One of the most recent additions to the fad diet supplement craze is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA for short. This newcomer 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?
What is CLA?
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 from 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.
Does It Work?
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.
Recent Research On CLA and Weight Loss
Unfortunately for those hoping for a miracle weight loss cure, recent research has not been promising. While research has shown that CLA can help with weight loss, it does so by reducing subcutaneous fat instead of fat around organs, which is the most damaging to one's health. In addition, high CLA consumption has potentially been linked to issues with the liver.
That doesn't mean that CLA is entirely off the table as a weight loss supplement, but it does mean that you shouldn't be relying on it as your sole tool. There isn't one miracle supplement or food that will magically make you lose weight. Losing weight often takes a complete shift in diet and exercise, especially if you want to lose a significant amount.
Eating a lot of CLA can potentially cause some side effects. Some research has linked CLA consumption to nausea, diarrhea, bloating, headaches, and skin rashes. This research also suggested that some people may be more tolerant to CLA and less likely to experience these potential side effects.
Ultimately, it is important to talk to your doctor or to a nutritional specialist before making any decisions about your diet. These professionals will always have the answers for you, about CLA or any other weight loss aid you're curious about. Make sure to always practice due diligence when it comes to your health, and never make any firm decisions without consulting a medical professional.