Eating less and exercising more is often advised to those trying to lose weight.
However, these suggestions are often ineffective on their own, and people are unable to attain their goals.
Many people seek weight loss assistance from supplements due to this reason.
Natural fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) occur naturally in dairy products and meat.
Research shows it helps animals lose fat, but the evidence for human use is less promising.
In this article, we look at what CLA is and whether it can aid in weight loss.
What Is CLA?
Natural sources of conjugated linoleic acid include meat and dairy products. In grass-eating animals like cows, it is produced by the microbes in the first stomach (rumen), which digests carbohydrates. Due to this, it is abundant in grass-fed and finished animal products.
People who wish to burn body fat without sacrificing their lean muscle mass can use CLA as an effective tool. As a result, it’s a favourite among bodybuilders.
The fact that CLA is an omega-6 fatty acid raises concerns for some people. While omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation throughout the body, in excessive amounts and without adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids, they can also trigger or exacerbate certain health conditions.
To thrive and perform at its best, the body needs omega-6 fatty acids, including CLA. The body appears to use CLA as an omega-3 fatty acid, too. This has the effect of reducing inflammation.
CLA can be purchased on its own in capsule or liquid form. Despite its traditional usage as a weight-loss supplement, it can also be included in mass-gainer supplements because it can also help with the process of keeping muscle mass during a bulking phase.
Can CLA Help You Lose Weight?
The effects of CLA on fat loss in animals and humans have been studied in a number of high-quality studies.
Animals, however, have a much stronger fat-burning capacity than humans do.
CLA Supplement May Reduce Body Fat in Animals
Researchers have shown that CLA reduces body fat in animals by increasing the number of enzymes and proteins that break down fat.
The mice study found that CLA supplementation for six weeks resulted in a 70% reduction in body fat.
Test-tube studies and animal studies have also shown that CLA prevents fat gain.
According to a study in pigs, it reduced fat accumulation in a dose-dependent fashion. In other words, increased doses caused body fat to decrease.
Researchers tested its fat-burning effects in humans after these significant animal findings.
Only A Few Weight Loss Benefits Found In Human Studies
Researchers have found that CLA has only a modest weight loss benefit in humans.
The effects of CLA supplementation on weight loss were studied in 18 high-quality, human studies.
Comparatively to a placebo, supplementing with 3.2 grams per day led to an average weight loss of 0.11 pounds (0.05 kg) per week.
Despite the significance of these findings, this translates to less than half an ounce per month.
The effects of CLA on weight loss in humans have also been investigated in several other studies.
In one study, its long-term effectiveness was evaluated on overweight and obese participants.
As compared to placebo, taking 2.4–6 grams per day for 6–12 months reduced body fat by 2.93 lbs (1.33 kg).
Based on previous findings, the difference between a placebo and this treatment is relatively small.
Furthermore, studies have found that CLA has mixed effects on fat loss, even when combined with exercise.
In addition to potential side effects, current research suggests CLA has little effect on weight loss, both in the short- and long term.
I have also reviewed a lot of other weight loss supplements, if you are interested, you might check them out.
CLA Precautions and Side Effects
Taking conjugated linoleic acid supplements as prescribed is generally considered safe. However, some people may experience mild side effects, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, headache, and backache.
The liver metabolizes CLA primarily. A small percentage of people can experience liver toxicity from CLA (usually when they have underlying liver disease). Moreover, large doses can cause fat to accumulate in the liver, resulting in fatty liver disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Blood clotting may also be slowed by conjugated linoleic acid. The combination of a CLA supplement and an anticoagulant (“blood thinner”) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can further magnify this effect, causing easy bruising and bleeding.
The following drugs may interact with each other:
- Advil (ibuprofen)
- Aleve (naproxen)
- Advil (ibuprofen)
- Coumadin (warfarin)
- Fragmin (dalteparin)
- Lovenox (enoxaparin)
- Plavix (clopidogrel)
- Voltaren (diclofenac)
How To Use CLA Supplement
Supplements containing conjugated linoleic acid are typically shaped like gel caps and filled with sunflower or safflower oil.
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies CLA as GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) and typically prescribes between 3 and 6 grams each day. Larger doses may cause side effects.
Taking CLA with food produces the best results for most people. CLA can be better absorbed by the body when taken during or prior to a meal.
CLA supplements should provide you with an adequate dose of the fatty acids you’re hoping to consume. A serving of CLA should contain at least 3,000mg.
Ensure that the brand you’re buying from has a good reputation. Is the supplement tested to ensure purity and effectiveness? Is the company known for making safe, high-quality supplements?
CLA Supplement Alternative: Food Sources
The consumption of CLA from food has been shown to lower the risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Besides dairy products, it is also found in the meat of ruminants.
The concentration of CLA is generally expressed in milligrams per gram of fat.
The highest amounts are found in:
- Butter: 6.0 mg/g fat
- Lamb: 5.6 mg/g fat
- Mozzarella cheese: 4.9 mg/g fat
- Plain yoghurt: 4.8 mg/g fat
- Sour cream: 4.6 mg/g fat
- Cottage cheese: 4.5 mg/g fat
- Fresh ground beef: 4.3 mg/g fat
- Cheddar cheese: 3.6 mg/g fat
- Beef round: 2.9 mg/g fat
CLA content varies from season to season and from animal to animal.
The highest amount of CLA was found in August in samples collected from 13 commercial farms, while the lowest amount was found in March.
Similar to grass-fed cows, grain-fed cows produce more CLA.
Final Words: Should You Take CLA Supplements?
CLA is one of many fat-burning supplements that are ineffective according to research.
Despite its impressive fat-burning effects in animals, it doesn’t translate well to humans.
Furthermore, the small amount of fat loss that could be achieved with CLA is not enough to outweigh the risks associated with it.
Prior to taking CLA supplements, consider adding more CLA-rich foods to your diet, such as dairy products or grass-fed beef.