Effects of Alpha-lipoic Acid on Microcirculation
in Patients with Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 2000;   108 (3):   168174

Haak E, Usadel KH, Kusterer K, Amini P, Frommeyer R, Tritschler HJ, Haak T

Medical Department I,
Center of Internal Medicine,
University Hospital,
Frankfurt, Germany.

Diabetic polyneuropathy is a serious complication in patients with diabetes mellitus. In addition to the maintenance of a sufficient metabolic control, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) (Thioctacid, Asta Medica) is known to have beneficial effects on diabetic polyneuropathy although the exact mechanism by which ALA exerts its effect is unknown. In order to study the effect of ALA on microcirculation in patients with diabetes mellitus and peripheral neuropathy one group of patients (4 female, 4 male, age 60+/-3 years, diabetes duration 19+/-4 years, BMI 24.8+/-1.3 kg/m2) received 1200 mg ALA orally per day over 6 weeks (trial 1). A second group of patients (5 female, 4 male, age 65+/-3 years, diabetes duration 14+/-4 years, BMI 23.6+/-0.7 kg/m2) was studied before and after they had received 600 mg ALA or placebo intravenously over 15 minutes in order to investigate whether ALA has an acute effect on microcirculation (trial 2). Patients were investigated by nailfold video-capillaroscopy. Capillary blood cell velocity was examined at rest and during postreactive hyperemia (occlusion of the wrist for 2 minutes, 200 mmHg) which is a parameter of the perfusion reserve on demand. The oral therapy with ALA resulted in a significant decrease in the time to peak capillary blood cell velocity (tpCBV) during postocclusive hyperemia (trial 1: 12.6+/-3.1 vs 35.4+/-10.9 s, p<0.05). The infusion of ALA also decreased the tpCBV in patients with diabetic neuropathy (trial 2: before: 20.8+/-4,5, ALA: 11.74+/-4.4, placebo: 21.9-5.0 s, p<0.05 ALA vs both placebo and before infusions) indicating that ALA has an acute effect on microcirculation. Capillary blood cell velocity at rest (rCBV), hemodynamic parameters, hemoglobinA1c and local skin temperature remained unchanged in both studies. These results demonstrate that in patients with diabetic polyneuropathy ALA improves microcirculation as indicated by an increased perfusion reserve on demand. The observed effects are apparently acute effects. With the restriction of the pilot character of this investigation the findings support the assumption that ALA might exert its beneficial effects at least partially by improving microcirculation which is likely to occur also at the level of the vasa nervorum.


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