With the rise in obesity and weight-related problems across the USA and many other countries, more and more individuals are searching for a ‘miracle cure’ or a fast solution to their weight-loss goals.
Forming part of a multi-billion, global industry, weight-loss/fitness has become one of the fastest growing markets in the world – pumping out pill after pill and eating plan after eating plan.
One of the more recent, and most popular, products on the market to date, is CLA.
What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?
Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA for short, is a group of naturally occurring fatty acids that can be found in a variety of food sourced. Consisting of omega-6 essential fatty acids, this substance has been examined and studied for its potential health benefits. However, the interest surrounding CLA today mostly focuses around this fatty acid’s potential for weight-loss.
Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid that can be found in plant oils and animal product. Used in the process of biosynthesizing prostaglandins and cell membranes, this essential fatty acid forms part of the ‘good fats’ that your body needs to perform at an optimum level of health.
In biology, conjugated is a term that relates to a molecular bond in which two compounds become united.
When Was It Discovered?
Conjugated Linoleic Acid was discovered by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in 1987. The discovery led to the extensive research and almost a decade of experimentation by Dr. Michael Pariza. Years earlier, in 1978, Dr. Pariza noticed that an extract found in beef could be anticarcinogenic. This extract was later determined to be CLA. Now, years later, the medical and healthcare industry is still conducting scientific studies on the potential effects that CLA might have on the human body and health.
What Is CLA Made From
CLA naturally occurs in the guts of grazing or ruminant animals such as cows and sheep.
These animals, also known as ruminants, have unique enzymes in their digestive tracts that allow their gut to transform the linoleic acid that is found in green plants, like grass, into Conjugated Linoleic Acid. The CLA in their bodies is then stored in the milk and muscle tissue.
Human bodies are not able to produce CLA and can only obtain this substance by consuming meats and animal by-products like dairy. Unfortunately, most commercially farmed livestock are no longer fed fresh green plants, and are now raised on a diet of oats, barley, and hay.
This means that the CLA levels in meat and dairy are not nearly as much as it once was.
In fact, this modernization of commercial farming has led to a near 80% reduction in the amount of CLA the average human diet had prior. Humans no longer get beneficial quantities of CLA through the food we eat alone.
Because humans can’t get the right amount of CLA from their diets, coupled with the growing needs of the non-meat eating community, the CLA you can buy from healthcare stores is now synthesized from safflower and sunflower oils.
CLA In Your Diet
The average person already consumes CLA in their everyday diets, with the approximate daily intake of CLA in the USA set at 151 mg for women and 212 mg for men.
There are several dietary sources of CLA, including milk, meat, and other dairy products from ruminant animals. However, the amount of CLA present in these food sources varies drastically from animal to animal.
Grass-fed beef contains up to 500% more CLA than meat from a non-grass-fed or grain-fed cow.
Foods That Are High In CLA
Beef, particularly that of grass-fed cows, is the most abundant CLA food source. This is because the food that the animal eats plays a crucial role in the amount of Conjugated Linoleic Acid found in its meat. Due to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in grass, cattle that consume this plant will produce more CLA.
Other CLA-rich food sources include:
- Grass-fed beef (4 oz of organic or non-organic) – 433 mg
- Whole milk cheddar cheese from a grass-fed cow (1 oz) – 180 mg to 270 mg
- Whole milk from a grass-fed cow (8 oz) – 160 mg to 240 mg
- Lamb (4 oz) – 148 mg
- Ground beef, standard (4 oz) – 71 mg
- Butter (1 tablespoon, salted) – 54 mg
- Whole milk from standard dairy (8 oz) – 44 mg
- Buttermilk from standard dairy (8 oz) – 44 mg
- Processed cheese product (1 oz) – 43 mg
- Veal (4 oz) – 40 mg
- Cheddar cheese from standard dairy (1 oz) – 39 mg
- Ice cream (1/2 cup) – 26 mg
- Plain yogurt, standard form (6 oz) – 26 mg
- Ground turkey (4 oz) – 23 mg
- Cottage cheese (4 oz) – 22 mg
- 2% milk, standard dairy (8 oz) – 20 mg
- Low-fat yogurt, standard form (6 oz) – 12 mg
- Sour cream (1 tablespoon) – 11 mg
- Chicken (4 oz) – 8 mg
- Pork (4 oz) – 6 mg
What Does CLA Do?
In essence, CLA has the ability to reduce body fat by promoting basal metabolic rates. Which means that it helps the body to convert fat and food into energy more efficiently. Keeping fat cells from growing, it can actually alter the fat-to-muscle ratio on the body.
The fat-burning properties of CLA can be attributed to its effect on the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor. Consisting of nuclear receptor proteins that function as transcription factors that regulate the expression of genes, reduces the level of triglyceride in the body and influences and the regulation of energy homeostasis.
CLA also has more health-related functions. Apart from helping individuals shed some pounds, Conjugated Linoleic Acid has shown to improve endurance and muscle strength. It also has some effect on cancer cells and is therefore categorized as an anticarcinogen.
This being said, most of these findings are based on animal studies, with more adequate research on human subjects still required.
CLA is an essential fatty acid, which means that your body does not produce it naturally. In order to obtain CLA in your system, you could be required to consume foods that contain this substance.
However, as CLA-rich food sources are also high in saturated fats, and you would have to eat very large amounts to meet the beneficial amount of CLA, the health and wellness industry is now producing a variety of CLA dietary supplements from safflower oil.
How To Take CLA Supplements
While you are able to get some trace amounts of CLA in via diet, in most cases you would need to take dietary supplements to get enough of this substance to lose weight.
According to industry experts, for weight-loss, you should consume between 3000 mg and 8000 mg of CLA on a daily basis. Depending on the amount of CLA in each capsule, you may have to take between two and six capsules daily with meals.
It is further suggested that you can work out the effective amount of CLA that you should take based on your body mass. A person weighing 155 pounds should take 3.5 g (3500mg) of CLA every day.
To make sure that you are taking the correct dosage, it is best to read your product label as there may be slight variances between brands. Therefore, following what the manufacturer has stipulated is generally the safest bet.
Typically sold in soft-gel form, these supplements often vary in concentration. Look for a product that contains 80% CLA.
Benefits Of CLA
The benefits of CLA and its advantageous properties contribute to its popularity as a dietary supplement. Apart from being a body fat buster, CLA can also assist with many other health concerns you may have.
Improves Insulin Response
It is believed that CLA can help to control the level of sugar in the blood and improve insulin responses. It should be noted that some studies have found that in very high doses, isomer 10,12 CLA could have the opposite effect. However, the isomer 9,11 CLA has not been found to have any adverse insulin results.
By following a low-glycemic diet, together with the use of CLA, these benefits may be obtained safely.
CLA For Weight Loss
The leading reason that CLA is now such a popular dietary supplement is its advertised ability to help you lose weight and reduce fat. As such, CLA weight loss supplements have taken the health and fitness industry by storm.
According to a study, published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Conjugated Linoleic Acid decreases body fat by regulating the metabolism, converting energy more efficiently, shrinking fat cells and helping the body break down fat deposits.
In another study, that was conducted over 12 weeks – subjects were found to have decreased in body mass significantly when compared to those who were given a placebo of olive oil.
However, while CLA has the potential to assist in weight-loss, it is not an overnight fix and will take some time to speed up your fat loss efforts.
- Promotes weight-loss
- Reduces body fat
- Boosts immune system
- Controls blood sugar
- Develops lean muscle
Boosts Immune System
Due to the anti-inflammatory functions of CLA, it helps to support your immune system. Regulating immune responses and promoting the production of infection-resistant compounds. Building up the body’s resistance to potentially harmful bacteria and infection, this substance aids in balancing a variety of systems in the body.
It is also suggested that CLA can improve liver health when used correctly.
CLA Safflower Oil Side Effects
As with any dietary supplement or health product, CLA’s safety has come into question. This substance is generally regarded as safe for use, provided that it is used according to its instructions.
CLA is derived from mostly natural sources that can stimulate the body’s metabolism, which does not pose much risk. However, if not used in the proper amounts, there are some health concerns – especially for individuals with certain conditions.
Though unlikely, when used in prescribed amounts, CLA safflower oil might cause some side effects. Although these effects are not serious in nature. Mostly, adverse reactions to the normal consumption of CLA will take place in the gastrointestinal system. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and heartburn have been reported. Typically, these side effects will only last for the first two weeks of use, tapering off as the body starts adjusting to this supplement.
However, taking more than the recommended amount of CLA for a longer period of time could result in more severe reactions. Side effects such as allergic reactions, the swelling of limbs, difficulty breathing and rashes may occur.
More serious reactions to the prolonged use of an inaccurate amount of CLA include:
- Hyperglycemia – abnormally high blood sugar levels.
- Inflammation – body’s response to a stimulus that it perceives as harmful.
- Hypercholesterolemia – abnormal amounts of cholesterol in the blood.
- Toxic hepatitis – overloading the liver with toxins.
- Thinning of the blood (bleeding) – increasing the chance of bleeding.
If you are a diabetic, breastfeeding, pregnant or if you suffer from metabolic syndrome – you should avoid using this supplement.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid still has a long way to go with regards to its research. However. As many people are advocating its benefits there might be some truth in what CLA can do for you and your weight-loss efforts.
It is always advisable to seek the advice of a medical professional before using any new supplement.
If you are considering incorporating CLA into your fitness and weight-loss regimen speak to your doctor to determine the right and most effective dosage for your body.