A collaborative study between Mayo Clinic and a medical center in Russia found that alpha lipoic acid (ALA) significantly and rapidly reduces the frequency and severity of symptoms of the most common kind of diabetic neuropathy. The symptoms affected include burning and sharply cutting pain, prickling sensations and numbness.

“There appears to be a rather large effect on the pain of diabetic neuropathy with ALA,” says Peter Dyck, MD, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. “The magnitude of the change is considerable. We also found some improvement in neurologic signs and nerve conduction. We were surprised by the magnitude and the rapidity of the response.”

When patients were given ALA, the researchers found statistically significant improvement in the symptoms of damage to multiple nerves caused by diabetes, as measured on a symptom point scale. The patients who took ALA saw a 5.7-point total symptom score improvement from the start of the trial, while those who took placebo only improved 1.8 points. ALA produced no unfavorable side effects in the patients taking this substance.

“It’s very safe,” says Dr Dyck. “There have been no known complications.”

The alternatives for managing the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy – narcotics, analgesics or antiepileptic drugs – are less than ideal, according to Dr Dyck.

Mayo Clinic, Apr 8, 2003