Life Extension Magazine®

Woman feeling pain from peripheral neuropathy at the bottom of  her foot

Protect Peripheral Nerves with Lipoic Acid

For decades, lipoic acid has been used to treat peripheral neuropathy in Germany. Clinical studies show that it can improve nerve function and reduce pain and numbness

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in April 2023. Written by: Jack Ross.

Over 20 million Americans are estimated to have some form of peripheral neuropathy, a nerve disease that can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness, most often in the hands, feet, and legs.

Peripheral neuropathy has different causes, with diabetes and blood vessel problems notable among them.1

As it worsens, diabetic peripheral neuropathy may lead to the development of foot ulcers and the need for foot or leg amputations.2 People with peripheral neuropathy also have higher rates of overall mortality.3

But there’s good news. A nutrient called lipoic acid has been successfully used for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy in Germany for decades.4,5

Clinical trials in people suffering from diabetic neuropathy show that lipoic acid can reduce pain and other symptoms,6-9 and may help prevent progression of nerve damage.9

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term for disease of the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.10

Peripheral neuropathies, diabetic2,11 or non-diabetic, often begin in the feet, and often progress up the leg over time.1,12

Among other conditions that affect nerves, the most common culprit is high blood sugar, which is why people with type II diabetes have the highest rates of neuropathy.2,13

Estimates of the prevalence of peripheral neuropathy in diabetics range as high as 70%.1

In adults without diabetes, peripheral neuropathy occurs much less frequently than in those with diabetes.13 Alcohol abuse, 13 some chemotherapy drugs,13 hereditary diseases, vitamin B12 deficiency, and other health conditions can contribute to or cause its development.1,14

Peripheral neuropathy often results in loss of function, numbness, tingling, and extreme pain. 12

Eventually, it may result in loss of balance.10 Diabetic neuropathy may result in difficulty walking and increased risk of falls. 5

Diabetic neuropathy is the major cause of diabetic foot ulcers and infections, which can lead to leg amputations.2,13 A large, clinical study showed lower-limb amputation rates in those with diabetes were 15 times higher than in non-diabetics.15

Neuropathy in diabetics can also affect nerves that control heart and blood vessels, causing abnormalities of heart rate and blood vessel function. Cardiac autonomic neuropathy can be associated with a high risk of arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death.16,17

One large study found that peripheral neuro-pathy is an independent predictor of higher overall mortality. 3

Lipoic Acid Defends Nerves

Lipoic acid is a compound produced in the body and also found in small amounts in some vegetables and animal products, particularly organ meats.18

It plays an essential role in turning glucose and other nutrients into energy.19 It enhances glucose uptake,20 and plays a role in modulating insulin sensitivity.21

It is also a potent antioxidant that helps fight oxidative stress. It even helps regenerate several other antioxidants. 12,22

One review reported that lipoic acid can help decrease pain signals by blocking channels on pain-sensing nerve cells.5

Lipoic acid has been licensed and used in the management of diabetic peripheral neuropathy for decades in Germany. 5

Easing Pain and Improving Function

Scientists have conducted many clinical trials of lipoic acid for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.6-9,18

Nerve conduction studies, which measure how efficiently electrical signals move through a nerve, have shown that lipoic acid can improve nerve function. Nerve conduction velocities that were previously slowed were boosted with lipoic acid use.8

Additional benefits have been identified in other trials.

For example, a clinical study in diabetics found that lipoic acid not only improved peripheral neuro-pathy scores, it also significantly decreased feelings of depression.9 Diabetics are two to three times more likely than non-diabetics to have depression.23

Another clinical study found that 50% of subjects felt their quality of life and overall health condition was “very much better” or “much better” following 40 days of lipoic acid supplementation.6

Studies have shown that lipoic acid led to improvements in potentially deadly cardiac autonomic neuropathy as well.8,24

Lipoic acid use has also been associated with improvements in body mass index,5,8,25 cholesterol levels,6 and markers of blood glucose control.8,24

What you need to know

Get Relief from Peripheral Nerve Pain

  • Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition marked by loss of sensation, tingling, numbness, and pain in the peripheral nerves.     
  • The most common cause is high blood sugar, seen in type II diabetes, but people without diabetes can also suffer from peripheral neuropathy.      
  • Peripheral neuropathy is associated with an increased risk of overall mortality.   
  • The nutrient lipoic acid can help relieve peripheral neuropathy symptoms, including pain and numbness, and may also improve nerve function.



Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, pain, and loss of function in the peripheral nerves. In diabetics, it is associated with an increased risk of amputations, falls, and death.

Lipoic acid has been used to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy in Germany for decades.

Clinical studies show that it can lead to significant reductions in pain, numbness, and other symptoms.

Two Forms of Lipoic Acid

Lipoic acid occurs in two different forms: R-lipoic acid and S-lipoic acid.
Most production methods result in a mixture of these forms.18,26
The “S” form is not very biologically active. The “R” form is the biologically active component (and the kind produced by the body) that is responsible for lipoic acid’s phenomenal antioxidant effect.18,26
A lipoic acid formula that provides 100% R-lipoic acid can be readily used by the body, maximizing its health benefits.
Animal and human studies demonstrate that R-lipoic acid provides clinical benefits with much greater biological activity.18,26,27

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


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