Posted on Aug 14, 2020, 2 p.m.
A report published in the Journal of Nutrition from researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University suggests that lipoic acid supplements helped some obese but otherwise healthy people to lose weight.
The report describes the researchers analyzing the effects of 24 weeks of daily supplementation of 600 milligram doses of lipoic acid in 31 people, with a matched control group receiving a placebo.
“The data clearly showed a loss in body weight and body fat in people taking lipoic acid supplements," said Balz Frei, director emeritus of OSU's Linus Pauling Institute and one of the scientists on the study. "Particularly in women and in the heaviest participants."
Lipoic acid is produced in animals and plants, being found in cell mitochondria where it normally attaches to proteins involved in energy and amino acid metabolism. It is a specialized medium chain fatty acid having two sulfur atoms at one end of the chain allowing for the transfer of electrons from other sources.
The body will typically produce enough lipoic acid to supply the enzymes that require it to function. As a dietary supplement it displays additional properties that might be unrelated to the function in the mitochondria including the stimulation of glucose metabolism, antioxidant defenses, and anti-inflammatory responses making it suitable to possibly be used as a complementary treatment for those with diabetes, heart disease, and age related cognitive decline.
"Scientists have been researching the potential health benefits of lipoic acid supplements for decades, including how it might enhance healthy aging and mitigate cardiovascular disease," said Alexander Michels, another Linus Pauling Institute scientist involved with the study. "In both rodent models and small-scale human clinical trials, researchers at the LPI have demonstrated the beneficial effects of lipoic acid on oxidative stress, lipid metabolism and circadian rhythm."
"Many existing clinical studies using lipoic acid have focused on volunteers with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, making it difficult to determine if lipoic acid supplements simply act as a disease treatment or have other beneficial health effects," said Hagen, principal investigator and Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Healthy Aging Research at the institute. "Another issue is the formulation of the supplement. Many previous studies have used the S form of lipoic acid, which is a product of industrial synthesis and not found in nature. We only used the R form of lipoic acid—the form found in the body naturally."
"The effect of lipoic acid supplements on blood lipids was limited," said Gerd Bobe, another LPI scientist who collaborated on the study. "But people who lost weight on lipoic acid also reduced their blood triglyceride levels—that effect was clear."
"By the end of the study, some markers of inflammation declined," Hagen said. "The findings also suggest that lipoic acid supplementation provides a mild reduction in oxidative stress. It is not a perfect panacea, but our results show that lipoic acid supplements can be beneficial."
"Lipoic acid supplements are often quite expensive," he said. "So understanding how we can maximize benefits with smaller amounts of the supplement is something we are interested in pursuing."
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