Alpha lipoic acid and diabetes

As we reported earlier on this blog, alpha lipoic acid (often abbreviated ALA) was studied and found beneficial in a large trial for peripheral neuropathy (pain, tingling in extremities) related to diabetes. Now here’s a 2009 update on alpha lipoic acid, which asserts its general benefit and usefulness for Type 2 diabetes, and explains some of the mechanisms behind those benefits. (We’ve highlighted the key findings of this review.)

Poh Z, Goh KP. A current update on the use of alpha lipoic Acid in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2009 Dec;9(4):392-398.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) which is characterised by insulin resistance, is closely linked to the triad of glucolipotoxicity, inflammation and oxidative stress. Increased adiposity, leading to increased free fatty acids (FFAs), contributes to insulin resistance by disrupting the signal transduction pathway of insulin mediated glucose disposal, and causes impaired insulin secretion. Hyperglycaemia and dyslipidaemia driven oxidative stress resulting from enhanced free-radical formation and/or defects in antioxidant defence is implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy (DN). This and other inflammatory pathways account for a complex network of interacting metabolic factors responsible for causing diabetes and her complications. There is growing evidence that Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has beneficial effects on the treatment of T2DM and some of its complications. It represents an attractive pharmacological target in the treatment of T2DM by modulating the signal transduction pathways in insulin resistance and antagonizing the oxidative and inflammatory stresses, which are major players in the pathogenesis of this disorder. A potent anti-oxidant and free radical scavenger, ALA also targets cellular signal transduction pathways which increases glucose uptake and utilization, thus providing specific targeted therapy in the treatment of insulin resistance and diabetic neuropathy. Apart from the rare risk of Insulin Autoimmune Syndrome (IAS), ALA has shown to be relatively safe, even in patients with renal and liver failure. This review focuses and summarises the molecular mechanisms of T2DM, and underlines the therapeutic value of ALA in this globally significant disease.

Please also consult NYBC’s basic info sheet on Supplements for Diabetes.

Please visit the NYBC Catalog for forther information on these supplements.

For information on Bitter Melon, please email


Supplements for Liver Health

NYBC has published an online guide to Liver Health, which you can access at

SUPPLEMENT No. 17 Summer 2010

Liver Health

And, yes! You’ll find liver healthy supplements like silymarin, alpha lipoic acid and Chinese herbal formulas, all described in detail with usage recommendations in a special section of the NYBC catalog pages:

NAC + Alpha Lipoic = ThiolNAC

That’s the equation that sums up NYBC’s combination antioxidant supplement, which includes both NAC (N-acetylcysteine) and alpha lipoic acid. These two are among the most researched antioxidant supplements, with studies of NAC covering issues such as pulmonary function, liver function, HIV, while alpha lipoic acid (sometimes called “thioctic acid,” hence the “thiol” part of our product name) has been investigated for liver health, neuropathy, diabetes, HIV. As a combination, they appear in such products as K-PAX and SuperNutrition’s Super Immune Multivitamin.

NYBC’s combination product ThiolNAC was designed to meet the needs of those who can benefit from supplementation with both of these antioxidants. By combining the two in one supplement, there is also a significant savings in cost as well–always one of the main goals of the nonprofit co-op.

For more information, see the NYBC entry on ThiolNAC:

Symptoms common, often ignored by docs

A recent report underscored the myriad symptoms and problems facing significant numbers of people living with HIV. The study involved 751 patients enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, undertaken between 1999 and 2000. Commonly reported symptoms included fatigue (71%), difficulty sleeping, depression, muscle aches and diarrhea (each reported by 60% of the respondents). Over 50% of patients reported headache, difficulty remembering, tingling hands or feet (neuropathy), weight loss and body shape changes.

The worry is that some may be associated with meds and this may reduce adherence to drug schedules. This can lead to resistance, etc. Which is why we at NYBC take very seriously the methods and means that may be available to manage some of these side effects. Diarrhea has been managed in studies that investigated agents like calcium and glutamine. Acetylcarnitine has some benefit for nuke-related neuropathy. You can review our literature on what we know (and need to learn more) about such interventions along with the different symptoms and side effects people experience and how they can be managed.

The study included about 54% African American. The study noted that healthcare providers often don’t recognize these as important symptoms. Perhaps this is why there is a strong racist element within American health care, one that arises out of blindness and ignorance as much as any overt hostility.

The second aspect of such care is that many people, of every ethnicity, are economically impoverished. So how can many people access sometimes costly, nearly always out-of-pocket agents like acetylcarnitine? NYBC is working on ways to make this possible, though we will need additional help to assure such access. State-run programs like ADAP and Medicaid can help in some states–but many of these programs are facing cuts due to tight budgets. Tight budgets induced by banks getting a socialized bailout for their malfeasance while Americans suffer?

So political activism will remain a key component in any comprehensive effort to provide care and treatment that includes the types of agents NYBC investigates and makes available. Ongoing research into dietary supplements and the ways in which they may improve health outcomes, enhance adherence to medications, reduce side effects and lower the burden of public costs by reducing morbidity and mortality are keenly needed.

Neuropathy still a problem

A recent article underscores that neurological problems still plague people living with HIV. For neuropathy, data showed that up to 3 grams (3000 mg) of acetylcarnitine a day can help alleviate symptoms. Data among those living with diabetes show alpha lipoic acid can have some benefit. Altogether, it makes sense to thwart the inflammatory processes, and, though we need more data, NYBC is delighted to have ThiolNAC, which combines NAC and alpha lipoic to help ease these pains (and perhaps as well help with cognitive function). Vitamin B12 is also crucially important.

Debilitating HIV-associated sensory neuropathy remains common
Debilitating sensory neuropathy remains prevalent in HIV-infected patients, despite a general decline of neurological complications with use of combination antiretroviral therapy.

This finding is from a study in which the researchers tested 1,539 HIV-infected individuals for clinical signs of neuropathy and neuropathic pain.

“We were surprised by the high prevalence,” lead author Dr. Ronald Ellis of the University of California, San Diego, told Reuters Health by e-mail.

“Painful neuropathy frequently persists and requires ongoing management,” even when antiretroviral therapy has reduced viral load and restored immune function, he said.
(click link for remainder of article)

“Supplements and Diabetes” and “Diabetes Facts & Figures”


Below we describe some of the best recent research on supplements as used for the management of diabetes. More extensive information on these supplements, including recommended dosages, can be found on the NYBC website.

Multivitamin/multimineral: Regular use of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement helps people with diabetes maintain good health and reduce infections. Clinical evidence indicates that diabetics have unique nutritional needs, and should take a daily multivitamin to supplement their normal diet.

Note: NYBC stocks Jarrow’s Multi 1-to-3; Douglas Lab’s Added Protection, and SuperNutrition’s family of multivitamins.

Reference: Barringer, et al. Effect of a Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement on Infection and Quality of Life. Annals of Internal Medicine. 3/4/2003.

Omega-3 fatty acids (Fish Oil): Many people with diabetes have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown benefit for cardiovascular health in recent randomized controlled clinical trials. The FDA has also approved a health claim for fish oil: “supporting but not conclusive evidence shows that the consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Note: NYBC stocks Max DHA –Omega-3 Fish Oil Purified by Molecular Distillation (Jarrow); and ProOmega –Nordic Naturals (60 softgels or 180 softgels).

Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) has the ability to assist with glucose metabolism, and also promotes healthy nerve function. A recent study concluded that ALA (600mg/day) could be useful in helping to treat the symptoms of diabetes-related neuropathy (= pain, tingling, numbness in feet and hands). A protocol for diabetic neuropathy using ALA, evening primrose oil and Vitamin C has also been proposed.

Note: NYBC stocks ALA (Montiff) 300mg/60.

Reference: Ametov et al. The sensory symptoms of diabetic polyneuropathy are improved with alpha-lipoic acid: The SYDNEY Trial. Diabetes Care. 2003, 26 (3)

Chromium and Biotin: These two supplements have been proposed as a useful adjunct therapy for poorly controlled diabetes. Chromium is also under investigation for insulin resistance in people with HIV.

Note: NYBC stocks these two supplements from Jarrow.

Reference: Singer, G M, & J Geohas. The effect of chromium picolinate and biotin supplementation on glycemic control in poorly controlled patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Technol Ther. Dec. 2006.

Bitter Melon: A popular vegetable in Southeast Asia, Bitter Melon (sometimes called Bitter gourd) contains an insulin-like substance that can lower blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. Warning: Bitter Melon may result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if combined with other blood glucose-lowering drugs or supplements.

NYBC stocks Bitter Melon (Zhang).

Reference: “Bitter gourd (Momordica Charantia): A dietary approach to hyperglycemia.” Nutrition Rev. July 2006.

B Vitamins: These are recommended for those taking Metformin, the most widely prescribed oral diabetic drug in the US. Metformin depletes B12, B6 and folic acid, which in turn leads to a build-up of homocysteine, linked to cardiovascular disease.
NYBC stocks B-right (Jarrow).

Reference: Zhao-Wei Ting, R et al. “Risk factors of vitamin B12 deficiency in patients receiving metformin.” Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 9, 2006.

IMPORTANT: Talk to your doctor before you use these or other supplements. Do not discontinue medications you are taking for diabetes/glucose control without first discussing with your healthcare provider any complementary treatments you are considering! As noted above regarding Bitter Melon, there is a risk of dangerous hypoglycemia if multiple blood sugar-lowering agents are used at the same time.

Diabetes Facts and Figures

–Poor diet (processed foods, fast foods, sweetened drinks) and lack of exercise are major factors in recent large increases in Type 2 Diabetes in the US. (The rate of Type 1 Diabetes, which is largely inborn, remains stable.)

–In 2009, 24 million Americans had diabetes. With no changes in diet and exercise rates, the number of US diabetics is projected to double over the next 25 years and the annual costs of treating the disease will rise from $113 billion to $336 billion.

–Minorities are disproportionately affected by diabetes: African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are almost twice as likely as Whites to have diabetes. A main contributing factor for this disparity is limited healthy food choices and an abundance of bad food choices available in minority communities.

–Childhood obesity, closely linked to the development of diabetes, is now considered epidemic in the US, with 40% of US children overweight and 13% obese. The current generation of US children consequently risk having higher rates of cardiovascular disease and other diabetes-related health problems than their parents’ generation.

–The proportion of people with HIV who also have Type 2 Diabetes is increasing. The effects of combination therapies for HIV appear to increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes; it is estimated that as many as 80% of people with HIV treated with protease inhibitors may develop insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes (see John G. Ryan, “Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus with HIV-1 Infection,” in Insulin, Jan. 2010).

–A class of drugs approved by the FDA as second-line treatment of diabetes has shown a dubious safety record. One of them, Avandia, may have caused hundreds of heart attacks per month and as of early 2010 the FDA was considering whether to ask for its withdrawal from the market.

Top search terms bringing visitors to this blog

Dear NYBC Blog Reader,

Thought you might be interested to see some of the most popular search terms that brought people to the New York Buyers’ Club Blog in the past year:

1. “Saccharomyces boulardii C difficile”
2. “glutamine ulcerative colitis”
3. “cholesterol lowering supplements”
4. “B vitamins depression”
5. “HIV Vitamin D”
6. “vitamins for neuropathy”
7. “Tylenol antidote”

And here, in very brief form, is the information these searchers found on the NYBC Blog:

Saccharomyces boulardii, which NYBC stocks in the form of Florastor, appears in a recent study to be the best probiotic for the stubborn gastrointestinal infection C. difficile.

Glutamine has shown effectiveness in reducing symptoms of ulcerative colitis and other gastrointestinal conditions in a number of research studies.

Plant sterols, fish oil, niacin, pantethine have been studied for cholesterol control.

B vitamins strongly affect mood and memory, and addressing a B vitamin deficiency can improve depressive symptoms.

Vitamin D deficiency is widely prevalent among people with HIV, and supplementing with 1000IU/day of D3 plus 1000mg/day of calcium may be a good way to support bone health for people taking HIV meds. Other research has noted the link between Vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and susceptibility to cold and flus.

Acetylcarnitine, alpha lipoic acid and evening primrose oil are among the supplements studied for diabetic or HIV-related neuropathy (pain, tingling in feet, hands).

NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is used as the antidote to acetaminophen overdose. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and is added to many other over-the-counter drugs, so overdose leading to liver damage or liver failure has become common in the US.