Insulin resistance of skeletal muscle glucose uptake is a prominent feature of Type II diabetes (NIDDM); therefore pharmacological interventions should aim to improve insulin sensitivity. Alpha-lipoic acid (CAS 62-46-4, thioctic acid, ALA), a natural occurring compound frequently used for treatment of diabetic polyneuropathy, enhances glucose utilization in various experimental models. To see whether this compound also augments insulin mediated glucose disposal in NIDDM, 13 patients received either ALA (1000 mg/Thioctacid/500 ml NaCl, n = 7) or vehicle only (500 ml NaCl, n = 6) during a glucose-clamp study. Both groups were comparable in age, body-mass index and duration of diabetes and had a similar degree of insulin resistance at baseline. Acute parenteral administration of ALA resulted in a significant increase of insulin-stimulated glucose disposal; metabolic clearance rate (MCR) for glucose rose by about 50% (3.76 ml/kg/min = pre vs. 5.82 ml/kg/min = post, p < 0.05), whereas the control group did not show any significant change (3.57 ml/kg/min = pre vs. 3.91 ml/kg/min = post). This is the first clinical study to show that alpha-lipoic acid increases insulin stimulated glucose disposal in NIDDM. The mode of action of ALA and its potential use as an antihyperglycemic agent require further investigation.