alpha-lipoic acid has been suggested to reduce appetite via suppression of hypothalamic AMPK. Reduced appetite following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation has been documented in human studies – as was evidenced by reductions in calorie intakes among patients receiving alpha-lipoic acid supplements relative to patients receiving a placebo.
For example, a study by Mohammadi et al. (2017) reported significant reductions in food intake (carbs, proteins, fats) among stroke patients receiving alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) over 12 weeks. In this study, it was documented that average daily calorie intake decreased by ~222 kcal/day among those receiving alpha-lipoic acid.
Another study by Mohammadi et al. (2015) reported substantial reductions in food intake among male patients with spinal cord injury receiving alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) for 12 weeks. In this study, it was documented that average daily calorie intake decreased by ~158 kcal/day.
Appetite reduction from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation should make it easier to consume fewer calories than usual and attain negative energy balance (i.e. a caloric deficit) for weight loss. If negative energy balance is maintained for an adequate duration, the weight loss [stemming from appetite reduction] should be significant and noticeable.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28900454
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25753493
Cognitive enhancement: There’s evidence to suggest that alpha-lipoic acid is a neuroprotective agent and prospective cognitive enhancer such that it protects against oxidative stress-induced brain damage and may bolster various domains of cognition and/or attenuate cognitive decline. Though it is unclear as to whether alpha-lipoic acid enhances cognition in most users, anyone who experiences cognitive enhancement from its supplementation might lose weight as an indirect effect of the enhancement.
For example, if alpha-lipoic acid supplementation enhances domains of cognition associated with: attention, self-discipline, and planning – this might make it easier to resist unhealthy or high-calorie food options; adhere to a hypocaloric diet and/or exercise regimen; and/or plan healthy meals. Improved ability to resist calorie-dense foods and/or plan nutritious meals should support weight loss efforts.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17982894
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912408
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28606823
Energy level increase: A study by Ratliff et al. (2015) discovered that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (1200 mg/day) for 10 weeks led to significant increases in energy levels. Although the increases in energy level were subjective (based on self-reports), it’s plausible that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation increases mental and physical energy levels by: modulating hormones; reducing oxidative stress; and/or attenuating inflammation.
Assuming alpha-lipoic acid increases your energy level, this energy increase might make it easier to: initiate exercise; exercise for longer durations; and/or exercise with greater intensity. If you exercise more frequently, intensely, and/or for a longer duration while than usual due to increased energy from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation – then you’ll probably end up burning more calories and exhibit a higher metabolic rate versus pre-supplementation such that you lose weight.
Fat oxidation: Research by Dandanell et al. (2017) suggests that impairments in maximal fat oxidation have been linked to obesity and weight regain following weight loss. Other studies have shown that targeted induction of fatty acid oxidation in animal models is associated with weight loss and resistance of weight gain – even while consuming a high-fat diet.
Chen et al. (2012) noted that alpha-lipoic acid lowers lipids via enhancement of SIRT1 activity and production, leading to AMPK and ACC phosphorylation and increased fat oxidation in mice. The increased fat oxidation following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation was associated with significant reductions in whole body weight and visceral fat among diabetic mice on a high-fat diet.
Because alpha-lipoic acid may increase fat oxidation, as was reported by Wang et al. (2010), it’s possible that this could be another mechanism by which alpha-lipoic acid supplementation facilitates weight loss. The increase in fat oxidation resulting from alpha-lipoic acid is thought to be a downstream effect of skeletal muscle AMPK activation.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20015518
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28546468
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22456698
Gut bacteria modulation: It is understood that persons who are overweight and obese frequently exhibit: reduced gut microbe diversity; elevated populations of pathogenic gut bacteria; deficits in populations of healthy gut bacteria; and/or dysbiosis. Gut microbes can affect appetite, fat storage, hormone production, inflammation, metabolic rate, neurotransmission, and oxidative stress – all of which can influence body weight.
Although the effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on gut bacteria hasn’t been investigated, it’s possible that alpha-lipoic acid favorably modulates gut bacteria in ways that are conducive to weight loss. For example, alpha-lipoic acid might: increase populations of healthy gut bacteria; reduce populations of pathogenic gut bacteria; and/or improve microbial diversity.
Some studies have documented that alpha-lipoic acid is capable of reducing gut inflammation. In any regard, any significant favorable effect of alpha-lipoic acid on gut bacteria composition could: reduce appetite; decrease fat storage; and/or enhance metabolic rate – to promote weight loss.
Hormonal modulation: Another means by which alpha-lipoic acid supplementation may facilitate weight loss is through modulation of hormone concentrations. Research by Lee et al. (2005) notes that alpha-lipoic acid improves insulin sensitivity as result of activating skeletal muscle AMPK (a regulator of cellular energy metabolism) and decreasing the accumulation of triglycerides in skeletal muscle.
Other work by Yang et al. (2014) indicates that alpha-lipoic acid modulates: glycolytic enzymes, glycogen synthesis enzymes, and gluconeogenic enzymes – to increase insulin sensitivity (counteract insulin resistance) and regulate glucose levels. Because insulin sensitivity deficits and insulin resistance are associated with weight gain, and can interfere with weight loss efforts, it’s possible that the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on insulin (a hormone secreted by the pancreas to regulate blood glucose) promotes weight loss – especially among individuals with preexisting insulin resistance.
Supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid has also been shown to increase concentrations of adiponectin, a hormone involved in the regulation of glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. For example, a study by Vidović et al. (2017) reported significant increases in plasma adiponectin levels among patients with schizophrenia following 3 months of supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid (500 mg/day).
Because adiponectin can bolster metabolic rate, enhance energy utilization, and curb appetite – it’s possible that an alpha-lipoic acid-mediated adiponectin increase plays a role in the facilitation of weight loss. Moreover, limited evidence from animal studies indicates that alpha-lipoic acid may modestly increase thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) – another possible mechanism of weight loss.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15913551
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25152027
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28009525
Mitochondrial biogenesis: Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process by which cells increase their mitochondrial mass and copy number to bolster ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production as a response to greater energy expenditure. Research by Fernández-Galilea et al. (2015) suggests that alpha-lipoic acid administration significantly increases mitochondrial biogenesis in subcutaneous adipocytes of obese and overweight humans.
Among persons with genetic and high fat diet-induce obesity, mitochondrial dysfunction is common – and is associated with deficits in fatty acid oxidation, adipokine secretion, and glucose homeostasis. Standalone administration of alpha-lipoic acid appears to increase mitochondrial mass, mitochondrial function, and induce changes to mitochondrial morphology.
Specifically, alpha-lipoic acid-treated adipocytes begin to exhibit morphological characteristics of brown mitochondria (associated with brown adipose tissue). Essentially, researchers believe that the induction of mitochondrial biogenesis by alpha-lipoic acid may shift white adipocytes to behave like beige or brown adipocytes – whereby energy expenditure and metabolic rate increase to promote weight loss.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542506
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26900133
Non-shivering thermogenesis: Preliminary research suggests that alpha-lipoic acid increases the expression of UCP1 (thermogenin) in brown adipose tissue. Increasing the expression of UCP1 in brown adipose tissue is understood to bolster non-shivering thermogenesis – a process by which the body generates heat without shivering.
Because energy is needed to fuel the alpha-lipoic acid-induced increase in non-shivering thermogenesis, the body should burn more calories than usual (from the process of generating heat) and exhibit an increased basal metabolic rate – each of which could lead to weight loss. In fact, research by Palmer and Clegg (2017) suggests that non-shivering thermogenesis is a mechanism that’s capable of facilitating sustainable weight loss.
Oxidative stress & inflammation reduction: Hwang et al. (2016) noted that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation inhibits the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and gene expression of proinflammatory agents (cytokines and chemokines) to counteract adipogenesis, or the production of fat cells. In other words, alpha-lipoic acid supplementation appears to prevent body fat gain by reducing oxidative stress and systemic inflammation.
Research suggests that alpha-lipoic acid may exert a combination of direct and indirect antioxidant effects such as: increasing eNOS activity; activating Phase II detoxification (and upregulating intracellular glutathione) via Nrf2 signaling; and reducing expression of MMP-9 and VCAM-1 via NF-kappa-B. Because high oxidative stress is associated with weight gain and/or inability to lose weight – it’s possible that the antioxidant effect of alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss.
Moreover, a study by Khabbazi et al. (2012) reported significant (~18.7%) reductions in HS-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) among patients receiving alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) – but not among patients receiving a placebo. Because high inflammation is implicated in weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and obesity – perhaps counteracting this inflammation is another means by which alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss.
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26765462
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28676917
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25548896
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21908204
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20706689
Metabolic rate increase: Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation is understood to modestly enhance basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body burns at rest. The primary means by which alpha-lipoic acid is understood to enhance metabolic rate is via increasing non-shivering thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT).
Specifically, alpha-lipoic acid upregulates UCP1 in brown adipose tissue to increase thermogenesis (heat generation), which stimulates basal metabolic rate. In addition to increasing metabolic rate via thermogenesis, alpha-lipoic acid might also increase metabolic rate by gradually inducing body composition changes such as: increasing lean mass (%) and decreasing fat (%) – relative to weight.
Assuming your metabolic rate increases while supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid (due to thermogenesis or compositional changes), you’ll end up burning a greater number of calories than you did prior to supplementation. Burning more calories relative to pre-supplementation should yield weight loss – especially if maintained for a moderate duration.
Side effects: Although alpha-lipoic acid is generally well-tolerated, it can occasionally cause side effects like nausea and gastrointestinal distress. In the event that you experience severe nausea and/or gastrointestinal distress as side effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, it’s possible that these side effects may be causing or contributing to your weight loss – at least indirectly.
For example, if you experience intense nausea or gastrointestinal distress from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, these side effects might: suppress your appetite, interfere with your desire to eat, or trigger other reactions (e.g. vomiting and/or diarrhea – each of which are associated with weight loss). Side effect-mediated appetite suppression, especially if occurring for a moderate-term, could lead you to consume fewer calories than usual whereby you lose weight via a sustained calorie deficit.
Note: There could be other mechanisms (besides those listed above) by which alpha-lipoic acid supplementation facilitates weight loss. If you know of additional ways in which alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss – report them in the comments section below.
Alpha Lipoic Acid & Weight Loss (The Research)
Below are studies in which the effect of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) on body weight was evaluated. It is important to understand that, as a dietary supplement, there’s limited financial incentive to investigate and determine if alpha lipoic acid supplementation could cause weight loss – or enhance preexisting weight loss efforts.
A majority of evidence from studies listed below suggests that alpha lipoic acid supplementation likely promotes weight loss. However, at this point, the data from research of alpha lipoic acid for weight loss (in humans) is limited and of relatively low quality.
Until further research is conducted, it’s difficult to know whether alpha lipoic acid is worth using as a supplement for weight loss. (For additional information related to any of the studies summarized below, click on the hyperlink citation listed next to “source” beneath the summary).
2018: Alpha-lipoic acid supplement in obesity treatment: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials.
Namazi et al. conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine whether alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) supplementation might be an effective anti-obesity agent. For the systematic review, researchers compiled and pooled data [using a random-effects model] from 12 placebo-controlled trials published up until September 2016 in which the effect of alpha lipoic acid on body weight was reported.
It was noted that 9 of the 12 trials included in the review had quality scores greater than/equal to 3 (on a scale from 1 to 5). Results of the review indicated that alpha lipoic acid supplementation significantly reduced BMI and body weight by an average of 1.52 lbs. (0.69 kg) – compared to placebo administration.
Although alpha lipoic acid supplementation had no significant effect on waist circumference in healthy participants versus placebo administration, unhealthy participants exhibited significant reductions in waist circumference (~2 cm) following alpha lipoic acid supplementation. Based on the results of this review, authors concluded that alpha lipoic acid supplementation modestly reduces body weight and BMI when administered at doses up to 1200 mg/day.
2017: Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as a supplementation for weight loss: results from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Kucukgoncu et al. conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials to examine the effect of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) on body weight and body mass index (BMI). For the meta-analysis, researchers searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Web of Science for: (1) randomized placebo controlled trials; (2) involving human adults; (3) lasting at least 3 weeks; and (4) reporting weight and BMI before and after alpha-lipoic acid administration.
In their search, researchers first identified 728 relevant articles – and selected 112 of these articles for further evaluation after screening the titles and abstracts. After reviewing the full-texts of the 112 selected articles, it was reported that only 10 were randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies involving alpha-lipoic acid.
Using the 10 studies that met necessary inclusion criteria, researchers conducted a meta-analysis to determine average BMI and weight change in alpha-lipoic acid recipients (534 individuals) versus placebo recipients (413 recipients). It was noted that study durations ranged from 8 weeks to 52 weeks – and alpha-lipoic acid dose ranged from 300 mg/day to 1800 mg/day.
Results of the meta-analysis indicated that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation was associated with significant BMI reduction and weight loss of 2.79 lbs. (1.27 kg) versus the placebo. Although study duration significantly influenced degree of BMI reduction (shorter duration was associated with greater BMI reduction), there was no effect of alpha-lipoic acid dose on BMI or weight loss.
It was concluded that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (300-1800 mg/day) for a moderate or long-term (8-52 weeks) slightly yet significantly reduces body weight and BMI compared to a placebo – regardless of the primary reason for which alpha-lipoic acid is administered. Authors of the meta-analysis noted that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation was safe and well-tolerated – with similar side effect rates as the placebo.
2017: Effects of oral α-lipoic acid administration on body weight in overweight or obese subjects: a crossover randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Li et al. organized a randomized, double-blind, crossover trial in which the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight was evaluated among 166 overweight and obese persons (of Chinese Han ethnicity). All 166 trial participants were assigned at random to receive either alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg/day) OR a placebo for 8-weeks – twice daily, 30 minutes before breakfast or dinner.
After the initial 8-week treatment phase, participants underwent a 4-week “washout phase” wherein neither alpha-lipoic acid nor the placebo were administered. After the 4-week “washout phase,” the participants who received alpha-lipoic acid in the initial 8-week phase – received a placebo and the participants who received a placebo in the initial 8-week phase – received alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg/day) – for another 8-weeks.
The primary endpoint was body weight change and secondary endpoints included – changes in: BMI, waist circumference, lipid profile, plasma leptin, and side effects. Results indicated that alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg/day) induced a slight but significant decrease in body weight (0.7 lbs.) and waist circumference (0.17 cm) – over an 8-week period.
2017: The effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on anthropometric indices and food intake in patients who experienced stroke: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Mohammadi et al. organized a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to examine the effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on dietary intake and anthropometric indices among persons who experienced stroke. A total of 67 patients with stroke participated in the trial and were assigned at random to receive alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg, b.i.d.) or a placebo (b.i.d.) over a 12-week period.
Measures such as BMI, body weight, waist circumference, energy intake (carbs, proteins, fats) – were determined at baseline (before treatment), and then again after the 12-week trial. Results of the trial indicated that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation significantly reduced: waist circumference and energy intake (carbs, proteins, fats).
Despite marked reductions in waist circumference and energy intake among persons receiving alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg/day), there were no significant changes in body weight or BMI among alpha-lipoic acid recipients relative to placebo recipients over the 12-week period. Though the results of this study do not support the idea that alpha-lipoic acid directly reduces body weight, the results indicate that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation might indirectly promote weight loss via reducing energy intake (carbs, proteins, fats).
2016: Adjunctive α-lipoic acid reduces weight gain compared with placebo at 12 weeks in schizophrenic patients treated with atypical antipsychotics: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study.
Kim et al. hypothesized that alpha-lipoic acid might decrease antipsychotic-induced weight gain and BMI among patients with schizophrenia. To test this hypothesis, researchers recruited 22 overweight patients with schizophrenia who exhibited significant weight gain while using atypical antipsychotics for a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
The 22 patients were clinically stable at trial initiation and were assigned at random to receive either: alpha-lipoic acid (600-1800 mg/day – as tolerated) or a placebo. At baseline and endpoint, researchers measured and recorded: body weight, BMI, abdominal fat, various metabolic parameters (e.g. fasting glucose, triglycerides, insulin, etc.), and incidence of adverse reactions.
Of the 22 participants, 15 (68.18%) completed the full 12-week trial. Results indicated significant weight loss of ~2.95 lbs. (1.34 kg) and visceral fat loss occurred among the alpha-lipoic acid recipients versus placebo recipients who gained ~1.63 lbs. (0.74 kg) and experience no visceral fat loss.
Among the subset of participants that completed the 12-week study, the alpha-lipoic acid group (7 of 10 completers) exhibited an average weight loss at trial endpoint of 4.38 lbs. (1.99 kg) – and the placebo group (8 of 12 completers) exhibited an average weight gain at trial endpoint of 3.06 lbs. (1.39 kg). There were no significant adverse effects associated with alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, and overall, it was well-tolerated.
Researchers concluded that alpha-lipoic acid appears effective for reducing body weight and abdominal obesity among patients with schizophrenia who gain weight while using atypical antipsychotics. Although this study was extremely small (with just 15 patients who completed the trial), it supports the idea that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation promotes weight loss.
2015: Alpha-lipoic acid reduces body weight and regulates triglycerides in obese patients with diabetes mellitus.
Okanović et al. sought to investigate the impact of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on body weight, cholesterol concentrations, triglycerides, and serum glucose concentrations – in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. A trial was organized in which 60 patients with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and signs of polyneuropathy were divided evenly (into 2 groups of 30) and assigned to receive: alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) plus metformin (850-1700 mg/day) OR standalone metformin (850-1700 mg/day) – over a 20-week period.
Baseline and endpoint measurements included: body mass index, body weight, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and serum glucose levels. Following the 20-week treatment period, individuals who received alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day) in addition to metformin (850-1700 mg/day) experienced significantly greater weight loss, body mass index reductions, and triglyceride reductions – compared to persons receiving standalone metformin (850-1700 mg/day).
Specifically, those who received alpha-lipoic acid and metformin exhibited an average weight loss of 3.24 lbs. (1.47 kg), whereas those who received standalone metformin exhibited an average weight loss of 1.82 lbs. (0.83 kg). It was concluded that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (600 mg/day) appears to lower body weight, body mass index, and triglyceride concentrations in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. This trial supports the idea that alpha-lipoic acid can reduce body weight.
2015: An open-label pilot trial of alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss in patients with schizophrenia without diabetes.
Ratliff et al. reported that antipsychotics may induce weight gain by activating hypothalamic monophosphate-dependent kinase (AMPK) via H1 histamine receptors. Because alpha-lipoic acid modulates AMPK (suppressing hypothalamic AMPK and stimulating peripheral AMPK), researchers hypothesized that alpha-lipoic acid might help counteract antipsychotic-induced weight gain.
To test this hypothesis, researchers recruited 12 overweight adults (BMI: 27+) with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who had been receiving a stable dose of an antipsychotic medication for at least 1 month – for participation in an open-label clinical trial. All 12 participants received alpha-lipoic acid (1200 mg/day) in addition to their antipsychotic medication – for a 10-week period.
It was reported that all 12 participants completed at least 1 week of the study, and 9 individuals (5 males, 4 females) completed the full 10 weeks. Results indicated that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (1200 mg/day) for 10 weeks was associated with significant weight loss.
Average weight loss among the intent-to-treat (ITT) sample (all 12 participants) was 4.18 lbs. (1.9 kg) and average weight loss among the 9 completers was 4.85 lbs. (2.2 kg). Of the 9 completers, 7 lost weight – 4 of whom lost at least 5.07 lbs. (2.3 kg). Weight loss was most significant among patients using the antipsychotics quetiapine and clozapine – compared to other medications.
Furthermore, participants reported subjective increases in energy level and decreases in appetite from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation – each of which may have contributed to weight loss. The results of this open-label study suggest that alpha-lipoic acid administration (1200 mg/day) may reduce body weight in non-diabetic patients with antipsychotic-induced weight gain.
2015: The effect of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors in men with chronic spinal cord injury: a clinical trial.
Mohammadi et al. conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation in men with chronic spinal cord injury. A total of 58 men with chronic spinal cord injury were recruited for trial participation and assigned to receive either: 600 mg/day of alpha-lipoic acid (28 men) OR a placebo (30 men) – for a 12-week duration.
Researchers documented changes in various biomarkers (IL-6; CRP; FBS); anthropometric indices; food intake; and blood pressure – from baseline through trial endpoint. Results indicated significant reductions in: body weight; total energy intake (fats, carbs, proteins); BMI; waist circumference, and blood pressure – among men with chronic spinal cord injury receiving alpha-lipoic acid (600 mg/day).
Average weight loss exhibited by alpha-lipoic acid recipients in this study was 8.15 lbs. (3.7 kg). Comparatively, placebo recipients exhibited modest weight gain. Overall, the data from this small-scale trial support the idea that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation promotes weight loss.
2012: α-Lipoic acid reduced weight gain and improved the lipid profile in rats fed with high fat diet.
Seo et al. conducted a study to assess the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight and lipid profiles of Sprague-Dawley rats fed high-fat diets. (High-fat diets generally induce obesity in animal models). A total of 40 rats in this study were assigned to receive a normal control diet (10 rats) OR a high-fat diet (30 rats) for 4 weeks.
The 30 rats assigned to receive the high-fat diet were then assigned at random to receive: a high-fat diet with no supplementation (10 rats); a high-fat diet with 0.25% alpha-lipoic acid (10 rats); or a high-fat diet with 0.5% alpha-lipoic acid (10 rats) – for 4 additional weeks.
Results indicated that rats receiving the high-fat diet exhibited the greatest average weight gain of 266.7 grams (116%) compared to the rats receiving the normal control diet who gained 229.9 grams. Rats receiving 0.25% alpha-lipoic acid and 0.5% alpha-lipoic acid in addition to the high-fat diet exhibited lower average weight gains by 10% (0.25% ALA) and 21% (0.5% ALA) compared to the rats receiving the high-fat diet without alpha-lipoic acid.
Researchers concluded that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation appears to dose-dependently reduce weight gain and enhance metabolic profiles in animal models of high-fat diet-induced obesity. Although the results of this study cannot be extrapolated to humans, they support the hypothesis that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation facilitates weight loss and/or attenuates weight gain.
2011: Effects of alpha-lipoic Acid on body weight in obese subjects.
Koh et al. sought to determine the effect of alpha-lipoid acid supplementation on the body weight of overweight/obese persons and organized a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The trial included 360 individuals who were either: obese (BMI: 30+) OR overweight (BMI: 27-30) with hypertension, diabetes, or hypercholesterolemia.
The 360 trial participants were assigned at random to receive either: 1200 mg/day alpha-lipoic acid; 1800 mg/day alpha-lipoic acid; or a placebo – for a 20-week duration. To determine the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight, researchers documented body weight at baseline (pre-trial) and at the endpoint (after 20 weeks).
Of the 360 trial participants, 228 (63.33%) completed the full 20-week trial period. Among the intent-to-treat participants, average reported weight losses were: 1.69 lbs. (120 placebo recipients); 2.35 lbs. (120 recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at 1200 mg/day); and 4.03 lbs. (120 recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at 1800 mg/day).
In the 228 completers, average weight losses were: 2.07 lbs. (73 placebo recipients); 3.28 lbs. (73 recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at 1200 mg/day); and 6.08 lbs. (82 recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at 1800 mg/day). An analysis of the results indicated statistically significant weight loss among recipients of alpha-lipoic acid at a dosage of 1800 mg/day compared to the placebo – over a 20-week duration.
No statistically significant differences in weight loss occurred from supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid at a dosage of 1200 mg/day. Although several mild side effects were reported from alpha-lipoid acid supplementation, researchers concluded that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation at a dosage of 1800 mg/day appears useful as an adjunct treatment for obesity.
2010: Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation: a tool for obesity therapy?
Carbonelli et al. tested the effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation in 1127 Italian individuals (445 males, 682 females) who were either overweight or obese. Baseline body mass index (BMI) measures revealed that 53% of the participants were obese, and 43% were overweight or pre-obese.
All participants were assigned to receive alpha-lipoic acid at a dosage of 800 mg/day for a 4-month duration. After the 4-month treatment period, significant decreases in body weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and abdominal circumference were observed. In the pre-obese and obese participants, body weights decreased by ~8% and ~9% from baseline, respectively – following 4 months of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation.
Average weight loss exhibited by all participants (via DEXA scans) after 4 months of treatment was ~15.43 lbs. (7 kg). Although this was not a randomized controlled trial, the results suggest that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (800 mg/day) may prove therapeutic in the management of obesity and obesity-related conditions.
2010: Alpha-Lipoic acid increases energy expenditure by enhancing adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase-peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1alpha signaling in the skeletal muscle of aged mice.
Wang et al. conducted a study in aged C57BL/6 mice to analyze the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on energy metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis. The aged C57BL/6 mice were assigned to receive either: standard drinking water OR drinking water containing alpha-lipoic acid (0.75%) for a 1-month span. Researchers also assessed the metabolic and cellular signaling actions of alpha-lipoic acid in cultured mouse cells.
After the 1-month trial, assessments revealed improvements in: body composition, glucose tolerance, and energy expenditure – in the aged C57BL/6 mice receiving water with 0.75% alpha-lipoic acid. Specifically, alpha-lipoic acid supplementation appeared to increase lean mass and enhance skeletal muscle energy metabolism – in the aged mice. Based on this finding, it was suggested that alpha-lipoic acid may prove useful as a treatment for obesity in older adults.
Note: If you happen to know of an additional study (or research) in which the effect of alpha lipoic acid supplementation on body weight and/or body composition was tested, feel free to mention it in the comments section of this article.
Limitations associated with research of alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss
There are limitations associated with the research of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight that warrant discussion. The most significant limitation associated with the research of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight is that most studies include only overweight and/or obese participants – often with medical comorbidities, making it difficult to know how whether alpha-lipoic acid promotes weight loss among normal weight, healthy persons.
- Data quality: A systematic review conducted by Namazi et al. (2018) included data from 12 trials in which the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight was examined. Of the 12 trials examined for the review, 9 exhibited quality scores of at least 3 out of 5. Although most data to suggest that alpha-lipoic acid induces weight loss is of moderate quality – some may argue that higher-quality data are needed to substantiate the idea that alpha-lipoic acid causes weight loss.
- Non-overweight/obese: Most studies examining the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight were conducted in overweight and obese individuals – frequently with comorbid medical conditions. Although weight loss was consistently observed in overweight and obese persons following moderate-term alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, it is unknown as to whether similar rates and/or magnitudes of weight loss would be observed in healthy, normal weight (non-obese/overweight) persons devoid of medical comorbidities.
- Non-pediatric populations: No studies have examined the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on the body weight of pediatrics (children and adolescents). Though it’s fair to speculate that weight loss would occur from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation in pediatrics, it’s unknown as to whether the magnitude of weight loss in pediatrics following alpha-lipoic acid supplementation would be equivalent to that attained by adults. Moreover, it’s unclear as to whether alpha-lipoic acid is as safe and/or tolerable in pediatric populations as it is in adults.
- Sample sizes: Several randomized controlled trials incorporating hundreds of participants have documented weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation – relative to a placebo. That said, numerous other studies reporting weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation included moderate or small sample sizes. In studies with small sample sizes (or moderate-sized samples with high dropout rates), it’s possible that the results (suggesting that alpha-lipoic acid causes weight loss) may be inaccurate due to underpowering and/or poor designs (e.g. lack of controlling, randomization, etc.).
- Special populations: Many of the trials investigating the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight involved special populations such as: men with spinal cord injury; adults with stroke; patients with schizophrenia (and antipsychotic-induced weight gain); and/or overweight adults with comorbid diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, polyneuropathy, etc. Though weight loss was observed in these special populations, there’s limited research evaluating the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on the body weight of healthy persons without preexisting medical conditions.
- Study designs: Some studies reporting that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation causes weight loss fail to implement randomized controlled designs. The lack of randomization and placebo-controlling in various studies makes it impossible to know whether the observed weight loss was legitimately attributable to the influence of alpha-lipoic acid or other unrelated factors (e.g. deliberately restricting calories to impress researchers).
Variables that may influence Alpha-Lipoic Acid-induced weight loss
There are numerous variables that might determine: (1) whether you lose weight from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation and, if you do lose weight – (2) the magnitude of your weight loss. Variables that likely influence alpha-lipoic acid-induced weight loss include: the alpha-lipoic acid dosage; the duration of regular alpha-lipoic acid supplementation; whether you use substances with alpha-lipoic acid; and factors associated with the specific alpha-lipoic acid user (e.g. age, body composition/size, genetics, etc.).
Alpha-lipoic acid dosage (per day)
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by Kucukgoncu et al. (2017) reported weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid doses between 300 mg and 1200 mg per day, and a systematic review by Namazi et al. (2018) reported weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid doses up to 1200 mg per day. That said, most research suggests that the greater the dosage of alpha-lipoic acid administered, the more likely significant weight loss will occur.
Because larger doses of alpha-lipoic acid likely modulate physiology to a greater extent than smaller doses, any pharmacodynamic actions associated with the induction of weight loss (e.g. hypothalamic AMPK suppression, skeletal muscle AMPK activation, etc.) will probably be stronger with larger doses (than smaller ones). As a result, most should expect likelihood and magnitude of weight loss to increase in accordance with dosage.
In fact, a large-scale randomized controlled trial by Koh et al. (2011) documented that there was no difference in weight loss after 20 weeks among overweight/obese patients receiving 1200 mg/day alpha-lipoic acid and overweight/obese patients receiving a placebo. However, in this same trial, a large dose of alpha-lipoic acid at 1800 mg/day induced significant weight loss – relative to the placebo users and lower-dose (1200 mg/day) users.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that, in animal models, large concentrations of alpha-lipoic acid appear to inhibit adipogenesis (adipose tissue expansion), whereas small concentrations actually increase adipogenesis (promote fat gain). In summary, it seems as though higher dosages of alpha-lipoic acid (between 1200 mg and 1800 mg per day) are most likely to induce weight loss – whereas smaller doses (under 300 mg per day) are unlikely to have an effect on weight.
Duration of Alpha-lipoic acid supplementation
The cumulative duration over which a person supplements with alpha-lipoic acid could determine whether they end up losing a significant amount of weight from supplementation, and if they lose weight, the amount of weight that’s lost. Most studies suggest that weight loss resulting from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation is gradual and occurs over a period of weeks or months (rather than days).
The shortest trials in which alpha-lipoic acid was reported to induce weight loss were 8 weeks (~2 months) in duration. However, because the intent-to-treat participants (persons who didn’t complete the trial) in some of these 8-week studies lost a significant amount of weight, it’s reasonable to speculate that significant weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation could occur in under 8 weeks.
Nevertheless, based on available data from trial completers, it appears as though significant weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid will after a moderate-term (2+ months). Most people who use alpha-lipoic acid (at sufficient dosages) for a moderate-to-long-term 8-52 weeks will have lost the maximal amount of weight possible from supplementation (such that weight loss plateaus).
In general, the longer the duration over which you’ve used alpha-lipoic acid (at sufficient dosages) – the more likely you’ll lose a significant amount of weight. If you’ve used alpha-lipoic acid for less than 2 months and haven’t lost weight, it’s possible that the lack of noticeable weight reduction is attributable to the limited duration over which you’ve supplemented (e.g. a few days).
Note: The above information regarding duration of supplementation is assuming you’re administering alpha-lipoic acid on a regular (i.e. daily) basis. If you don’t administer alpha-lipoic acid regularly (i.e. daily), you might experience zero weight loss – regardless of the total duration over which you’ve used it.
Using substances with Alpha-lipoic acid
If you’re using substances (e.g. pharmaceutical medications, supplements, etc.) with alpha-lipoic acid, it’s possible that these concurrently-administered substances might: (1) alter the weight loss effect of alpha-lipoic acid OR (2) exert an independent effect upon body weight (irrespective of alpha-lipoic acid’s influence). For example, certain substances might enhance the physiologic actions of alpha-lipoic acid to induce weight loss – whereas other substances might counteract the physiologic actions of alpha-lipoic acid to prevent weight loss.
For example, some believe that the combination of alpha-lipoic acid and acetyl-carnitine may yield more significant weight loss than standalone alpha-lipoic acid due to synergistic physiologic actions (e.g. fat oxidation; mitochondrial enhancement; etc.). On the other hand, administration of a supplement that counteracts alpha-lipoic acid’s fat oxidation and/or hypothalamic AMPK suppression – might negate its ability to induce weight loss.
Additionally, some substances like antipsychotic medications might cause weight gain – regardless of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, and other substances like psychostimulants might promote weight loss – regardless of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. If you aren’t losing weight from alpha-lipoic acid; are gaining weight while using alpha-lipoic acid; or are losing more weight than expected while using alpha-lipoic acid – you may want to evaluate the impact of concurrently-administered substances (they could be the reason).
Specific Alpha-lipoic acid user
Numerous factors associated with the specific alpha-lipoic acid user might influence the magnitude of weight loss that you experience from supplementation. Examples of potentially-influential user-specific factors (on alpha-lipoic acid-induced weight loss) include: age, body composition/size, diet, genetics, preexisting medical conditions, prior substance use, and sex.
- Age: It is understood that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation can induce weight loss in adults. However, it is unclear as to whether alpha-lipoic acid supplementation also induces weight loss in pediatrics (children and adolescents). Because endogenous alpha-lipoic acid production tends to decline with age, it’s possible that older adults may derive greater weight loss benefit from supplementation than younger adults. Nonetheless, realize that a person’s age could influence the magnitude of weight loss from supplementation.
- Body composition & size: A person’s body composition and size might determine how much weight is lost from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. Research suggests that persons who are obese (BMI: 30+) tend to lose more weight from supplementing than persons who are overweight (BMI: 25-30). Because larger individuals generally have more weight to lose – a greater amount of weight loss will probably occur in larger alpha-lipoic acid users. Furthermore, body composition (percentage of fat vs. lean mass) might also impact magnitude of weight loss from supplementation.
- Diet: The diet consumed by an alpha-lipoic acid user could impact the degree of weight loss from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation. Someone consuming a hypocaloric, high-protein/low-fat diet might lose more weight and experience more substantial improvements in body composition relative to persons consuming high-fat/low-protein normocaloric diets. Obviously if alpha-lipoic acid helps you lose weight, but you’re consuming a hypercaloric diet (excess calories) – you might not notice any weight loss while supplementing.
- Genetics: It is unclear as to how gene expression might influence the effectiveness of alpha-lipoic acid for the induction of weight loss. It’s possible that persons who express (or lack) certain genes might respond better to alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss than individuals with different gene expressions. Perhaps the reason one person responds well to alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss and another doesn’t – is gene expression.
- Lifestyle: In research of alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss, it was reported that “unhealthy” individuals experienced more significant reductions in waist circumference from supplementation – compared to healthier persons. This finding considered, it’s possible that individuals with unhealthy lifestyles will lose more weight or notice more substantial beneficial changes in body composition – than individuals with healthier lifestyles. That said, it is important to underscore the fact that healthy habits (e.g. stress reduction, proper sleep, exercise, etc.) should augment the weight loss effect of alpha-lipoic acid – whereas unhealthy habits may negate its weight loss effect.
- Medical diagnoses: Any preexisting medical diagnoses might influence how well you respond to alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss. Because certain medical conditions are associated with alpha-lipoic acid deficits, it’s possible that supplementation in persons with certain diagnoses might yield more substantial weight loss – compared to healthy persons (devoid of medical diagnoses). That said, it’s also possible healthy individuals might respond better to alpha-lipoic acid supplementation (due to greater endogenous production and baseline concentrations).
- Prior substance use: If you used any substance(s) and discontinued just before initiating alpha-lipoic acid supplementation, it’s possible that these prior substances might explain some of your weight change while using alpha-lipoic acid. For example, if you discontinued a psychostimulant (that induced weight loss) just before alpha-lipoic acid, you might actually gain weight while using alpha-lipoic acid due to psychostimulant withdrawal. On the other hand, if you discontinued an antipsychotic (that induced weight gain) just before alpha-lipoic acid, you might actually lose more weight than expected while using alpha-lipoic acid due to antipsychotic withdrawal.
- Sex: Most research indicates that the effect of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight does not differ between males and females. That said, it’s possible that there might be slightly stronger effects of alpha-lipoic acid on body weight in one sex (e.g. males) compared to the other (e.g. females) due to sex-specific hormone production, alpha-lipoic acid production, or differences in body composition.
Recommendations for using Alpha-Lipoic Acid for weight loss
Included below is a list of general recommendations for persons who plan on using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss.
- Consult a medical doctor (verify safety): Before using alpha-lipoic acid as a weight loss agent, ask a medical doctor whether alpha-lipoic acid supplementation is safe in accordance with your present medical status, medication regimen, supplement regimen, etc. Although alpha-lipoic acid is usually safe, it is smart to confirm that alpha-lipoic acid isn’t contraindicated with preexisting medical diagnoses and/or medications that you use.
- Set-up a safe/effective dosing protocol: If alpha-lipoic acid is safe for you to use (according to your medical doctor), it is recommended to set-up an evidence-based dosing protocol for weight loss. Research suggests that alpha-lipoic acid dosages of 1200 mg/day to 1800 mg/day appear most effective for weight loss (versus lower doses). Nevertheless, you may still want to take the minimal effective dose (or the lowest dose needed for weight loss) to avoid side effects that occur at high doses and/or to save yourself money on supplementation.
- Take every single day: If you’re using alpha-lipoic acid in attempt to lose weight, the supplement needs to be administered every single day. All studies in which weight loss was documented from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation involved daily administration – for a moderate-term or long-term. Furthermore, some studies involved administering alpha-lipoic acid once in the morning, and once in the evening – usually around 30 minutes prior to a meal.
- Monitor your diet: Even if alpha-lipoic acid is promoting weight loss, if you consume a hypercaloric diet (excessive calories), the extra calories consumed may offset the weight loss effect of alpha-lipoic acid. On the other hand, if you consume a normocaloric diet (eat at maintenance calories) or a hypocaloric diet – you may experience more substantial weight loss. Moreover, the composition of your diet (in terms of macronutrients) could also influence body composition changes that occur while using alpha-lipoic acid.
- Exercise regularly: If you exercise regularly while using alpha-lipoic acid, it should be easier to lose weight. Furthermore, the weight loss resulting from a combination of exercise plus alpha-lipoic acid supplementation will likely exceed the weight loss resulting from standalone alpha-lipoic acid. This is because regular exercise increases resting metabolic rate and burns fat.
- Evaluate adjuncts: If you’re using other substances with alpha-lipoic acid, investigate whether they might interfere with the weight loss effect of alpha-lipoic acid. In some cases, it may be beneficial to discontinue medically-unnecessary substances while using alpha-lipoic acid – whereas in other cases, it might be beneficial to use an adjunct (e.g. metformin) for a more significant weight loss effect.
- Give it time: Most research suggests that it takes at least 2 months of daily alpha-lipoic acid supplementation to notice significant weight loss. If you plan on using alpha-lipoic acid to lose weight, give it enough time to work (at least 8 weeks). Do not expect to lose a significant amount of weight in a short time from alpha-lipoic acid (because it probably won’t happen).
Recommended Alpha-Lipoic Acid supplements for weight loss
Included below are alpha-lipoic acid supplements that I’d personally use if I were attempting to lose weight. Before using alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss, talk to a medical doctor to ensure that it is safe (based on your medical status and medication or supplement regimen).
Doctor’s Best Alpha-Lipoic Acid (600 mg): This is a high-dose alpha-lipoic acid supplement that sells for around $0.16 per capsule.
Now Extra-Strength Alpha-Lipoic Acid (600 mg): This is a high-dose alpha-lipoic acid supplement that sells for around $0.20 per capsule.
Affiliate disclosure: The links to alpha-lipoic acid products listed above contain affiliate links, meaning I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase through my link. The product is the same price, regardless of whether you purchase through my link. If you found this article helpful and plan on trying alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss, I’d appreciate if you’d purchase through my link.
Note: A study by Park et al. (2009) documented improved appetite suppression from alpha-lipoic acid particles when prepared by “nanocomminution.” Perhaps a newly-formatted alpha-lipoic acid supplement could increase its weight loss effect (vis-à-vis bolstered appetite suppression).
Have you lost weight with Alpha-Lipoic Acid?
If you’ve tried alpha-lipoic acid for weight loss, feel free to share a comment noting whether you’ve actually lost weight from supplementation. In the event that you lost weight from using alpha-lipoic acid, report the approximate amount of weight that you lost and mention whether the weight loss was mostly in the form of: body fat; water loss; or muscle loss.
To help others get a more accurate understanding of your experience with alpha-lipoic acid supplementation for weight loss, include additional details in your comment such as: the dosage of alpha-lipoic acid that you used; the specific brand/format of your alpha-lipoic acid; your frequency of administration (e.g. daily, every-other-day, twice per week); and your total duration of administration (e.g. 6 months). If you lost significant weight from alpha-lipoic acid supplementation – how long did you supplement before the weight loss occurred?
It is possible that weight loss you experienced while using alpha-lipoic acid was more attributable to diet (e.g. eating fewer calories) and/or exercise (e.g. working out more frequently) – than the actual supplement? If you think that alpha-lipoic acid helped you lose weight, how do you think it helped? (Answers might include: appetite reduction; metabolism increase; energy increase; etc.)
Do you use any substances with alpha-lipoic acid (medications, supplements, etc.) and/or have any preexisting medical conditions – that may have influenced the amount of weight change you experienced while using alpha-lipoic acid? In your experience, do you consider alpha-lipoic acid to be a cost-effective supplement for weight loss? (Or did the cost outweigh the modest amount of weight reduction that you experienced?)
If you’re a long-term alpha-lipoic acid user, did your weight loss eventually plateau from supplementation? In the event that you lost weight while using alpha-lipoic acid and discontinued supplementation – did you regain the weight that was lost while supplementing (as a “rebound effect”) – or were you able to maintain your new weight without difficulty?