Alpha lipoic acid reverses liver failure

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ALA Reverses Liver Failure(NaturalHealth365) It sounded like something out of an episode of the X-Files. A deadly fungus was literally consuming the livers of two people who had unknowingly eaten a mushroom called Amanita verna, the “Destroying Angel.” The resident physician assigned to their care in the emergency room was instructed to make them comfortable with pain meds, because nothing more could be done for them, and they would surely be dead by morning from liver failure.

But fate intervened. The resident, Burt Berkson, before med school had earned his PhD in microbiology including the study of fungi, and he could not stand by and simply watch these people die.

How a ‘free thinking’ physician saved 2 lives

Berkson called the National Institutes of Health (NIH) about an experimental chemical, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), used in Europe for severe liver damage. Within a few hours, the NIH delivered an emergency supply of ALA to him and he immediately administered it intravenously.

Incredibly, during the overnight shift the critically ill patients began to rally. In a few days – liver enzymes returned to normal and within two weeks they were released from the hospital, having regenerated most of their liver function.

Twenty years later, Dr. Berkson met up with these two patients on Dr. Julian Whitaker’s radio show, grateful to be alive and well, now in their 80s, with no signs of residual liver damage.

Can alpha lipoic acid (ALA) help diabetics?

ALA is a natural substance produced by our own cells throughout our liver, more when we are younger and diminishing with age. Primarily, ALA’s function is to help metabolize glucose from the food we eat. This may account for part of ALA’s role in diabetic neuropathy, the pain and numbness endured by diabetics in their hands and feet.

Research, out of the Mayo Clinic (2003), demonstrated that diabetic neuropathy patients receiving high doses of alpha lipoic acid intravenously improved their pain, numbness and other symptoms by threefold, compared with those patients treated with a placebo.

What is so special about ALA? ALA is considered a unique antioxidant, as it is both water and fat soluble, thereby increasing its ability to function in many parts of the body.

ALA recycles vitamins C and E, helping to prevent deficiencies of these vitamins, while also aiding in formation of the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione – which acts mainly in the liver to detox the body of toxic substances.

ALA improves brain function and prevents premature aging

ALA is currently being investigated as treatment for stroke and Alzheimer’s, due to its ability to cross the blood brain barrier. Early research indicates animals treated with alpha lipoic acid suffer less brain damage with four times greater survival rate post stroke than animals not receiving ALA.

Science Daily (May, 2007), reports that ALA seems to slow down the process of aging in animals by improving immune function and blood flow and other aging factors.

Are you looking for foundational free radical protection? Although ALA’s impressive reputation has been made by treating serious and life-threatening diseases, it remains a foundational antioxidant for the person looking to prevent free radical damage as part of an overall supplement regimen.

Dosages of 200-300 mg or more (caps/tabs) a day are frequently used in Europe as a therapeutic adjunct in treating diabetic neuropathy. I have recommended similar dosing for general antioxidant protection, depending on the patient’s free radical burden. More recently I also am also utilizing liposomal ALA, a form similar to liposomal vitamin C, for enhanced absorption and efficacy.

Because ALA appears to be so effective at improving blood glucose metabolism, diabetics should consult their physician about ALA use and monitor blood sugar levels carefully as they may need less medication over time.

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in a high-quality, liposomal ALA – check out LivOn Labs for their ‘lipo-spheric’ products.

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About the author: William M. Thornton, ND, DC is a graduate of National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, OR (ND degree) and Southern California University of Health Sciences, Whittier, CA (DC degree). Dr. Thornton has been in practice since 1980 specializing in Clinical Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He is currently an instructor at Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine, Santa Monica, CA, in the Western Biomedicine Department.

1. Berkson, Burt, MD, PhD, “The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough,” Prima Publishing, 1998
2. A.D.A.M., Inc., “Alpha-lipoic acid,” University of Maryland Medical Center
3. Kirchheimer, Sid, “Antioxidant Soothes Diabetic Neuropathy,” WebMD, April 11, 2003
4. Schopick, Julia, “Honest Medicine”, Innovative Health publishing, 2007
5. Sahelian, Ray, M.D., Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement benefit, side effects, use for blood sugar, diabetes Information
6. Oregon State University, “Lipoic Acid Explored As Anti-aging Compound” ScienceDaily, May 18, 2007
7. Holmquist L, Stuchbury G, Berbaum K, Muscat S, Young S, Hager K, Engel J, Münch G. Lipoic acid as a novel treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 113.1 (2007): 154-164.
8. Ziegler D, Ametov A, Barinov A, Dyck PJ, Gurieva I, Low PA, Munzel U, Yakhno N, Raz I, Novosadova M, Maus J, Samigullin R. Oral treatment with alpha-lipoic acid improves symptomatic diabetic polyneuropathy: the SYDNEY 2 trial. Diabetes Care. 19.11 (2006): 2365-2370.

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  • pm

    If you are going to supplement with Alpha Lipoic Acid on a regular basis, especially at higher doses, you should also supplement with extra B vitamins as it will cause a deficiency in thiamine.

    • drwthornton

      pm, thank you for pointing this out. Animal studies do suggest B1
      deficiency at high doses. This is particularly a concern in the human
      population where the patient is an alcoholic and B1 deficient from the
      start. When consulting a practitioner this sort of issue is evaluated
      and additional supplementation provided. While I favor people having
      freedom of choice in supplementation I also encourage them to review
      some in depth resources for guidance as to dosage and any side effects
      just to cover all the bases. Thanks again for bringing this to our
      attention, ~Dr. Thornton.

  • LL

    As a diabetic, I’ve recently been searching for ways to help improve my blood sugars and overall health. I was happy to come across this article on Alpha Lipoic Acid. With the added benefit of improving brain function, I’m convinced ALA will be very useful for me. Thank you.

    brain function and prevents premature aging – See more at:

  • Richard Melvin

    No doubt that alpha lipoic acid is a tremendous antioxidant because it is both fat and water soluble. In a Parkinson’s disease model the combination of alpha lipoic acid and acetyl l carnitine ” that when combined, LA and ALC worked at 100-1000-fold lower concentrations than they did individually.” Want more bang for your buck? Buy them together. I have been taking this combination for years and will continue to do so. The Parkinson’s disease study:

    https://www. ncbi. nlm.nih .gov/pubmed/20414966