Antioxidant properties of an endogenous thiol: Alpha-lipoic acid, useful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases

J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2009 Nov;54(5):391-8. doi: 10.1097/fjc.0b013e3181be7554.


In the past few years, a growing interest has been given to the possible antioxidant functions of a natural acid, synthesized in human tissues: alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). Both the oxidized (disulfide) and reduced (dithiol: dihydrolipoic acid, DHLA) forms of ALA show antioxidant properties. ALA administered in the diet accumulates in tissues, and a substantial part is converted to DHLA via a lipoamide dehydrogenase. Commercial ALA is usually a racemic mixture of the R and S forms. Chemical studies have indicated that ALA scavenges hydroxyl radicals, hypochlorous acid, and singlet oxygen. ALA exerts antioxidant effects in biological systems not only through direct ROS quenching but also via transition metal chelation. ALA has been shown to possess a number of beneficial effects both in the prevention and treatment of diabetes in experimental conditions. ALA presents beneficial effects in the management of symptomatic diabetic neuropathy and has been used in this context in Germany for more than 30 years. In cardiovascular disease, dietary supplementation with ALA has been successfully employed in a variety of in vivo models: ischemia-reperfusion, heart failure, and hypertension. More mechanistic and human in vivo studies are needed to determine whether optimizing the dietary intake of ALA can help to decrease cardiovascular diseases. A more complete understanding of cellular biochemical events that influence oxidative damage is required to guide future therapeutic advances.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / metabolism
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysine / administration & dosage
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Molecular Structure
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Thioctic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Thioctic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Thioctic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Thioctic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • Thioctic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • lipoyllysine
  • Thioctic Acid
  • Lysine