Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects
1. What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)?
Conjugated linoleic Acid (CLA) is essentially a natural type of polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid. The main dietary sources of conjugated linoleic acid are meat and dairy from ruminants such as cows, goats and sheep.
The total amount of CLA in the diets depends on what the animals are fed on. A higher level of conjugated linoleic acid is found primarily in meat and dairy from grass fed cows than grain fed cows.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (2420-56-6) is considered a healthy fat and believed to posses many health benefits. However, conjugated linoleic acid (cla) supplements are artificially produced by chemically altering the linoleic acid in vegetable oils. It is for this reasons that CLA supplements are said that they may pose a health risk.
2. How Does Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Help You Lose Weight?
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can be referred to a group of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid. Naturally, the most abundant isomer is cis-9, trans-11 (c9, t11), while in supplement forms CLA is typically sold as an equal mix of the 2 predominant isomers c9, t11 and t10, c12.
In animal studies, CLA has been found to reduce body fat in several ways. In several studies involving mice, it was found to reduce food intake, increase fat burning, stimulate fat breakdown and inhibit fat production.
In humans, CLA has also been found to cause a significant fat loss. However, the fat burning potential of CLA is much stronger in animals than in humans. Research shows that conjugated linoleic acid weight loss is only modest in humans.
It was found that trans-10, cis-12 CLA attenuates human adipocyte TG content and differentiation. CLA act to reduce adiposity through modulating properties in the lipid metabolism. The action of conjugated linoleic acid on the lipid metabolism is associated with the inhibition of the entry of glucose into the adipocytes.
A review of studies published shows that conjugated linoleic acid for weight loss, taken at a dose of 3.2 grams per day, produces a minor loss in body fat (average 0.05kg) compared to a placebo.
In a study it was found that supplementation of a CLA mixture in overweight and obese people (3 to 4 g/day for 24 weeks) decreased body fat mass and increased lean body mass.
It’s worth noting that some people experience better results than others due to factors including: CLA isomer combination versus individual isomers, CLA dose and duration of treatment, gender, weight, age and metabolic status of the subjects.
One of the possible potential mechanisms by which CLA reduces body fat mass may be that it decreases energy intake or increases energy expenditure.
One study demonstrated that mice supplemented with a CLA mixture for four weeks reduced their food intake and experienced liver function improvements, although studies haven’t proved this same effect yet in humans.
3. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Benefits
Besides CLA benefits in weight other Conjugated linoleic acid (cla) benefits include:
CLA bodybuilding acts by reducing body fat and some-times by enhancement of fat-free mass.
In a study with obese men and women, a decrease in fat mass was observed even at the lowest dosage (1.7 g/day of mixed CLA), while an increase in lean body mass was only detected at the highest CLA dosage.
ii. Anti-cancer agent
Although, fats have been implicated in many forms of cancer, certain types of fats have anti-cancer properties, of which CLA is the major one. Inhibitory effects of CLA against carcinogenesis have been demonstrated in mammary gland, skin, colon, prostate, and fore stomach of rats, humans and mice.
CLA is involved in a variety of biological events in all three stages of carcinogenesis. The effects of CLA are related to inhibition of growth and proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and diminishing branching and reducing the density of ductal system of the cancerous cells.
Several studies have shown these anti-cancer properties of CLA. They include;
- Reduced tumors and tumor mass in a case of women with breast cancer.
- Reduced DNA and increased apoptosis in a case of human colon HT-29 cell line.
iii. Enhance athletes performance
CLA supplements are believed to enhance athletic performance by stimulating testosterone production in the Leydig cells of the testicles. This may help to lengthen the amount of time that it takes for the body to get tired during exercise.
iv. Lowers the risk of heart disease
Atherosclerosis is a disease which results to hardening and narrowing of the arteries when fatty deposits (plaque) clog your arteries. This is a risk factor for heart disease.
In a 2018 study on obese mice, it was suggested that taking conjugated linoleic acid (cla) supplement could protect against atherosclerosis. However, further research is needed to validate these effects of CLA on atherosclerosis in humans.
v. Modulates metabolic parameters of type 2 diabetes
There are many factors that can lead to development of type 2 diabetes including the presence of impaired glucose tolerance, ethnicity, age, gender, and genetics. Obesity lies at the centre cause of type 2 diabetes. CLA reduces adiposity and thus could help in controlling type 2 diabetes.
In a study comprising type 2 diabetic patients, CLA supplements administered at 6g/ day for weeks. This resulted in decreased fasting blood glucose, plasma peptin, body mass index and body weight.
vi. Lowering blood pressure
When CLA is taken along with high blood pressure drugs like ramiprill it reduces the blood pressure more than the drugs used alone.
4. How To Take Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)?
The recommended CLA dosage according to various studies is 3 to 6 g daily for 8 weeks to 7 months and these doses appear safe. A minimum of 3 grams daily is necessary for weight loss.
Evidence suggests it doesn’t cause any serious adverse effects at doses up to 6 grams per day, but higher doses increase the risks.
Wondering how to take cla? For weight loss, it is commonly taken by mouth. CLA before and after meals is appropriate. It is safe to incorporate conjugated linoleic acid foods such as grass-fed beef into the diet for lifetime benefits before resorting to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplement.
Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Admistration (FDA) allows CLA supplements to be added to foods and gives it a generally regarded as safe (GRAS) status.
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5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Side Effects
Like all other products, CLA benefits and dangers are to be looked into before you decide to take them. Some of the conjugated linoleic acid (cla) side effects include:
i. Insulin Resistance
CLA supplementation can have adverse effects on insulin metabolism in humans.
Leptin in and glucose is very important. It has been suggested that the dose-dependent reduction of circulating leptin levels observed after CLA supplementation explains the associated insulin re-sistance.
ii. Bleeding disorders
Conjugated linoleic acid may also slow blood clotting.
iii. Unusual bleeding during surgery
Conjugated linoleic acid might cause extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
iv. Risk of diabetes
Although some studies show that CLA can modulate the effect of diabetes, there are concerns that taking conjugated linoleic acid can worsen diabetes.
v. Metabolic syndrome
Taking CLA supplements may increase the risk of getting diabetes if you have metabolic syndrome. Large doses (above 6 g/day) of supplemental CLA can cause increased accumulation of fat in your liver, which is a risk factor towards metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Other side effects of CLA include;
- Stomach upset
6. Where Do I Find Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)?
Most researchers’ advice one to take foods enriched with CLA from dairy and grass-fed beef and lamb instead of CLA supplements. CLA-fortified eggs can also be found in some grocery stores. However, if you decide to take CLA supplements, find a brand tested and approved by a recognized certifying body. Also consider conjugated linoleic acid (cla) reviews by other users. Doing so can ensure the highest quality and safety possible.
- Whigham, L. D., Watras, A. C., & Schoeller, D. A. (2007). Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1203-1211.
- Brown, J. M., & McIntosh, M. K. (2003). Conjugated linoleic acid in humans: regulation of adiposity and insulin sensitivity. The Journal of nutrition, 133(10), 3041-3046.
- Gorissen L, De Vuyst L, Raes K, De Smet S, Leroy F (April 2012). “Conjugated linoleic and linolenic acid production kinetics by bifidobacteria differ among strains”. International Journal of Food Microbiology. 155 (3): 234–240.