One of the most recent additions to the fad diet supplement craze is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA for short. This new comer hits the scene with all the usual hype and promises of easy weight loss with CLA with little or no effort on the dieters part beyond taking the daily supplement pill.
What is the real story? Does CLA have what it takes to make good on all the promises for weight loss splashed in internet headlines throughout cyber space; or will it fall flat like so many others before it? Worse yet does it work, but at the expense of healthy heart or body function elsewhere?
CLA is not a brand new discovery hearkening from the nothingness come to save the overweight and obese from themselves as some supplement marketers would have customers believe. First discovered in 1979 and identified categorically in 1987, CLA has been around for decades. Its first claim to fame was far from the weight loss arena, but no less important. The studies that drew CLA to the attention of researchers were related to its effect on cancer.
It has only been in recent history that CLA has made the jump to super cancer fighter to super weight loss tool. But what is it? The simple answer is that conjugated linoleic acid is a specific type of fatty acid found primarily in dairy products and beef. That’s right: milk does do a body good and beef is what’s for dinner.
CLA is causing quite a stir because as of yet it does seem to be doing exactly what it claims it will do. That is help users shed excess pounds while preserving muscle mass. A well designed double-blind placebo study conducted in 2000 (findings can be found in the December 2000 Journal of Nutrition) stated that a supplement of 3.4 g per day of CLA significantly boosts weight loss.
For those who don’t like the idea of popping pills CLA is readily found in foods most people eat every day. Milk and beef are great sources of CLA. It is also easy to get even more from these food sources by switching to grass fed, or naturally grazed animals rather than their grain fed fellows. Dairy and meat products from grass fed animals have CLA that are 3-4 times higher than the grain fed alternatives.
As exciting as this is, there is still a caution flag in place and for good reason. Studies have also found that CLA might have a negative effect on insulin sensitivity. The bottom line here might be that fans of CLA become skinny diabetics rather than overweight ones.
It is important to remember when answering the question of effectiveness is that the simple answer of yes or no is not always the most accurate. This is due to the continuing studies which as of yet have yielded results. Remember the population was still convinced of the world’s flat nature even after Columbus reached the Americas. New discoveries might explain why CLA seems to work, it might also debunk CLA entirely. For the time being CLA for weight loss does seem to help, but it is not without risks. It is important to talk to your doctor and proceed with cautious optimism.