Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid The Most Scientifically Backed Fat Loss Agent To Date?

Whilst the supplement industry is full of products designed to lower your body fat, including everything from thermogenics, thyroid stimulators, lipolytic agents, fat transporters and appetite suppressants, few have been backed by as many medical and sports journals as the fatty acid known as conjugated linoleic acid. Here we take a look at the facts, studies and research surrounding CLA to see why it’s being heralded as a breakthrough in fat loss by researchers at I-Shou University in China.

The study, led by Chih-Kun Huang, took 63 subjects and randomly assigned them to receive daily supplements of CLA (3.4 grams) or a placebo (salad oil) in a milk product for 12 weeks. Results showed that after 12 weeks of supplementation, participants in the CLA group displayed average decreases in bodyweight of 0.7kg, BMI of 0.31 kg/m2, body fat mass of 0.58kg and fat percentage of 0.6%. Chih-Kun Huang said ‘to our knowledge this is the first randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effect of CLA on body fat composition and the results seem promising.’ Concluding ‘the consumption of milk supplemented with CLA (3.4 grams per day) significantly decreased the body weight, BMI, body fat mass, fat percentage, subcutaneous fat mass and the waist-to-hip ratio in subjects over just 12 weeks.’

But what exactly is conjugated linoleic acid and what are the benefits for athletes, bodybuilders or gym goers? Well, it’s a naturally occurring fatty acid found mainly in cheese and beef. However, it’s only found in these foods in very low doses (no way near the 3.4 grams used in the study at I-Shou University previously mentioned). Furthermore, similar promising results were found at Uppsala University in Sweden where they found supplementing 4.2 grams of CLA a day in healthy, young subjects resulted in a 3.8% decrease in body fat compared with individuals not taking the supplement.

How It Works

Whilst it’s clear studies support the use of CLA to lower your body fat, experts still aren’t entirely clear as to the mechanism by which it works. It’s been theorized that it reduces your body fat in 3 ways: firstly research conducted at the University of País Vasco found that conjugated linoleic acid interferes with a substance in your body called lipoprotein lipase, which aside from various other roles in the body is mainly responsible for storing fat in the body. Furthermore Simón. E et al 2005 of the same study found that CLA actually helped the body use its existing fat for energy. Therefore studies show CLA not only inhibits the storing of fat it also enhances the burning of fat.

Thirdly, and perhaps most important for athletes, bodybuilders or those training for aesthetics, it was found CLA supplementation actually increased muscle mass as well as lowering body fat. This in turn increases your basal metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn at rest. Scientists concluded therefore that CLA doesn’t actually make you lose weight (like thermogenics do) but rather it favorably changes your body composition (i.e. body fat to muscle ratio). This notion is further supported by the 1 year human study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found CLA supplementation produced a 9% reduction in body fat and 2% increase in muscle mass.

Conclusion

So in summation, studies and experts believe that unlike thermogenics and appetite suppressants that help you lose weight, CLA will favourably enhance your body composition, increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat at the same time.

Regarding dosage, there seems to be different amounts that have proved effective in various studies – ranging from 1.4 grams to 6.5 grams. The most common dosage seems to be 3 grams per day, so it may be advisable to start with this dosage and increase or decrease depending on how your body responds.

Lastly, CLA soft gels from MyProtein.com are considered the strongest on the market, containing 1 gram of CLA per soft gel. We would recommend those looking to pack on lean muscle mass and a acheive that desirable ‘ripped’ physique should try supplementing with CLA and seeing how you get on.

If you have personally utilised the supplement, why not let us know the effect it had on your body in the comments section below…

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References:

Mougios V, Matsakas A, Petridou A, Ring S, Sagredos A, Melissopoulou A,Tsigilis N, Nikolaidis M. Effect of supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid on human serum lipids and body fat. J NutrBiochem 2001;12:585-94

Blankson H, Stakkestad JA, Fagertun H,Thom E, Wadstein J, Gudmundsen O.Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat mass in overweight and obese humans. J.Nutr. 130:2943-2948 (2000).

Roche HM, Noone E, Nugent A, Gibney MJ. Conjugated linoleic acid: a novel therapeutic nutrient? Nutr. Res. Rev. 187 (2001).

Smedman A,Vessby B.Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation in humans – Metabolic effects. Lipids 36:773-781 (2001).

Lowery L.M., Appicelli P.A. and Lemon P.W.R. (1998). Conjugated linoleic acid enhances muscle size and strength gains in novice bodybuilders. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30.182.

Kreider RB, Ferreira MP,Greenwood M, Wilson M, Almada AL. Effects of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation during resistance-training on body composition. Bone density, strength, and selected hematological markers. J Strength Cond Res 2002; 3:325-34.

Berven G, Bye A, Hals O, Blankson H, Fagertun H, Thom E,Wadstein J, Gudmundsen O. Safety of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in overweight or obese human volunteers. European J. Lipid Sci.Technol. 102:455;462 (2000).

Thom E,Wadstein J, Gudmundson O. Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat in healthy exercising humans. J Int Med Res 2001;29:392-6.

Kamphuis MMJW, Lejeune MPGM, Saris WHM, Westerterp-Plantinga MS. The effect of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation after weight loss on body weight regain, body composition, and resting metabolic rate in overweight subjects. Int J Obesity 2003; 27: 840-847.

Gaullier Jm, Hasle J,Hoye K., Kristiansen K., Berven G., Blankson H and Gudmonson O. Effects of CLA in moderate overweights during one year supplementation. 94th AOCS annual meeting and Expo, Kansas,May 2003

A. Zabala et al (2006) ‘Trans-10,cis-12 Conjugated linoleic acid inhibits lipoprotein lipase but increases the activity of lipogenic enzymes in adipose tissue from hamsters fed an atherogenic diet.’ Br J Nutr. 2006 Jun;95(6):1112-9.