Life Extension Magazine®
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How Lipoic Acid Reduces Body Fat

A recent study found that R-lipoic acid reduced body fat and weight, especially in women—without a change in diet or physical activity.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on December 2020. Written By Ross Stokes.

Losing weight is rarely easy.

But a recently published study found that a compound called lipoic acid reduced weight and total body fat in overweight/obese adults, with no changes in diet or physical activity.1

This new study used the biologically active form known as R-lipoic acid. The doctors found that 26% of the participants experienced at least a 5% decline in body weight by the end of the study.1

When only women were counted, researchers saw an average 3.2% weight loss after 24 weeks along with an average 6.5% reduction in body fat.1

To achieve successful weight loss results, a multi-modal approach is often needed.

This includes incorporating some type of calorie reduction, increasing physical activity, and adding supplements to a regimen, like 7-Keto DHEA, Gynostemma pentaphyllum, green tea, and others.

Findings from this recent study suggest R-lipoic acid is a helpful candidate to add to a weight loss program.

What is Lipoic Acid?

Woman grocery shopping holding carrots

Lipoic acid is a compound made in the body. It is naturally produced in the mitochondria, our cellular “power stations,” where it helps turn nutrients into energy.

It’s also found in some fruits, vegetables, and meats, but only in extremely small amounts.

Lipoic acid is a free-radical scavenger. But its health benefits only begin there.

Published scientific studies provide a rationale for using oral lipoic acid to improve metabolism and assist in weight loss.

An animal model of obesity showed that lipoic acid regulates the hypothalamus.2 This brain region controls basic drives like hunger and thirst. In this study, animals given lipoic acid reduced food intake and had increased metabolism, leading to dramatic weight loss.

Lipoic acid exists in two forms: the “R” form is the most biologically active and the “S” form is less active.

Commercially available supplements typically provide a 50/50 ratio of the “R” and the “S” forms. In other words, 100 mg alpha-lipoic acid provides 50 mg of the biologically active “R” form.

Fortunately for consumers, full-strength R-lipoic acid as a standalone was introduced as an anti-aging supplement nearly two decades ago.

Weight Loss Trial with R-Lipoic Acid

Woman doing sit ups

Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and Boston University School of Medicine collaborated on a 24-week trial.1

They selected participants who were overweight or obese and had elevated levels of triglycerides (≥100 mg/dL).

Subjects were randomized to receive 255 mg of R-lipoic acid twice daily or a placebo for six months. There were no changes in their diet or physical activity.

At the end of the trial, 26% of the participants experienced at least a 5% decline in body weight.

When only women were investigated, an average 3.2% weight loss after 24 weeks was shown along with an average 6.5% reduction in body fat.

Severely obese individuals (BMI ≥35), as opposed to those who were just overweight, also saw improvements with R-lipoic acid. Their weight loss averaged 2.4% and their body fat was reduced by 4.3%.

Researchers hypothesize that improved cellular energy and lipoic acid metabolism could explain these fat-reducing effects.

Life Extension® readers understand that a multi-modal approach is needed to achieve successful weight loss. The findings from this study suggest R-lipoic acid is a helpful tool in any weight loss strategy.

R-Lipoic Acid Improves Markers of Oxidative Stress

Reductions in body fat and weight lower the risk of chronic diseases.

In this recent weight loss study, R-lipoic acid also improved some markers of oxidative stress.1

Oxidative stress can contribute to chronic illnesses, from cardiovascular disease to cancer to dementia.

Subjects treated with R-lipoic acid had a 25% reduction in urinary F2-isoprostanes, a marker of lipid peroxidation. Antioxidant gene expression increased by 22%.

Along with reductions in body weight and fat, these changes could reduce risk of chronic disease.

What you need to know

Lose Weight and Lower Disease Risk with Lipoic Acid

  • Lipoic acid is a nutrient made in the body and found in extremely small quantities in various fruits, vegetables, and meat.
  • Oral intake of lipoic acid improves metabolism and can help reduce body weight and total body fat.
  • Lipoic acid is also a potent antioxidant, reducing the oxidative stress that accompanies many chronic diseases.
  • Lipoic acid improves other parameters of metabolic health, improving blood glucose control and restoring healthy blood lipid levels.
  • Lipoic acid exists in two forms, the “R” form which is biologically active and the “S” form that is less biologically active.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid Studies

Scientist mixing something for study

The recent study described so far in this article was published in The Journal of Nutrition and showed weight loss results. One reason for this is that it used 100% R-lipoic acid, the active form.

But past studies have also shown benefits for alpha-lipoic acid, which contains 50% R-lipoic acid.

The most common measures that have been evaluated are weight loss, markers of metabolic health, and markers of chronic inflammation as follows:

1. Weight Loss

Alpha-lipoic acid aids in weight loss and in lowering body mass index (BMI).3-7

In one study, overweight and obese women were put on a calorie-restricted diet and randomized to receive an omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-lipoic acid, a combination of the two, or a control.3 The groups receiving alpha-lipoic acid alone or in combination had a significantly greater loss of body weight than the control.

One interesting finding worth pointing out is that omega-3 prevented the drop in leptin as people lose fat. Leptin is a hormone involved in satiety and when levels drop, the brain interprets this as a starvation signal.

In other words, combining caloric restriction with alpha-lipoic acid and other nutrients can lead to greater weight loss than dietary changes alone.

In another study, scientists evaluated patients taking a medication that frequently results in weight gain.4 Subjects who received a placebo continued to gain weight over the 12-week trial. Those who received alpha-lipoic acid lost weight.

Even more impressive, the weight loss particularly affected visceral fat, the fat around the abdominal organs that is tied to greater risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. While those on a placebo added visceral fat, those in the alpha-lipoic acid group lost an average of 6.5% of their visceral fat.

2. Metabolic Health

Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions. While weight loss alone reduces risk, alpha-lipoic acid also improves metabolic health.8,9

A review of 24 human trials concluded that alpha-lipoic acid intake positively affects both blood sugar (glucose) control and blood lipid (LDL cholesterol) abnormalities.8

Fasting glucose and insulin levels were significantly reduced with alpha-lipoic acid. Tests of insulin sensitivity and long-term glucose control also significantly improved.

Subjects taking alpha-lipoic acid also benefited from a reduction in triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol that contributes to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease).

3. Chronic Inflammation

Some studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid can reduce indices of inflammation.

An international group of scientists published the results of a large meta-analysis in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.10 They found that alpha-lipoic acid significantly decreased various markers of systemic inflammation—including C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha—in patients with metabolic disease.

Summary

Lipoic acid is a nutrient found in small amounts in foods. It has a powerful impact on metabolism.

It has been shown in clinical trials to help with weight loss.

It has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and improve lipid levels and long-term blood glucose control.

In a recent study, R-lipoic acid reduced body weight and total body fat in obese adults, most clearly in women.

Obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases.

R-lipoic acid is a promising tool in a weight management program.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

  1. Bobe G, Michels AJ, Zhang WJ, et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Long-Term (R)-alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplementation Promotes Weight Loss in Overweight or Obese Adults without Altering Baseline Elevated Plasma Triglyceride Concentrations. J Nutr. 2020 Sep 1;150(9):2336-45.
  2. Kim MS, Park JY, Namkoong C, et al. Anti-obesity effects of alpha-lipoic acid mediated by suppression of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase. Nat Med. 2004 Jul;10(7):727-33.
  3. Huerta AE, Navas-Carretero S, Prieto-Hontoria PL, et al. Effects of alpha-lipoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in overweight and obese women during weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Feb;23(2):313-21.
  4. Kim NW, Song YM, Kim E, et al. Adjunctive alpha-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. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2016 Sep;31(5):265-74.
  5. Koh EH, Lee WJ, Lee SA, et al. Effects of alpha-lipoic Acid on body weight in obese subjects. Am J Med. 2011 Jan;124(1): 85 e1-8.
  6. Kucukgoncu S, Zhou E, Lucas KB, et al. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as a supplementation for weight loss: results from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obes Rev. 2017 May;18(5):594-601.
  7. Namazi N, Larijani B, Azadbakht L. Alpha-lipoic acid supplement in obesity treatment: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Clin Nutr. 2018 Apr;37(2):419-28.
  8. Akbari M, Ostadmohammadi V, Lankarani KB, et al. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on glucose control and lipid profiles among patients with metabolic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Metabolism. 2018 Oct;87:56-69.
  9. Gosselin LE, Chrapowitzky L, Rideout TC. Metabolic effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation in pre-diabetics: a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Food Funct. 2019 Sep 1;10(9): 5732-8.
  10. Akbari M, Ostadmohammadi V, Tabrizi R, et al. The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on inflammatory markers among patients with metabolic syndrome and related disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018;15:39.