Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in meat and dairy that is believed to have various health benefits including weight loss. The formulation of our fatty acid molecule allows the supplement to contain types of beneficial CLA you cannot acquire through natural foods. For this reason, CLA supplements provide a wider range of health benefits.
The biological activity of CLA was first discovered by researchers who noted that it could help fight cancer in mice. Later, other researchers determined the dietary benefits that would reduce body fat levels.
As obesity has increased worldwide, interest in this solution skyrockets –raising the number of sales steadily. Buyers continue to purchase as improvements to body composition show by not only reducing body fat, but also aiding in increased muscle mass.
WebMD interviews Jean-Michel Gaullier, PhD, with the Scandinavian Clinical Research Group, lead a study on conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) as a contender for the weight-loss miracle pill. One group of overweight women lost 9% body fat in one year’s time. Not bad, since they didn’t change their lifestyle or eating habits. This study appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
CLA comes in varying concentrations. Gaullier says, be sure to buy a product containing 80% CLA to get maximum weight-loss results. In small studies involving animals, CLA has been shown to prevent heart disease and several types of cancer, he continues, it also appears to enhance the immune system.
Gaullier’s study involved 180 overweight men and women, all between 25 and 30 BMI (body mass index). A BMI –an indicator of body fat– over 25 has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other medical problems, such as diabetes. The volunteers were mostly female –149 women and 31 men.
They were randomly assigned to three groups. The two groups taking CLA got either the typical off-the-shelf pills (4.5 grams of 80% CLA) daily or the syrup formulation (3.6 grams of 76% CLA disguised in a capsule) daily. The third group took a placebo capsule filled with olive oil daily.
Volunteers were not required to change their diet or exercise habits. However, a nurse did give dietary and exercise advice upon request. Daily calorie intake was similar among the three groups; all volunteers reduced their calorie intake a little during the study, he reports. All got about the same amount of exercise.
“This strongly suggests that the observed effects of CLA on body composition were independent of diet,” he writes. The decreased calorie intake may be partly due to the supplements and/or a reduced appetite.
Several times during the 12-month study period, volunteers came to a clinic to have their weight, BMI, and blood checked. They also completed questionnaires on their diet and exercise in the previous two weeks.
At the end of one year, both CLA groups lost weight while the placebo group stayed the same. The CLA syrup group had a 9% body fat loss; the CLA pill group had 7% loss; the placebo group had no body fat loss. Both CLA groups had similar improvements in muscle mass. Few volunteers dropped out of the study, indicating that the CLA supplements had no bothersome side effects, reports Gaullier.
“The results of this study corroborate and expand on the findings of the previous short-term studies,” he writes.
Notably, people ingesting a fair quantity of CLA are at a lower risk of various diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and are at lower risk of heart disease.