This supplement can help healthy obese people lose weight

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In a new study, researchers found a compound given as a dietary supplement to overweight but otherwise healthy people in a clinical trial caused many of the patients to slim down.

They analyzed the effects of 24 weeks of daily, 600-milligram doses of lipoic acid supplements on 31 people, with a similarly sized control group receiving a placebo.

They found a loss in body weight and body fat in people taking lipoic acid supplements, particularly in women and in the heaviest participants.

The research was conducted by a team at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.

Produced by both plants and animals, lipoic acid sets up shop in cells’ mitochondria, where it’s normally attached to proteins involved in energy and amino acid metabolism.

A specialized, medium-chain fatty acid, it’s unique in having two sulfur atoms at one end of the chain, allowing for the transfer of electrons from other sources.

The body generally produces enough lipoic acid to supply the enzymes whose proper function requires it.

When taken as a dietary supplement, lipoic acid displays additional properties that might be unrelated to the function in the mitochondria.

They include the stimulation of glucose metabolism, antioxidant defenses, and anti-inflammatory responses—making it a possible complementary treatment for people with diabetes, heart disease, and age-related cognitive decline.

Previous studies have been researching the potential health benefits of lipoic acid supplements for decades, including how it might enhance healthy aging and mitigate heart disease.

They have demonstrated the beneficial effects of lipoic acid on oxidative stress, lipid metabolism, and circadian rhythm.

But many existing clinical studies using lipoic acid have focused on volunteers with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, making it difficult to determine if lipoic acid supplements simply act as a disease treatment or have other beneficial health effects.

Another issue is the formulation of the supplement. Many previous studies have used the S form of lipoic acid, which is a product of industrial synthesis and not found in nature.

Contrary to what was expected by the current researchers, decreased levels of triglycerides—a type of fat, or lipid, found in the blood—were not seen in all the participants taking lipoic acid.

The team says people who lost weight on lipoic acid also reduced their blood triglyceride levels—that effect was clear.

Other effects of the lipoic acid supplements were measurable as well.

The findings also suggest that lipoic acid supplementation provides a mild reduction in oxidative stress. It is not a perfect panacea, but the results show that lipoic acid supplements can be beneficial.

One author of the study is Balz Frei, the director emeritus of OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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