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ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID, OBESITY AND WEIGHT LOSS
Alpha-lipoic acid plays a very important role in the energy production centers of our cells (mitochondria). In recent years, clinical research has suggested that alpha-lipoic acid supplements may have a variety of potential health benefits, including a possible reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Recent laboratory research has also shown that alpha-lipoic acid supplements markedly reduce the incidence of obesity in obesity-prone rats. However, it has not been clear whether or not alpha-lipoic acid has any clinically significant anti-obesity effects in humans. Now, a newly published prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical research study suggests that alpha-lipoic acid supplementation may indeed improve weight loss in obese humans.
In this study, which appears in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine, 360 obese patient volunteers were randomized to receive either alpha-lipoic acid supplements or identical-appearing placebo pills. Patients who were assigned to receive alpha-lipoic acid supplements received either 1,200 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid per day or 1,800 milligrams per day. After 20 weeks, all patient volunteers were weighed once again.
After 20 weeks, the group of patients that had received 1,800 milligrams of alpha-lipoic acid per day experienced a modest but significant reduction in weight (2.1 percent of body weight) when compared the patient volunteers who had received the placebo pills.
While a 2 percent weight loss may sound trivial, it must be emphasized that obesity is an illness that has been shown to be refractory to almost every medical treatment (other than surgery), including the handful of very expensive prescription medications that have been approved by the FDA to treat obesity. Certainly, alpha-lipoic acid, by itself, is not likely to reverse the epidemic of obesity that has spread throughout the world. However, if the findings of this small prospective, randomized, controlled clinical study can be confirmed by larger studies, then alpha-lipoic acid may find use as an adjunct to other weight-loss strategies (including, of course, dieting and exercise).
Finally, as always, I remind readers not to begin new diets, exercise programs, or nutritional supplements (including alpha-lipoic acid) without first discussing such lifestyle changes with their doctors.
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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity
Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author
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