Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements May Help with

BACKGROUND: Burning-mouth syndrome is a type of chronic oral pain diagnosed in the absence of any other clinical disorder. Its symptoms leave the tongue, palate, and lips feeling as though they have been burned by a hot liquid. Burning-mouth syndrome tends to occur in postmenopausal women, and it has been assumed to be related to psychological factors. Recent research suggests that it may be caused by a little-understood form of neuropathy (nerve disease).

RESEARCH: In a double-blind study, researchers asked 42 women and 18 men, ages 22-68 years, to take either 200 mg of alpha-lipoic acid three times daily or placebos for two months. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that plays essential roles in the cellular production of energy, and supplements of alpha-lipoic acid have been used in Europe to treat diabetic neuropathy and radiation sickness.

RESULTS: Of the patients taking alpha-lipoic acid supplements, 87 percent had either a complete resolution or partial improvement in symptoms during the two-month study. None of those taking placebos had a complete resolution of symptoms, and only 40 percent had a significant improvement. One year later, 73 percent of the patients who had improved with alpha- lipoic acid maintained that improvement. In contrast, all of the patients who improved while taking placebos deteriorated over the course of a year.

IMPLICATIONS: The significant improvement in patients given alpha-lipoic acid suggests that burning-mouth syndrome is caused by a type of neuropathy and free radical damage, which can be ameliorated through supplements of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid.

Femiano F, Scully C., "Burning mouth syndrome (BMS): double blind controlled study of alpha-lipoic acid (thioctic acid) therapy," Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine, 2002;31:267-269.

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