CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid): In-Depth Review And Buyers’ Guide

Weight loss is undoubtedly one of the most common health related goals of our generation. With the massive increases in sedentary activity that have occurred over the last 30 years, weight gain has increased exponentially.

And although most of us have a pretty good idea of what to do to promote weight loss, it isn’t always as straightforward (or as it easy!) as it sounds. For most of us this means starting a thorough exercise regime, and making large dietary changes.

Though even then, weight loss is no sure thing.

Fortunately there has been a huge investment into supplements that, when consumed correctly, can promote additional fat loss. These supplements subsequently make your weight loss journey not only easier, but also more enjoyable.

Now, it is important to be aware that there are a number of supplements on the market that are questionable at best. As such it is integral to check the evidence, and make sure that the weight loss supplements you consume have scientific research to validate their consumption, and support their weight loss effects.

One such supplement that has recently been receiving a huge amount of support from the scientific community is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (or CLA for short). CLA is a specific mix of fatty acid molecules that are known to provide a number of health benefits, while also influencing weight loss.

What is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

Now, it may sound odd to recommend eating more fat to lose fat, but bear with me for a second. You see, not all fats are same. While some are only used to provide the body with energy (it is the overconsumption of these fats that can lead to weight gain), there are others that have a number of health boosting effects. CLA belongs to this second group.

CLA occurs naturally in beef and dairy products, and is gradually becoming one of the most well-known weight loss supplements on the planet [1].

CLA is a type of Linoleic Acid (hence the name, Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which is technically categorised as a type of polyunsaturated fat (rather than a monounsaturated fat or a saturated fat).

Now, Linoleic acids are an Omega-6 fatty acids that commonly occur in many foods of the western diet. They are most commonly found in vegetable oils, although do appear in number of other foods such as nuts, eggs, and condiments such as mayonnaise.

If we take a closer look at the chemical structure of normal Linoleic acids (in the image below), they are 18 carbons in long, and contain 2 double bonds (indicated by the two bonds with extra lines).
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) Structures

The difference between regular linoleic acid and conjugated linoleic acid is related to the positioning of these bonds (in fact, the word conjugated is related to the organization of these 2 bonds in various chemical compounds).

In the image above (where the top compound is normal Linoleic Acid, and the two below are CLA), we can see that, although the compounds do undoubtedly look similar, the location of their double bond is slightly different [2]. And while this may seem a fairly insignificant variation to us, at a cellular level, it can make a huge difference.

So, to try and put it simply: CLA is a type of linoleic acid that has uniquely placed carbon bonds.  Because of the placement of these bonds, it interacts with the body differently at a cellular level than regular linoleic acid does.

CLA and Diet

As mentioned above, CLA is commonly found in many foods that we consume on a regular basis. While this is most often in the form of beef, dairy products, eggs, and nuts, they can also be found in meat coming from both goat and sheep.

Interestingly, the amount of CLA found in these products does vary significantly, and appears to be dependent on what those animals consumed within their lifetimes. For example, CLA generally appears in much higher concentrations in animals that were grass fed throughout the duration of their lifetime, as opposed to their grain fed counterparts [3].

So when discussing CLA content specifically, grass fed meat does actually have some benefit over cheaper, grain fed alternatives.

As CLA is naturally occurring within the foods we eat, we do undoubtedly consume some on a day to day basis. But, as our western diet tends to be somewhat low in animal based products (and when we do consume those products, they tend to be grain fed), the amount we consume daily is typically very low.

It appears to be for this reason that the supplementation of CLA has been demonstrated to have so many positive effects on health – because as we do not consume much CLA from our regular diet, we are inherently deficient in CLA. As such, additional CLA consumption (eliminating this CLA deficiently) leads to large health and weight related benefits.

Now a little bit of a disclaimer. The CLA provided in supplement form is marginally different from the CLA found naturally occurring in animal and dairy based products. Supplement based CLSA is extracted from safflower and sunflower oils, rather than animal and dairy products. As a result, increasing our daily intake of CLA through supplementation is not quite as effective as if we were to increasing our daily intake through more natural dietary means – but it is unquestionably a more convenient, and much cheaper, alternative.

Supplementing with CLA to promote weight loss

So, as mentioned previously, the supplementation of CLA has been known to have a number of positive benefits – one of which is its impact on weight loss. And if we take a closer look at the scientific literature, it becomes apparent that CLA is one of the most heavily researched weight loss supplements on the planet – which is an extremely positive thing.

This research allow us to determine whether the supplementation of CLA is in fact beneficial for weight loss, and as such recommend its consumption.

There was a large amount of animal research first demonstrating the positive effects of CLA supplementation on weight loss well prior to any human studies were performed. As a result, many people within the health and fitness community were already taking CLA as a way to promote weight loss, despite a lack of human based research.

Fortunately, the first of these studies looking at the effect of CLA supplementation on weight loss was extremely positive, reinforcing its place as an effective weight loss supplement within the health and fitness industry.

This first study looked at the effect of a 12 week intervention, in which one group of overweight adults received 3400 mg of CLA per day, while another group of overweight adults received nothing (the control group). After the 12 weeks had finished, the group receiving the supplementation had seen significant reductions in fat mass, and actually increased their muscle mass – without performing any exercise at all. The control group stayed exactly the same [4].

This suggests that the supplementation of CLA may improve our capacity to use fat for energy, while also stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue – irrespective of exercise. It would therefore be fair to assume that when combined with exercise, the supplementation of CLA would further increase the rate of fat loss and muscle gain.

After this first study, many more human trials were performed, which demonstrated extremely similar results. Most of which showed that the supplementation of CLA does indeed cause both reductions in body fat and increases in lean muscle mass as well [5, 6].

Now this in itself is extremely impressive. The fact that CLA supplementation has shown to cause reductions in fat mass without an exercise intervention already makes it a much better option than many other weight loss supplements on the market today.

It is important to note that further research has suggested that the supplementation of CLA may be only beneficial for up to 6 months at a time, from which it then begins to lose its effectiveness [7].  This suggests that when supplementing with CLA, it should cycled to ensure the body does not ‘adapt’ to its increased consumption.

This could mean supplementing with CLA for 40 days straight, and then taking 2 weeks off. This cycle could then be repeated indefinitely, without the fear of becoming accustomed to the increased dosage of CLA (which will allow it to remain effective).

Supplementing with CLA for health

While the effects of CLA supplementation on weight loss are becoming quite obvious, it is important to remember that it also impacts other markers of health positively.

People who consume diets higher in grass fed meat are known to be less likely to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and immune system disorders. Obviously these same people tend to show reduced incidence of obesity (which makes sense considering the impact of CLA on weight loss) [8]

Moreover, the increased consumption of CLA has shown extremely strong associations with reduced incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer [8, 9, 10], suggesting that the supplementation of CLA can stave off chronic disease and illness.

By supplementing with CLA we can not only improve weight loss, but also improve our general health considerably. Also considering the known affects that exercise has on lowering risk factors associated with disease and illness, combining CLA supplementation with regular exercise is likely to go an extremely long way to improve overall health and wellbeing.

Supplementing With CLA + Associated Side Effects

Now, while CLA is arguably on the most effective weight loss supplements available on the market, it does come with some potential downfalls – although thankfully these downfalls are completely avoidable when supplementing correctly.

The over consumption of CLA molecules (so if we supplement with too higher dose!) have been shown associations with increased fat deposition of the liver, increases in inflammation, and an increased resistance to insulin. When combined, these negative effects can actually lead to an increased risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

These side effects appear only to occur when consuming more than 6000mg of CLA each day [7]. Considering that 3000mg per day is more than enough to stimulate weight loss, this is not something that needs to be worried about.

It should be perfectly safe to supplement between 3000mg and 5000 mg of CLA per day – this dosage will guarantee the positive effects associated with increased CLA supplementation without any negative side effects.

Lipotropic CLA

Now, while the supplementation of CLA is shown to have a heap of positive effects, you want to ensure that your CLA supplement is of an extremely high quality.  This will guarantee that you receive all of the benefits, and none of the negative side effects.

Our Lipotropic CLA uses extremely high quality CLA which was extracted from pure safflower oil. This eliminates the risk of impurities associated with CLA extracted from oils of a lesser quality seeping into the supplement.

Furthermore, Lipotropic CLA provides an optimal daily dosage of 3750mg, which is more than enough to receive both the weight loss and health benefits, while eliminating the need to worry about any nasty side effects.

Summary

The supplementation of CLA has been shown to improve various markers of health, while also promoting the breakdown of fat (thus increasing weight loss) and the development of new muscle tissue – irrespective of exercise.

As such it is highly likely that when combined with exercise, these positive effects associated with CLA supplementation will be further increased.

Optimal dosage of CLA appears to be between 3000mg and 6000mg per day. This ensures that you will see the positive effects associated with CLA supplementation, without incurring any negative side effects.

Our Lipotropic CLA combines optimal dosage with high quality CLA to provide an extremely superior product that will both improve health, and help you achieve your weight loss goals.

References

Pariza, Michael W. “Perspective on the safety and effectiveness of conjugated linoleic acid.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.6 (2004): 1132S-1136S. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159246

Banni, Sebastiano. “Conjugated linoleic acid metabolism.” Current opinion in lipidology 13.3 (2002): 261-266. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12045395

Dhiman, T. R., et al. “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” Journal of Dairy Science 82.10 (1999): 2146-2156. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10531600

Blankson, Henrietta, et al. “Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat mass in overweight and obese humans.” The Journal of nutrition 130.12 (2000): 2943-2948. Viewed at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/12/2943.short

Watras, A. C., et al. “The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain.” International journal of obesity 31.3 (2007): 481-487. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16924272

Chen, Shu-Chiun, et al. “Effect of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation on weight loss and body fat composition in a Chinese population.” Nutrition28.5 (2012): 559-565. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22261578

Whigham, Leah D., Abigail C. Watras, and Dale A. Schoeller. “Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans.”The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85.5 (2007): 1203-1211. Viewed at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1203.long

Heinze, Verónica M., and Adriana B. Actis. “Dietary conjugated linoleic acid and long-chain n-3 fatty acids in mammary and prostate cancer protection: a review.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 63.1 (2012): 66-78. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21762028

Castro-Webb, Nelsy, Edward A. Ruiz-Narváez, and Hannia Campos. “Cross-sectional study of conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of diabetes.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 96.1 (2012): 175-181. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22648724

Smit, Liesbeth A., Ana Baylin, and Hannia Campos. “Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 92.1 (2010): 34-40. Viewed at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/1/34

J. Hudson


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