Understanding Different Forms of Lipoic Acid

Published on August 06, 2013 by Dr. Colin O'Brien

First let’s start by briefly discussing the benefits of using R-lipoic acid. It’s important to know that a sustained release lipoic acid formulation has a much different application versus an immediate release lipoic acid supplement, even though both are utilizing its highly potent antioxidant activity. In the simplest explanation, immediate release lipoic acid creates a sharp rise in blood levels and is therefore most useful for regulating blood sugars, managing weight and improving diabetic concerns. A sustained release (SR) lipoic acid, on the other hand, is beneficial for anti-aging support, mitochondrial health, neurological protection and optimal energy production.

It is also necessary to clarify that the R-form of lipoic acid (as opposed to the S-form) is the “active” form that is responsible for all of these health benefits. A supplement labeled only “Alpha Lipoic Acid” is typically a 50/50 blend of both forms, unless stated otherwise. In those circumstances, it essentially means that you are only getting 50% of the active ingredient. AOR avoids this confusion by providing a blend that is guaranteed to have a minimum 95% of R-lipoic acid in its formulations.

"Why did AOR discontinue its R+SR formulation and introduce the R+SR NAC product?" Well, quite simply, AOR saw the opportunity to make a better product in a more cost effective manner.  Previously, the ability to make an SR capsule was outsourced to another company (meaning that AOR did not actually encapsulate the lipoic acid in its manufacturing facilities). Now, AOR is capable of using the SR encapsulation technology in-house, thereby drastically reducing the costs of manufacturing, processing and quality control. This change reduced the cost enough to add a significant amount of N-Acteyl-Cysteine (NAC) into the new formula and not affect the overall cost of the new R+NAC SR bottle. The discontinued formula contained 60 capsules per bottle with 150mg of R+Lipoic Acid per capsule, while the new formula has 90 capsules per bottle and 100mg of R+Lipoic acid per capsule – PLUS the addition of 400mg of NAC per capsule. Essentially you get the same amount of R+SR per bottle with the addition of 36 grams of NAC!

NAC is a precursor to glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants found in our bodies. Together, R-lipoic acid and NAC act synergistically as ‘networking’ antioxidants, meaning that they help to maintain high levels of all antioxidants in the tissues. This leads to a greater protective effect, more youthful cells and more efficiently running mitochondria – all providing better results.

Otherwise, you can still rest assured that you are getting the exact same high quality ingredient and capsule dissolution as before. The new R+NAC SR formula is developed and proven to dissolve over an 8-hour period, the exact same dissolution time as the previous formulation of R+SR.

High-Dose vs. Low-Dose:

The difference between AOR’s R-Lipoic High Dose product and AOR’s ‘regular’ or lower dose R-lipoic acid is as simple as the names imply – each capsule contains a higher and lower dosage, respectively and comparatively. R-Lipoic High Dose contains 300mg R-Lipoic acid per capsule, whereas the R-Lipoic has 150mg per capsule.

The main advantage here is that fewer capsules of the High Dose formula are needed to achieve a therapeutic effect. For example, most research studies examining the benefits of lipoic acid in diabetic neuropathy and insulin resistance utilize anywhere from 1200mg-1800mg per day. As you can imagine, reaching these therapeutic levels with 150mg capsules forces you to ingest a high number of pills on a daily basis. If you are diabetic, R-lipoic High Dose is a great addition to AOR’s Ortho-Glucose II (a product that already contains a moderate amount of R-lipoic acid) with the addition of very few daily capsules. Speak with your physician for proper dosing of these products when used concomitantly and for appropriate monitoring of your health.

Lastly, the regular R-lipoic product provides a more flexible option for those wanting a more sustained, lower dose R+Lipoic Acid without the additional 400mg of NAC (i.e. for those supplementing with separate NAC products and not wanting to take even more NAC that is found in the R+NAC SR).

A few final notes on absorption and safety…

Lipoic acid is necessary for even those without disease. In fact, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends 200-400mg of Lipoic Acid per day for generally healthy individuals. For optimal benefit, lipoic acid appears to be best absorbed on an empty stomach (about 20% more lipoic acid is absorbed than if taken with food). Lipoic acid can also be considered extremely safe. Up to 1200 mg/day of lipoic acid has been supplemented orally for up to 2 years duration with no significant adverse effects. Moreover, an even higher oral dose of 1800 mg/day has been studied for 6 months and also found to be completely safe. So rest assured – a therapeutic dose of R-lipoic acid is safe and beneficial for many aspects of your health.

Have you had any experience with Lipoic Acid? Anything I may have missed? Leave a comment or question in the section below!

Image by © 2015 Chutima Chaochaiya via DollarPhotoClub


Ansar H, Mazloom Z, Kazemi F, Hejazi N.Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on blood glucose, insulin resistance and glutathione peroxidase of type 2 diabetic patients. Saudi Med J. 2011 Jun;32(6):584-8.

Hagen TM, Ingersoll RT, Lykkesfeldt J, Liu J, Wehr CM, Vinarsky V, Bartholomew JC, Ames AB.  (R)-alpha-lipoic acid-supplemented old rats have improved mitochondrial function, decreased oxidative damage, and increased metabolic rate.FASEB J 1999 Feb; 13(2): 411-8.

Linus Pauling Institute. www.lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/la/

Porasuphatana S, Suddee S, Nartnampong A, Konsil J, Harnwong B, Santaweesuk A. Glycemic and oxidative status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus following oral administration of alpha-lipoic acid: a randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled study.Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(1):12-21.

Streeper RS, Henriksen EJ, Jacob S, Hokama JY, Fogt DL, Tritschler HJ. “Differential effects of lipoic acid stereoisomers on glucose metabolism in insulin-resistant skeletal muscle.” Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul; 273(1 Pt 1): E185-91

  • Ken Stephens

    The 1200-1800 mg that has been shown in studies is with ALA, not RLA, which this product is and is more potent. There is evidence that it's not even a 2 to 1 ratio as the S form interferes with absorption of the R form. So 600 of this stuff would at least be equivalent to 1200, if not better.

    I love AOR products by the way and you do pay more but you get what you pay for.

    • Colin O'Brien

      Hi Ken,

      Thanks for your comment - you are correct that the research done utilizing 1200-1800mg/day was using a racemic mixture of alpha-lipoic acid (ie 50% R-Lipoic acid and 50% S-Lipoic acid). Moreover, yes, there is evidence showing that the S form can block the absorption of the R form - so RLA is much more potent than just 2x the dose of an ALA product. Another benefit, indeed, of R-Lipoic Acid!

      Dr. Colin

  • Cathy

    I'm confused! I take ALA for nerve pain caused by MS. I've been taking 1200 mg/day with meals (as suggested on the bottle of the brand I bought). Which of your products would be more beneficial to me and how many pills would I take a day, and I'm assuming split into 2 or 3 doses?

    • Colin

      Hi Cathy,

      The activity of your current supplement all depends on whether the 1200mg of Lipoic Acid is a blend of the R-form and the S-form, or simply the active R-form. For simplicity sake, the R-form is about twice as effective as the blended form of R+S.

      Lipoic Acid has generally been studied for peripheral neuropathy in diabetics (and to a lesser degree in chemotherapy patients) so it is difficult to extrapolate that information to Multiple Sclerosis. Based on the best available research for peripheral neuropathy in general, an R+S blend of 1200mg-1800mg/day (taken in divided doses - so 400-600mg 3 x/day) has been shown to be effective. Remembering that the R-form is about twice as active compared to the R+S blend, only 600-900mg/day of an R-lipoic acid supplement in divided doses would be necessary.

      Dr. Colin

  • Debra K

    I am inquiring about Alpha Lipoic acid
    Versus R-Lipoic Acid!! How much R-Lipoic Acid = 1,200 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid? Please Advise! Thank You!

    • Colin

      Hi Debra,

      Thanks for your question! Based on the best available evidence, 600mg of R-Lipoic acid is roughly the active equivalent of 1200mg Alpha-Lipoic acid.

      Truthfully, given the fact that some of the S-lipoic acid may actually be inhibiting the activity of R-lipoic acid, this 600mg amount may actually be more active than 1200mg of the blended Alpha form. For simplicity sake, we will say 600mg of the R-form is needed.

      Dr Colin

  • Nathalie Allaire

    I bought R lipoid acid 150 mg and see there is some s-lipoic acid in it! it says 7 mg per capsule. Why? if it inhibits the absorption of the R.

    Also is it sodium stabilized at 100% ?
    Thank you

    • Colin O'Brien

      Hello Nathalie,

      Thank you for your comment and we apologize for the delayed response. AOR's R Lipoic Acid is guaranteed to be greater than 95% R-form. It is next to impossible to have 100% R-LA but at 95% + R and less than 5% S, the absorption inhibition is extremely minimal.

      As for the second part of your question, yes the sodium stabilization is 99.9%.

      Kind regards,
      Dr. Colin

  • Indhira Lopez

    Hi, what about dosage for kids?

    Thank you

    • Colin O'Brien

      Hello Indhira,

      Thank you for your question. Dosage for children has not been established, however, there is one research study that safely used 400mg/day of a racemic mixture (ie both R-form and S-form) of Lipoic Acid for 4 weeks in children (average age 11.4 years old). The study is not freely accessible but the abstract/information is here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8224459

      It is recommended to consult a physician that can better advise a safe and effective Lipoic Acid dosage in children, depending on their health concerns, age and size.

      Kind regards,
      Dr. Colin