July 13, 2020
There are 1.9 billion overweight individuals and around 650 million obese adults.1 Consumerism has made fast food chains and instant meals a necessity especially in the era of a fast-paced lifestyle. The quality of what people eat and how healthy it should be are given less importance as years go by.
Obesity is now a worldwide epidemic that attracts growing attention due to its association to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Furthermore, it is linked to higher mortality and morbidity rates.
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant and a free radical scavenger. It is sold commercially over-the-counter as a nutritional antioxidant supplement, alone or in combination with other antioxidants.
In animal studies, ALA has been shown to promote the reduction of body weight and fat mass by decreasing food intake and enhancing energy expenditure. With such results, it was thought that in human form, ALA could possibly yield the same results.
Weight loss has been associated with prevention of diabetes, reduction in blood pressure, lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and other health benefits. ALA has been found to have anti-obesity and beneficial diabetic neuropathic properties in certain studies.
The 2017 study by Kucukgoncu, S. et al. aims to review ALA as a weight-loss supplement and to assess the effects of ALA on weight and body mass index.2
The authors collected hundreds of articles which were narrowed down to 11 eligible articles. The total number of participants in these studies was 534 for the ALA group and 413 for the placebo group. The study durations were between 8 weeks to 52 weeks. ALA doses were between 300 mg/day to 1800 mg/day.
In summary, overall weight loss was 1.27 kg greater in ALA treatment compared to that in the placebo group. A significant overall mean BMI difference (-0.40 kg/m2) was found between the ALA and placebo groups.
There was a significant reduction of body weight and BMI with ALA treatment compared to placebo, whether it was used as a weight loss intervention supplement or as a supplement for other purposes. Furthermore, a larger reduction in BMI was observed when ALA was given for a shorter duration than a longer one.
With regard to safety, only three studies reported side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Most commonly reported were gastrointestinal symptoms of abdominal pain and nausea, and dermatological symptoms, such as urticaria and itching sensation. ALA has been well tolerated and had no serious side effects.
Use of ALA in clinical practice may be considered. Aside from its positive effect on weight loss, it also has benefits for individuals suffering from diabetic neuropathy. Furthermore, it has a a benign side-effect profile as well as a lower cost compared to conventional weight loss medications.
ALA may be a useful supplement for significant short-term weight loss among overweight and obese individuals. However, more comprehensive research is needed for the dosage, dosage effects, and long-term benefits of ALA supplementation on weight management.