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Does CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) Aid Weight Loss?

The society's obsession with weight loss has witnessed a significant rise in the current times. And that is not a bad thing - considering the global statistics revealing the rampant hike in obesity. This accords to the rise in demand for effective weight loss methods. Apart from regular exercise and dieting, certain supplements are also available for effective weight loss. Read on to know in detail about CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), one of the most effective measures aiding weight loss.

What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

Also known as CLA, it is a natural fatty acid present in dairy products and meat. An omega-6 fatty acid, it is the product of digestion by microbes in the first stomach or rumens of grass-eating animals such as goats, sheep, buffaloes, cows. It is also found in chickens. The linoleic acid is converted to CLA by the fermentative bacteria (Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens) in the digestive tract of the grass-feeding animals. The fatty acid is produced industrially as well, through partial hydrogenation or heat treatment of the linoleic acid [1] , [2] .

Some studies point out that the amount of CLA found in the meat and dairy products are dependent on the animal's age, breed, its diet and other seasonal factors. The CLA, after its conversion in the digestive tract, is stored in the animals' muscle tissues and milk.

CLA is of different types and prominent ones are c9, t11 (cis-9, trans-11) and t10, c12 (trans-10, cis-12). Apart from consuming meat and dairy products, you can get CLA into your system through supplements (pills and syrup) [3] .

CLA consists of various benefits, with weight loss being the significant one. Apart from that, the fatty acid is asserted to help fight cancer, treat asthma, improve body composition, reduce cholesterol levels, boost immunity, control allergic reactions, manage diabetes and blood sugar, and fight inflammation. Although it is linked with the aforementioned benefits, extensive studies have focused on the impact it has on reducing weight and burning the body fat [4] .

Conjugated Linoleic Acid For Weight Loss

CLA aids in reducing your body fat by elevating the basal metabolic rates. The fatty acid triggers a series of chemical reactions which stimulates the fat-burning process in your body. It can work by speeding up your metabolism, by increasing your insulin resistance, by helping your body mobilise stored the fat and also by killing the white fat cells [5] .

According to the number of studies conducted on understanding the impact of CLA on weight loss, it can be asserted that the fatty acid affects weight loss by acting on the PPAR-gamma receptors so as to inhibit the genes responsible for fat storage and adipocyte (fat cell) production. Through this, CLA aids in preventing weight gain - therefore limiting the fat deposits. Likewise, this process helps in boosting the performance of the liver, further reducing the fatty deposits. Consuming CLA elevates the amount of energy utilised by your body, aiding in the faster burning of fat [6] , [7] .

CLA is also proven to increase satiety, therefore leaving you feeling full. This in turn help reduce your appetite and the need to constantly consume food. CLA acts by limiting the hunger-signalling factors developed in the hypothalamus area of your brain.

Another study was conducted on 180 overweight men and women, with the exact numbers being 149 women and 31 men. The group were observed for a period of 12 months. The group was divided into three subgroups and were provided with off-the-shelf pills (4.5 grams of 80% CLA) daily, the syrup formulation (3.6 grams of 76% CLA disguised in a capsule) daily and placebo capsules filled with olive oil respectively. The study was carried out without having made any changes to the individuals' diet or daily habits [8] .

During the observation time, it was reported that the individuals consumed fewer calories and learned to decrease their intake of food. Once the study was finished, it was revealed that the groups that consumed the CLA pills and syrup had a significant reduction in weight. The group who consumed the CLA pills had 7% body fat loss, and the group who consumed the CLA syrup had 9% body fat loss. And also had improved muscle mass [9] , [10] .

However, one must understand that CLA does not reduce the overall body weight but stops the fat cells from getting bigger and creating more fat in your body - which in turn helps in reducing weight. The suppressant nature of the fatty acid limits the constant need to eat or snack, which also acts towards reducing your weight [11] . CLA is extremely beneficial in reducing belly fat, the fat deposited around your stomach.

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison asserted that CLA burns fat while you sleep. Even when your body is at rest, the fatty acid works its way into removing the excess fat from your body. Studies have revealed that CLA takes around 2-3 weeks [12] to be active and promote weight loss.

Combining CLA with a healthy lifestyle is the best answer for reducing fat. Along with its suppressant nature and fat burning ability, incorporating the fatty acid into your diet can help you get rid of the unwanted fat. Reduce the starches and sugar and incorporate more vegetable fat and protein, yoghurt, fruits and green vegetables [13] , [14] .

Focusing on the optimum dosage of the fatty acid for weight loss, it can be pointed out that most studies gave the participants between three to four grams daily. According to researchers, three to four grams for a period of 12 weeks is the correct amount. However, it is best to discuss with your doctor before incorporating CLA into your diet and on your journey in weight loss [15] .

If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is below 18.5, you must not consume CLA as it can cause severe complications and adverse effects. It is best suitable for individuals with a BMI above 23 [16] .

Check your BMI here.

Foods With Conjugated Linoleic Acid

As humans cannot synthesize CLA, one has to consume foods with a high CLA level to get it into your system. Apart from weight loss, you must consume CLA for the proper functioning of your body [17] .

Dairy and dairy products

  • 250 millilitres grass-fed cow milk contain 20-30 milligrams
  • 20 grams grass-fed cow cheese contain 20-30 milligrams
  • 250 millilitres whole milk contain 5.5 milligrams
  • 250 millilitres buttermilk contain 5.4 milligrams
  • 170 grams yoghurt contain 4.8 milligrams
  • 1 tablespoon butter contains 4.7 milligrams
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream contain 4.6 milligrams
  • 100 grams cottage cheese contain 4.5 milligrams
  • 100 grams cheddar cheese contain 4.1 milligrams
  • ½ cup vanilla ice cream contains 3.6 milligrams

Egg, fish and meat

  • 100 grams of grass-fed beef contain 30 milligrams
  • 100 grams grass-fed lamb contain 5.6 milligrams
  • 150 grams salmon contain 0.3 milligrams
  • 100 grams veal contain 2.7 milligrams
  • 1 egg yolk contains 0.6 milligrams
  • 100 grams pork contain 0.4 milligrams


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil contains 0.1 milligrams
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil contains 0.4 milligrams [18] .

Side Effects Of Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Like any other beneficial element, even CLA has some negatives pertaining to it [19] , [20] .

  • In some cases, CLA can cause inflammation and lead to insulin resistance.
  • It may cause an accumulation in the liver.
  • Overdosing on CLA will cause diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea and bloating.
  • The CLA syrup may reduce the number of HDL "good" cholesterol in your body and elevate the LDL "bad" cholesterol.
  • It may increase the white blood cell counts, which can trigger artery inflammation.
  • CLA can cause fluctuations in the blood sugar levels, posing the risk of diabetes.
  • If you have a family history of heart disease, avoid consuming CLA supplements.
  • Overconsumption of CLA can damage your blood vessel functions, posing the risk of heart diseases.
View Article References
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  8. [8] Norris, L. E., Collene, A. L., Asp, M. L., Hsu, J. C., Liu, L. F., Richardson, J. R., ... & Belury, M. A. (2009). Comparison of dietary conjugated linoleic acid with safflower oil on body composition in obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus.The American journal of clinical nutrition,90(3), 468-476.
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  15. [15] Watras, A. C., Buchholz, A. C., Close, R. N., Zhang, Z., & Schoeller, D. A. (2007). The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain.International journal of obesity,31(3), 481.
  16. [16] Park, Y., Albright, K. J., Storkson, J. M., Liu, W., & Pariza, M. W. (2007). Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) prevents body fat accumulation and weight gain in an animal model.Journal of food science,72(8), S612-S617.
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