November 2002 news from the scientific press, summarized by Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D

A report was recently published of a preliminary study of the potential for á- lipoic acid to improve recovery from anosmia/hyposmia following infections of the upper respiratory tract. This compound was investigated due to its activity as an antioxidant and its ability to promote the release of nerve growth factor, an important substance in the development and differentiation of many types of nerve cells.

23 patients were tested for olfactory ability and given a 600 mg/day oral dose of á-lipoic acid. Treatment lasted from 3 – 14 months and patients were only tested at the beginning and end of treatment.

14 patients experienced moderate or dramatic improvement in their sense of smell, 7 were unaffected and 2 experienced a worsening of their olfactory perception. Fewer subjects reported olfactory distortions (“parosmia”) at the end of the treatment period than at the beginning (22% vs. 48%).

The study was not blinded (both the patients and the experimenters knew the patients were being treated) nor did it have a control (untreated) group for comparison. In addition, no information is provided about whether the patients’ olfactory losses returned following cessation of the treatment.

However, there were no side effects noted and the possibility that á-lipoic acid or other agents with similar cellular actions may help recovery from conditions that cause olfactory loss warrants further controlled study.

From: Hummel T, Heilmann S, Huttenbriuk KB. “Lipoic Acid in the treatment of smell dysfunction following viral infection of the upper respiratory tract.” Laryngoscope 2002 Nov;112(11):2076-80.

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