Conjugated Linoleic Acid…Wait, What?

In the world of weight loss, there are tons of supplements, diets, workout tools, and tricks to help you lose weight fast. Unfortunately for most of them, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But one supplement that is becoming more and more popular in weight loss, specifically from your thoracic (stomach) region, is Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA for short.

CLA is a collection of chemicals that can be in the fatty acid linoleic acid. The bulk of CLA’s in a human diet can be found in meat and dairy products, however plant sources are available as well. One of biggest sources of CLA’s is in supplement form, and this is where more and more people are turning to increase their intake. It is quick, easy, convenient, and virtually calorie free.

CLA plays a major role in lipid metabolism, which helps explain its potential beneficial effects on fat loss. Other benefits of CLA may include anticarcinogenic, improved insulin resistance, reduced blood glucose, and others (Lehnen, 2015). However, as stated, the benefit that most people want is the reduction of fat deposits around the mid section. This is why more and more people are turning to CLA’s to help aid their weight loss journey. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition performed a meta-analysis of 18 weight loss studies using CLA’s. Some studies were performed on rats and mice, while others were in humans. Because of this, there were some mixed results, however they concluded that a daily dose of 3.2 grams produced a modest loss in body fat in humans (Whigham, 2007).

As with all supplements and pills, there were some potential adverse effects reported as well. A second study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition cited several potential adverse effects. Many of these adverse affects were seen in rats, but they included increased probability of developing insulin resistance, increased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and alterations in glucose metabolism (Lehnen, 2015). As with anything, always talk to your doctor before starting a supplement routine.

For someone looking to increase their intake of CLA’s there are several areas you can turn. Many supplements you find will have CLA’s derived from Safflower oil. Look to get 2000-3000 mg/day. Other natural sources include grass fed meats and poultry, dairy, butter and eggs. It is very important to ensure your meat is grass-fed to ensure the highest density of CLA’s.

So if you think CLA’s may beneficial for you, proceed with caution, and always talk to your doctor first. And remember, a supplement is just that. A supplement to an already healthy and well balanced diet and exercise plan.


Lehnen, T. E., da Silva, M. R., Camacho, A., Marcadenti, A., & Lehnen, A. M. (2015). A review on effects of conjugated linoleic fatty acid (CLA) upon body composition and energetic metabolism. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 1.

Whigham, L. D., Watras, A. C., & Schoeller, D. A. (2007). Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1203-1211.



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