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Conjugated linoleic acid, often referred to as CLA, is a common dietary supplement that many people believe will help with fat loss. Here, you can learn more about CLA, how it really works, if it actually helps you lose weight, and whether it’s worth your time and money.
Conjugated linoleic acid is the most common among all of the omega-6 fatty acids in the human diet. It is concentrated in beef and dairy products as well as in vegetable oils, but can be found in trace amounts in a variety of foods. The term “conjugated” simply means that there are double bonds in the molecular structure, which also means that CLA is technically a trans fat. Although you’ve probably been told that trans fats are incredibly unhealthy, that information is only true when it applies to industrial trans fats that are created by processes like hydrogenating (or adding hydrogen to) certain oils. Naturally-occurring trans fats like CLA are not only relatively healthy, but also necessary.
If you think of fat cells like sponges, understanding the basics of how conjugated linoleic acid works becomes simpler. All of the fat in your body is stored inside fat cells, which can grow and shrink depending on your diet and metabolism. When you eat fatty foods and live a sedentary lifestyle, your body turns more of the calories you eat to fat, which fuels the growth of fat cells. When you cut calories and exercise, your body turns to those fat stores for energy, causing the fat cells to shrink. CLA has been shown not to cause fat cells to shrink; rather, studies show it keeps them from growing in the first place.
The vast majority of studies conducted on CLA have been on small animals like lab rats. In the majority of these studies, overweight animals that were given CLA lost more weight than animals that did not receive it. Despite this, the findings in human studies are mixed. A study in the Journal of Nutrition published in December 2000 showed that individuals who used conjugated linoleic acid lost an average of six pounds more than those who did not. Another double-blind study performed in Sweden showed that while CLA might help to reduce body fat percentage, it did not facilitate weight loss. More studies are needed to determine the product’s true efficacy, but preliminary results are promising.
The question still remains: should you purchase and take conjugated linoleic acid if you’re trying to lose weight? It certainly couldn’t hurt, since there have been no reports of major side effects in any of the studies. However, like any other supplement that is designed to burn or block fat, it’s important to remember that you’ll see the best results when you combine your supplement with a healthy diet and exercise plan.
What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid? CLA is by far one of the most popular weight loss products out there today. While it’s still controversial and many people report that it doesn’t really work, the science seems to say otherwise. For now, it is safe to say that adding CLA to your diet and exercise program may help you lose more weight.