Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA is a common weight loss supplement which is a naturally occurring fatty acid that can be found in red meat and dairy.
There have been multiple studies performed in order to determine the efficacy of CLA in humans and in animals. Animal studies have found that CLA reduces body fat mass, low-density lipoproteins, blood glucose, and other health benefits. Due to the success of animal trials, there have been some studies in humans although the results vary and are not as solid as the animal trial findings. Current studies indicate that Conjugated Linoleic Acid may have some potential benefits but more research is needed.
Studies of CLA for Fat Loss
The chart above indicates the treatment, length, and results of four studies. All studies were double-blind and placebo controlled.
Blankson et al. found a slight decrease in the Body Fat Mass (BFM) of all treatment groups excluding the placebo but not difference in Body Mass Index (BMI) or Lean Body Weight.
(LBW). Risérus et al. discovered a decrease in Sagittal Abdominal Diameter (SAD) but not decrease in BMI or LBW after 12 weeks.
Smedman and Vessby had some similar findings to the aforementioned studies. After four weeks a small decrease in BFM is found but not changes in BMI or SAD.
Gaullier et al. performed the most in-depth testing. CLA is typically marketed as either triacylglycerol or free fatty acid. After 12 months, they found decreases in BFM. In the CLA-triacylglycerol group, they found decreases in overall bodyweight and an increase in LBM.
While this study is inconclusive, it could give us an early indication that CLA-triacylglycerol could have some health benefits. 134 of the 180 initial subjects continued the treatment for an additional 12 months, and while the subjects did not continue to lose weight, they did not regain the lost weight. This could be indicative that CLA may be beneficial for initially starting weight loss.
CLA as a Fat Loss Supplement
With obesity plaguing about 69% of Americans and an obesity rate of 27% worldwide, people have turned to the use of fat loss supplements for a quick fix. While the most proven and best way to lose weight is through hard work and exercise, many are under the misconception that simply taking supplements can achieve similar effects.
The truth of the matter is that while there may be some link between Conjugated Linoleic Acid and weight loss, there is little causation as of now between the two. In the future we may be able to draw more solid links but given current data it is wise to be aware that when taking supplements there is no such thing as a quick fix.
Dosage of CLA for Fat Loss
Scholars from the University of Wisconsin compiled a meta-analysis of 18 different studies preformed on Conjugated Linoleic Acid. All studies chosen were randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials, and all studies measured body composition using similar techniques. They found that 3.2 grams of CLA per day produces a loss in body fat.
There is much research needed in order to determine the actual efficacy of CLA. As of now, using the studies conducted, we see that there may be some positive effects to supplementing CLA though there is not enough data to make a bold statement. We see mixed results from various studies; some show a loss in Body Fat Mass and some show a loss in Sagittal Abdominal Diameter.
The results are too scattered and isolated for scientists to determine a solid yes or no answer to the question: is CLA effective for fat loss? As of now we do know, however, that the best way to decrease Body Fat Mass and increase Lean Body Mass is by following a healthy dietary regimen and training daily.
CLA could have a promising future however, given the results so far, with more testing CLA could a reliable fat loss supplement.