CLA is a weight loss product that primarily works as an appetite suppressant, but also helps to increase fat loss. The product claims to provide the ultimate weight loss solution without the need to give up your favorite foods. But does CLA offer results quickly enough to encourage users to keep taking the supplement?
Some studies indicate that clinically significant weight loss was only achieved after one to two years of continuous use. Our research team carefully analyzed the studies to determine whether clinical data support claims made by CLA. This is what we found.
CLA Video Review
What is CLA?
CLA is an acronym for conjugated linoleic acid that is derived from linoleic acid. CLA is becoming a very popular dietary supplement for its alleged weight-loss and weight-management properties.
CLA is said also to help retain lean muscle mass.
CLA refers to a group of chemicals found in linoleic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid found in food products, such as dairy products and beef, produced from ruminant animals, like cows, sheep, and members of the deer family that consume grass.
Linoleic acid is classified as one of the Omega-6 fatty acids. While all of the omega-6 fatty acids are found in foods, CLA supplements are designed to increase linoleic acid intake.
CLA was discovered accidentally by Michael Pariza, Ph.D. and his research team in 1980 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while investigating the carcinogenic properties of grilled beef.
As a dietary supplement, CLA is produced by a number of manufacturers and sold as a pill, powder or syrup.
Linoleic acid is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and a natural type of trans fat found in some foods. Natural trans fats have been part of the human diet ever since people began consuming the food products of ruminant animals. While every study done has shown artificially produced trans fats to be harmful, natural trans in animal foods have shown health producing properties, namely from linoleic acid.
There are three types of fats in the human diet: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated.
High levels of saturated fats in the diet, which typically come from animal-sourced food products, have been linked to numerous health issues.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that come from vegetable sources are regarded as healthy fats. Vegetable oils also typically have high amounts of linoleic acids.
For comparison, artificially produced trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are formed by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils, which are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The hydrogenated process turns the oils into a solid form that is stable at room temperature. This process changes the healthy fats into highly unhealthy trans fats.
However, natural ruminant trans fats are formed when the good bacteria in the animal’s stomach digests grass, and linoleic acid is formed in the process.
Natural trans fats typically make up about five percent of the total fat in dairy products and roughly six percent of the total fat in ruminant meat products.
In most CLA supplements, ingredients like Gelatin and vegetable glycerin are added as stabilization and carrier agents.
The ingredients in a CLA supplement should contain at least 75 percent CLA for maximum benefit.
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Does CLA Work?
When asking “does the product work?” clinical studies have shown there is a connection between conjugated linoleic acid and weight reduction.
Multiple studies have looked at the relationship between body composition and CLA, particularly body fat vs. lean body mass.
From dietary sources, the average CLA intake by humans is estimated at between 130 and 440mg per day.
Researchers at the Scandinavian Clinical Research Group published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found solid evidence of the effects of CLA on body composition. One group of overweight women lost almost 10 percent of their body fat in one year with no changes to their lifestyle or eating habits while taking CLA.
Conclusions at the end of a one year study included:
- Both experimental groups lost about four pounds of weight whereas the weight of the subject in the placebo group remained the same.
- The experimental group that was given the CLA syrup experienced a nine-percent fat loss and the experimental CLA pill group achieved a seven-percent fat loss. The control given the olive oil placebo saw no fat loss.
- Both of the experimental CLA groups had similar gains in lean tissue, or muscle, mass.
The outcomes from all these studies strongly suggest that CLA may have a long-term effect on the maintenance of body fat and lean tissue. Additionally, CLA may be helpful in preventing the weight regain frequently associated with the “yo-yo” weight-loss and weight-gain cycle seen with most diet plans.
As far as answering “Does the product work?” outside of clinical settings, antidotal reports and reviews from users seem to be mixed. Most users review feedback from the people who have used the product for more than a few weeks tends to give positive reviews.
User review feedback that was negative most typically came from people who only took CLA supplements for periods that were typically shorter than those in studies.
CLA has been shown to have many possible pros when it comes to health benefits. When taken as a dietary supplement, CLA has been shown to result in reducing body fat.
Other uses and benefits of CLA supplements include:
- Taken by itself or combined with a fat burning supplement, CLA is often used by athletes on a strict diet and exercise routine.
- Unlike a calorie restricted diet, CLA may help you lose a significant amount of weight, while at the same time maintaining or even increasing lean body mass without feeling hungry.
- CLA works by breaking down the fatty acid bonds in the body while slightly increasing metabolic rate.
- Building muscle is another area CLA has shown promise in. While the amount of lean muscle mass gained by CLA study participants has so far proven to be minimal, the more lean muscle mass the body has, the more efficient the metabolic rate will be, accounting for increased fat loss over time.
- When combined with proper healthy diet, taking CLA supplements on an ongoing basis may help to maintain a leaner build.
Details on CLA and Weight Loss
The mechanics by which conjugated linoleic acid decreases body fat mass and increases lean tissue are not completely understood. Theories include CLA possibly triggering fat cells, the shrinking of fat cells or possibly speeding up metabolism.
There are several pros associated with taking CLA for both weight loss and other health-related reasons.
While long-term studies have shown significant potential for CLA as a weight-loss supplement, many smaller short-term studies have had contradictory results. This would seem to indicate that one of the cons of CLA supplementation is it may not be used for short-term or quick weight-loss use, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
How to Use CLA
CLA supplements are available in capsules, powder and syrup form. For reducing body fat, a dosage of between 2 and 7 grams per day is recommended.
When taken in capsule form, two capsules should be taken with meals. Directions on the bottle should be followed when taking CLA syrup or powder.
According to user reports, CLA syrup and powder has a pleasant taste; however, the capsule will impart a very bitter flavor if broken open and added to food.
CLA Product Warnings
The following cautions are associated with taking CLA supplements:
- There is not enough evidence to support long-term use being safe for children.
- Caution and avoid use during pregnancy and lactation as there is not enough evidence to know whether high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid is safe for fetuses and infants.
CLA Side Effects
Other cons associated with taking CLA supplements can include negative side effects reported by some users.
The CLA in most supplements is not the same as the conjugated linoleic acid found naturally in foods. Several studies have shown some disturbing negative effects from taking CLA supplements, such as:
- Stomach pain
However, it should be pointed out that few subjects dropped out of the clinical studies, possibly indicating that the supplements had no troublesome side effects.
Is CLA a Scam?
In evaluating the research, there seems to be adequate evidence to suggest that CLA supplements are not a scam and work as promoted.
Taking a CLA supplement may not guarantee success in losing weight, especially in the short term.
However, when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise studies show CLA may help to reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass effectively.
As there is a broad range of manufacturers, the price for CLA supplements can vary widely based on the type and amount of supplement purchased.
For example, the price for a 100 capsule bottle can be purchased for as little $8 and 1,000 capsule bottles for $150.
This would bring the cost of CLA supplements to as little as .08 per capsule, or less than .50 per day.
Where Can You Buy CLA?
CLA supplements are available from stores, including Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, GNC and many others.
Places where can you buy a product online include Amazon, Walmart.com and direct from many dietary supplement companies that maintain a web presence.
There are essentially no alternatives to conjugated linoleic acid supplements, other than consuming foods with the natural form of the compound.
Because linoleic acid is found naturally in many foods, supplemental CLA may not be necessary for many people. Here are the top 24 foods along with the linoleic acid content in milligrams per gram of fat:
- Grass-fed beef (4 oz) 433
- Cheese, from grass-fed cow milk (1 oz) 180 to 270
- Whole milk, from grass fed cows* (8 oz) 160 to 240
- Lamb (4 oz) 148
- Whole milk (8 oz) 44
- Buttermilk (8 oz) 44
- Processed cheeses, average (1 oz) 43
- Plain yogurt (6 oz container) 26
- Butter (1 tbsp) 54
- Sour cream (1 tbsp) 11
- Cottage cheese (4 oz) 22
- Low-fat yogurt (6 oz container) 12
- Fresh ground beef, from regular cows (4 oz) 71
- Cheddar cheese (1 oz) 39
- Two percent milk (8 oz) 20
- Ice cream (1/2 cup) 26
- Veal (4 oz) 40
- Fresh ground turkey (4 oz) 23
- Chicken (4 oz) 8
- Safflower oil (1 tbsp) 3
- Egg yolk (1 large) 3
- Pork (4 oz) 6
- Sunflower oil (1 tbsp) 2
- Salmon (3 oz) 1
“CLA curbed my appetite and provided additional energy when working out. Plus, helped me lose a few lbs in 2 weeks.”
“CLA is one of those supplements you take without ever knowing if they really work. However, I’ve been taking these without any issues and am a strong believer that with consistency, they will help me on my weight loss journey. The pills are a standard size and can be taken with or without meals.”
“I initially purchased these for weight loss because I’ve seen many videos that CLA supplements help with it. However, though initially it helps with initial weight loss, you plateau after a while and CLA causes inflammation. Therefore, I decided not to take these for my own good after a day. Please do your research before purchasing!”
The Bottom Line on CLA
So, should you run out and buy a CLA supplement? Well, first off, we like that this is a natural fatty acid that helps promote heart health and lean body composition. On the other hand, studies have shown that this ingredient does not decrease body weight or BMI. Also, we’re concerned about some of the negative user comments posted online regarding side effects and no weight-loss results.
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