Facts About CLA Weight Loss Results

Is CLA Worth It If You're Trying to Lose Weight?

Conjugated Linoleic Acid
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Conjugated linoleic acid, also known as CLA, is a supplement that some dieters take to lose weight faster. It's a common ingredient in many weight loss aids that you see advertised online and in stores. But is CLA worth taking if your goal is to slim down? Before you open your wallet to pay for the pills, you should learn more about CLA weight loss benefits and drawbacks.

CLA for Weight Loss

Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid.

Essential fatty acids are fats that your body needs for good health, but since your body doesn’t make them you need to get them from the food you eat.  Common sources of linoleic acid include beef and dairy products.  

But what if you’ve cut back on beef and dairy as a part of your diet? According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, there is no evidence that you need to take a conjugated linoleic acid supplement for good health even if you don't get enough from the food you eat.  But what about taking it for weight loss?

CLA Weight Loss Results in Clinical Studies

Many ads for CLA supplements say that there is scientific proof that conjugated linoleic acid helps you burn body fat and slim down. The ads aren’t necessarily incorrect.  But the sources usually don’t tell you how much you’ll lose. And that’s where things get tricky.

There have been some very promising studies indicating that CLA can improve body composition and weight loss.

  But many of the early studies were done on mice.  When researchers tried the same experiments on people, the results were not as clear. 

In the studies that demonstrated weight loss in humans, the amount of weight lost with CLA is usually fairly small.  For example, a study done in China demonstrated that over a 12-week period, people taking CLA lost about one pound more than those not taking CLA.

That’s less than a tenth of a pound per week. The decrease in body fat percent was very small as well. People taking a CLA supplement saw a decrease in body fat that was less than a half percentage point lower than those not taking the pill.

Other studies had similar results. In another recent report, researchers evaluated the results from eighteen studies where participants took the supplement for a longer period of time (6 months to 2 years).  The scientists reported that on average, the people who took a CLA supplement lost more fat than those not taking CLA, but the amount averaged less than a quarter of a pound per week.  

There are also many studies that demonstrate no weight loss and no fat loss in human participants.

How Much Does CLA Cost?

As with most diet pills and supplements, you’ll find a wide range of prices for conjugated linoleic acid supplements.  You’ll see 90-pill bottles for as little as $15 online.  But you’ll also see similarly sized bottles of popular brands for $50 or more.

To calculate the total cost of taking CLA, make sure you take dosage into account.  For example, many pills contain 1 gram or less of CLA per pill.  Since the standard dose is 3.4 grams per day, you have to plan to take 3 pills per day.  So a 90-pill bottle will last one month.  If you buy the more expensive supplement, your total cost per year could be as high as $600.

CLA Side Effects and Risks

According to several medical sources, there are risks associated with taking these diet pills.  Both NYU and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center report that taking a conjugated linoleic acid supplement may increase insulin resistance. This could be a concern for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.  They also report some people taking CLA supplements experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol.  HDL is what we refer to as “good” cholesterol, so a decrease in HDL is not a good thing.

Is CLA Worth It?

Whether or not you take a conjugated linoleic acid supplement is up to you. But make sure you understand the real facts before you buy.  There is a possibility that conjugated linoleic acid will help you lose weight, but there is also a chance that it will make no noticeable difference at all.  Always talk to your doctor first to make sure the pill is safe for you, then make a decision based on the facts.

Sources:

Allison Dilzer, Yeonhwa Park. "Implication of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) in Human Health." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition Volume 52, Issue 6, 2012

Arion Kennedy, Kristina Martinez, Soren Schmidt, Susanne Mandrup, Kathleen LaPoint, Michael McIntosh. "Antiobesity mechanisms of action of conjugated linoleic acid." The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Agust 2009.

gho J. Onakpoya, Paul P. Posadzki, Leala K. Watson, Lucy A. Davies, Edzard Ernst. "The efficacy of long-term conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplementation on body composition in overweight and obese individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials." European Journal of Nutrition March 2012.

Shama V. Joseph, Hélène Jacques, Mélanie Plourde, Patricia L. Mitchell, Roger S. McLeod, Peter J. H. Jones. "Conjugated Linoleic Acid Supplementation for 8 Weeks Does Not Affect Body Composition, Lipid Profile, or Safety Biomarkers in Overweight, Hyperlipidemic Men." The Journal of Nutrition May 18, 2011.

Smedman A, Vessby B. "Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation in humans--metabolic effects." Lipids August 2001.

Wahle KW, Heys SD, Rotondo D. "Conjugated linoleic acids: are they beneficial or detrimental to health?." Progress in Lipid Research November 2004.

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