Alpha lipoic acid, a fatty acid, exists in the body's cells and helps the cells to convert glucose, or sugar, into energy. People who have diabetes might benefit from taking alpha lipoic acid as a supplement because it helps lower blood sugar. The relationship between alpha lipoic acid and diabetes is so close that natural diabetes treatment might consist largely of alpha lipoic acid.
Diabetic neuropathy is a condition caused by diabetes in which certain nerves might lose their ability to send signals to their corresponding body systems. The result might be a loss of feeling, a feeling of "pins and needles" or a burning sensation. This is especially true of peripheral neuropathy, which is specifically a condition affecting the arms, legs, hands and feet. There is a relationship between alpha lipoic acid and diabetes when supplements containing the acid are used to help with diabetic nueropathy.
Alpha lipoic acid and diabetes also are related because the acid might also help with a diabetes-related condition called autonomic neuropathy, a disease of the nerves of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is a network of nerves that supply organs such as the heart. Autonomic neuropathy might not manifest itself as pain, but it can be very dangerous, especially because it can affect the heart.
As an antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid helps the body fight off free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the body burns oxygen, and they can do damage to the body through a process called oxidative stress. Scientists link free radicals with cancer, cataracts, heart problems and the natural damage that occurs in the body with aging.
It is also thought that high blood glucose levels play a role in the production of free radicals. Alpha lipoic acid helps to prevent damage done by free radicals while helping to lower blood sugar at the same time. Therefore, alpha lipoic acid ensures that the main effect of diabetes, high blood sugar, is treated while helping to address much of the damage associated with high blood sugar. This is another way that alpha lipoic acid and diabetes are related.