Conjugated Linoleic Acid: CLA
If you’re looking to reduce your body fat, the idea of purchasing CLA may have already crossed your mind. Before you go ahead and add this supplement to your basket, read this article to find out more about CLA and its many benefits.
You’ll find in this article:
What Is CLA
CLA has been gaining a lot of attention within the fitness industry and is a growing popularity amongst gym-goers, bodybuilders, and individuals looking to burn fat. You may have already heard of CLA, but you might be wondering what it is and how it’s connected to weight loss.
CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, belongs to the omega family of fatty acids. Specifically, CLA is a mixture of at least 28 positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid, which is an essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body alone and therefore must be consumed through the diet.
CLA has a series of functions within the body, whereby its consumption is required for normal food and energy metabolism and to achieve a healthy nutritional status. CLA can be found in common foods that come from animal products including meat and dairy, however, a large growth in interest in CLA supplements has recently emerged in relation to its weight loss and other health benefits.
1. CLA for Weight Loss and Increased Metabolic Rate
The main reason that CLA is so popular is its connection to weight loss.
It has been proposed that consuming CLA can help increase weight loss and decrease body fat through a series of biochemical reactions that act to increase the basal metabolic rate. Our basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy the body requires to function, whereby an increase in BMR means that more calories are burned for the body to function.
CLA is involved in a series of metabolic reactions that regulate fat tissue in the body. It is thought that through increasing BMR, CLA acts to alter the body fat to muscle ratio and increase energy expenditure.
CLA has been of nutritional and scientific interest over the past few decades. Initially, the effect of CLA was extensively studied within several different animal models, for example in a study by West et al. (1998), the effect of CLA on body fat and energy metabolism in mice was examined over 6 weeks. In this study, half of the mice were given a CLA whilst the other half did not receive CLA. After 6 weeks the study revealed CLA significantly reduced energy intake, growth rate and body fat mass, independent of diet composition. These findings demonstrate that CLA is likely to increase metabolic rate in mice, causing a reduction in body fat.
More recently, human studies have revealed the benefits of CLA supplementation. For example, a meta-analysis of 18 studies by Whigham et al. (2007), concluded that supplementing with 3.2g of CLA a day can act as an effective supplement for reducing fat mass.
The effect of CLA on weight loss has been seen particularly amongst overweight individuals. A study investigating long-term supplementation over 2 years in 134 people revealed that CLA can decrease body fat mass in overweight people and may actually help to maintain initial reductions in weight in the long run.
The effect of CLA in healthy exercising individuals was also analysed by Wadstein et al. (2001) in a double-blind randomised trial including healthy participants with a normal BMI and weight. The study showed that CLA may help to reduce body fat mass in healthy exercising individuals, which may make CLA a good supplement for those undertaking regular fitness regimes.
2. Enhanced muscle growth
Despite a decrease in body fat percentage, an overall decrease in weight is often not observed. This is because CLA has been shown to effectively increase muscle to fat ratio and act to enhance the growth of lean muscle mass. As muscles are metabolically active, an increase in muscle mass means the body burns more calories at rest.
3. Lowers cholesterol and blood glucose levels
There are also several other health benefits associated with this CLA supplementation. For example, CLA has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, reducing risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. For example, Kritchevsky et al. (1994) found that supplementation with 0.5g per day of CLA in rabbits caused a significant reduction in both LDL and total cholesterol, and an examination of the rabbit’s heart showed lower levels of atherosclerosis when compared to rabbits who did not receive CLA treatment.
A meta-analysis in humans by Brown et al. (2003) also concluded that because CLA may increase the use of stored fat as energy, it can also help to prevent heart disease and act as an antioxidant through isomer specific mechanisms to lower blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. CLA is therefore thought to have anti-diabetic properties including improving insulin sensitivity, based on reductions in fasting glucose and insulin levels.
4. Supports the immune system
When dieting and exercising regularly, the body can become run down and become more susceptible to illnesses. However, supplementing with CLA may help to boost the immune system. In several studies, CLA has been shown to increase immune system response and may also act to prevent catabolic (tissue breakdown) effects of the immune system during times of illness.
CLA Side Effects
To date, there have been no harmful reported side effects of CLA supplementation. In extremely rare cases, supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid may cause nausea or an upset stomach, however, these effects are likely to be diminished when CLA is consumed with meals.
Sources of CLA
CLA can be found in a number of commonly consumed foods. In particular, animal products including meat and dairy products.
However, in order to achieve all the benefits of CLA, the amount consumed through diet alone isn’t always enough. CLA tablets and capsules can be added to your diet plan and training regime.
|Food||mg of CLA per gram of fat|
Fresh Ground Beef
When to Take CLA Tablets and How Much
There are various dosages of CLA recommended. In order to help reduce body fat, between 1.8 to 7g of CLA is recommended daily. For optimum results, we recommend 2 soft gels to be taken with meals 1 to 3 times daily.
Take Home Message
Consuming CLA does not guarantee weight loss, however, when combined with a good diet and exercise regime, CLA may act to effectively reduce body fat while supporting the growth of lean muscle mass. You can consume CLA though several dietary sources, however, if you’re unsure about your CLA intake or if you’re exercising intensely, a CLA supplement may help aid your fat loss goals.