A mild weight-loss diet becomes more effective if you combine it with a high dose of alpha-lipoic acid [structural formula shown here]. Researchers at the University of Ulsan in South Korea come to this conclusion in an article they published in the American Journal of Medicine.
Alpha-Lipoic acid is not a vitamin. Our cells make the substance themselves and only minute quantities are found in our food. The mitochondria, the cellular power stations, need alpha-lipoic acid to convert nutrients into energy. If you give alpha-lipoic acid to lab animals their energy expenditure rises and they lose weight. Whether humans react in the same way to supplementation had not been studied.
The researchers did an experiment with 228 Koreans with a BMI of 30 or higher. Their average age was 41. The researchers got the overweight subjects to eat 600 calories a day less than they were used to for the 20 weeks that the experiment lasted.
One-third of the test subjects took a daily total of 1200 mg alpha-lipoic acid, spread over three intake moments throughout the day, each half an hour before a meal.
A second group did the same but took 1800 mg alpha-lipoic acid daily. A third group was given a placebo.
The supplement speeded up weight loss, as the figure below shows. In the group that took 1800 mg alpha-lipoic acid per day the effect was statistically significant.
Animal studies suggest that weight loss through alpha-lipoic acid is gained at the cost of lean body mass, but that was not the case in this human trial. The test subjects lost a small amount of lean body mass, but not more than you’d expect in a dieting study.
Now 1800 mg alpha-lipoic acid is a pretty high dose, but no serious side effects were noted. Nevertheless 11 percent of the test subjects in the alpha-lipoic acid groups did report itching.
“Although the therapeutic potency of alpha-lipoic acid was modest, no serious side effects were observed”, the researchers conclude. “Differences in side effects from currently used anti-obesity drugs suggest that alpha-lipoic acid may be effective as an adjunctive medication for obesity.”
The Korean government – in the form of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute [khidi.or.kr] – and Dalim BioTech [dalimpharm.co.uk] funded the study. Dalim Pharm produces supplements, some of which contain alpha-lipoic acid.