Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Antioxidant Soothes Diabetic Neuropathy

Alpha Lipoic Acid Decreases Burning, Cutting Pain


Dyck, who conducted the study with Russian researchers, says that alpha lipoic acid offered several benefits to his patients with diabetes. "It is a very strong antioxidant and it is assumed that oxidation plays a role in the development of diabetes," he tells WebMD. This means the substance -- produced in very small amounts by the body and also found in foods such as potatoes and red meat -- protects against damage by cell-ravaging "free radicals." This oxidation process is implicated in various diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and neurologic conditions including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

"Besides that, alpha lipoic acid also seems to promote better blood flow and oxygen to the nerves and may also promote the entry of glucose and the breakdown of it into cells," he says.

Passwater says this is because alpha lipoic acid improves the function of cell "transporters" that carry and distribute glucose. "This helps insulin do its role," he tells WebMD. "It also has a specific effect on nerves that we don't know too much about but have noted. Overall, it has universal benefits, affecting various body sites, and works with other antioxidants to help them protect the body."

Though hundreds of studies have been done on alpha lipoic acid -- including several that suggest a benefit in treating diabetic neuropathy in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes -- few large trials have been conducted in the U.S. In several foreign studies on mice and people, dosages ranging from 60 mg to 800 mg seemed to produce improvements in blood sugar levels and insulin production and decrease diabetic neuropathy pain.

Diabetic neuropathy is currently treated with painkillers, including narcotics -- which can be habit-forming -- and antiepileptic drugs, which can cause sedation. Alpha lipoic acid, meanwhile, appears to be safe and has few side effects, says Dyck.

But he isn't suggesting that people with diabetes self-medicate themselves with alpha lipoic acid. "We're not quite at that stage; we first need to complete studies using the oral capsules. If you have diabetes, the first line of treatment is glucose control," Dyck tells WebMD. "But the reality is that some people cannot or will not get desired control of blood sugar. And if further research proves conclusive, it looks as though alpha lipoic acid might be one of the ways they can do it."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner