If one of your goals this year is to eliminate body fat, then you’ve probably thought of getting CLA to help the process along. However, you might want to start by doing your research to find out more about this supplement before you add it to your diet.
What is CLA?
CLA is a wildly popular supplement among bodybuilders, gym enthusiasts and fitness junkies alike, and many who have tried it, swear by its fat burning prowess. You’ve probably heard about CLA a lot at this point, and you’re curious to find out what it does and why it’s almost unanimous with weight loss.
In full, CLA means conjugated linoleic acid, and it’s a fatty acid that comes from the omega family. There are approximately 28 geometric and positional isomers of linoleic acid combined within CLA, which makes it a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Humans have to consume essential fatty acids because our bodies are unable to produce it on their own.
There are different ways in which CLA functions in the human body. For example, it helps to efficiently metabolize food so that you’re able to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy. While CLA is widely available in some different foods, including meat and dairy, a lot of people are interested in consuming it in supplement form, due to the weight loss benefits that it provides when consumed in that form.
Who Can Benefit?
CLA can be good for you if you use it right. However, the research shows that you’d have to take a daily CLA dosage of 3, 400 mg or 3.4 grams to get the most out of it. Although most of the studies that have been done feature significantly higher dosages, one has to keep in mind the fact that all of them were carried out for a 12-week treatment period. It’s not clear where one would get the required 3.4 gram either.
Food scientists believe that the most abundant source of CLA is milked fat. However, the consumption of CLA through diet has significantly decreased in the last couple of decades because most people are decreasing or eliminating their intake of dairy and meat products.
In any case, guzzling numerous liters of whole milk every day still won’t make up for a CLA deficiency or fulfill the required daily dose. Unfortunately, as livestock feeding practices change, so does the presence of dietary CLA diminish from our daily lives. A study was recently conducted in the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis., where agricultural research dairy scientist Larry D. Satter, Ph.D., and his team compared the CLA levels found in cows that feed on silage or hay, to those that still graze on pasture. What they found is that the CLA found in the milk of pasture grazing cows was 500% more than that of the cows that were fed on hay or silage. The research findings further reveal that non-grazing cows still had significantly low CLA levels in their milk even when they’re fed grass that was preserved as hay.
On the bright side, scientists are hard at work trying to find a solution to the low-CLA cow’s milk problem. Certain research teams have undertaken the task of increasing CLA levels by supplementing the cows’ diets with things like flaxseed, linseed, safflower, and canola. In fact, the specific formula has already been developed by a team of scientists at the University of Alberta, Canada, who are just waiting for the patent to start offering it officially.
Until then, the best way to get sufficient CLA is through the consumption of supplements, because they come with a balanced mix of biologically active CLA chemical compounds known as isomers. Also, it’s interesting to note that the CLA in meat and dairy is usually found on the fat component of these food sources, which means that if you want to get adequate amounts CLA, then you have to consume a lot of fat.
It’s important to note here that not all CLA supplements are created equal because different brands put unique amounts of active CLA into their product. To make sure that you’re getting the required daily dose of 3.4 grams, you have to add up all the CLA contained in the supplement, as many products contain other oils in their ingredients list as well. For example, if a single capsule is 1, 000 mg and contains 75% CLA, then you know that you’re getting 750mg of CLA in each capsule, which would mean that you have to consume 5 of them to get the required 3.4 grams. Tonalin is the most widely used form of CLA and is often utilized for research purposes as a patented formulation. A lot of different brands use Tonalin as a CLA source, such as Nature’s Way, Jarrow Formulas and Natrol.
The best way to consume CLA supplements is with or before meals. Although side effects are an unusual occurrence, you might experience a bit of nausea or have an upset stomach afterward, which you can reduce with a few gulps of low-fat milk. You don’t have to be that concerned about side-effects though, because they typically subside within two weeks, and there are no known health risks related to CLA supplementation either.
That said, CLA supplementation is not enough to maintain optimal health, as you need to continue eating right and exercising regularly to reap the benefits. So, if you’re looking for a miracle weight-loss supplement, this is not it. What CLA supplementation can assist you with are the psychological effects of dieting. In fact, studies show that participants who’re given CLA feel better about their weight loss journey and dieting than those who's given a placebo. As a result, the former group found it easier to maintain the diet and keep the weight off.
How to Take CLA
It is possible to get naturally-occurring CLA from your diet, through sources like butter and pasture-fed beef. However, you have to consume significant amounts of these foods to derive the same amount of CLA you’d get from a daily supplement. In fact, you’d have to eat at least 4, 000 calories of pasture-fed beef, in order to benefit from the CLA, contained within it.
CLA pills are by far the easiest way to consume Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Plus, it’s also less expensive and less taxing on your system than purchasing and eating all that butter and meat.
In a nutshell, you can get all the CLA benefits you need by just taking a CLA supplement. The pills are conveniently portable and contain a fair amount of plant-based CLA.
This puts the power in your hands because then you can decide on how much CLA you consume on a daily basis.
CLA vs. Safflower Oil
Can you distinguish between CLA and safflower oil? Yes and no.
No, in the sense that oil from safflower has an abundance of linoleic acid at 80% by weight, but the only 0.7mg of that is CLA.
So, while safflower oil does contain CLA, it is only available in small quantities. On the flip side, the gut bacteria in your body will still be able to use linoleic acid to create extra CLA when you eat safflower oil.
The only downside is that it is not yet known how much your body can produce because not enough study has been done to provide the figures. Then you have to consider individual biological disposition which determines each person’s unique response and conversion of the linoleic acid.
Yes, there are huge dissimilarities between the pills and the oil, because although good quality CLA supplements do contain safflower oil, it’s processed in such a way that it is mostly transformed into conjugated linoleic acid. This means that a higher amount of the conjugated linoleic acid is made available to your body before you even consume it.
Both Clarinol and Tonalin are backed by significant scientific research and extensive customer reviews.
CLA for Weight Loss and Increased Metabolic Rate
The fact that CLA has some connection to weight loss is probably one of the main reasons why it’s so popular today.
CLA has been shown to reduce body fat while simultaneously improving weight loss results, thanks to an upsurge in basal metabolic rate, which is made possible by a sequence of biochemical reactions caused by the CLA. If you’re wondering what basal metabolic rate means, it refers to the least amount of energy needed by your body to function. On the other hand, an upsurge in BMR results in efficient calorie burning, which also facilitates optimal physical function.
Most of the metabolic responses that control body fat tissue have CLA involved in them somehow. The general assumption is that with higher BMR, you can use CLA to transform body fat into muscle while increasing the outflow of energy.
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the scientific and nutritional relevance of CLA. In the beginning, some different animal models were utilized to try and explain the effects of CLA. For instance, a 1998 study conducted by West et al. observed the influence of CLA on the metabolism and body fat of mice over the course of 6 weeks. After the 6 weeks were done, the results showed that CLA consumption decreased energy intake, body fat mass and growth rate substantially- regardless of the type of diet being consumed. The mice in the study showed an increase in metabolic rate, which inevitably led to a significant reduction in body fat.
Recent human studies also demonstrate similar benefits from supplementing with CLA. For instance, Whigham et al. conducted 18 studies whose results show that a daily CLA dosage of 3.2g can significantly reduce fat mass in the human body.
According to a study that was conducted with 134 overweight individuals, the weight loss benefits of CLA have been particularly evident in overweight individuals. In this study, the participants were given were given CLA supplementation for a 2-year period. After the study, the overweight individuals saw a significant reduction in body fat mass and were able to keep the weight off in the long term too, thanks to consistent CLA supplementation.
That’s not all, because a study by Wadstein et al. examined the effects of CLA on fit and healthy individuals that have a normal weight and BMI. Once again, the results of the study indicate that CLA supplementation may be an effective fat-reduction method even for fit and healthy individuals of normal weight, which means that supplementing with CLA may be a good idea for anyone that does regular exercise as well.
Enhanced Muscle Growth
Even though CLA does reduce body fat, this doesn’t usually translate to an overall weight reduction. In fact, it has been shown that CLA can increase the muscle to fat ratio to stimulate the development of lean muscle mass. So, while your body is burning calories due to the increased metabolic activity, muscle mass increases as a result.
Lowers Cholesterol and Blood Glucose Levels
Supplementing with CLA also comes with numerous other health benefits, like reducing blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure. CLA supplementation may also decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. A study reveals that adding a 0.5 CLA supplement to a rabbit’s diet can lead to a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL, as well as reduced atherosclerosis-especially when compared to rabbits that didn’t receive the CLA supplementation.
Brown et al. conducted a meta-analysis in humans to show that CLA can improve the body’s ability to use stored fat as energy while helping to avert the development of heart disease. CLA’s isomer mechanisms also act as an antioxidant to help lower insulin sensitivity as well as blood pressure. As a result, it is believed that CLAs have certain anti-diabetic properties, thanks to their ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels.
Supports the Immune System
Constantly dieting and exercising can put a strain on the body and make it more vulnerable to disease. That’s why you need to supplement with an immune booster like CLA. Numerous studies show that CLA can improve immune response while working to prevent your body from going into a catabolic state, which refers to a breakdown in bodily tissues that occurs when your immune system is down.
Dietary Sources of Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Most people consuming conventional diets don’t get nearly enough CLA, which is why high-dose supplements are being made available to help with immune health, bone strengthening and the prevention and management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as body composition.
CLAs are a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids, and they’re abundantly available in the milk and meat of ruminant animals. While there is no standard recommendation on the nutritional consumption of CLA, it is important to keep certain safety aspects in mind.
The meat and dairy product of ruminant animals are the highest dietary sources of CLA that we know of. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database reports that beef is by far the most abundant source of natural CLAs, as a 100-gram serving contains between 0.27 and 0.90 grams of CLAs. The fat in milk products also packs a heavy punch when it comes to CLA content, with an impressive 0.3% to 0.7% per serving. Other dietary CLA sources include butter, goat meat, and lamb.
Fortified and Supplemental Sources
CLA is also available in numerous types of supplements and fortified foods, especially when it comes to products that are concerned with exercise such as chocolate milk that’s fortified with CLA for example. A 2001 edition of the “Lipids” journal contained a study which showed that a daily dose of 4.1 grams was enough to trigger significant effects on the body’s composition and metabolic function. The doses featured in most approved CLA supplements range from 0.7 to 3 grams.
As we mentioned earlier, there is no formal dietary recommendation on the consumption of CLA, which is why it’s helpful to follow the recommendations set out for omega-6 fatty acids instead. According to the American Dietetic Association, the recommended daily dose of omega-6 is 3 to 10% of your daily fat intake. So, if you ingest 2, 000 calories each day, then 7 to 22grams of those calories should be omega-6 fatty acids. Also, the 2001 edition of the Nutrition Research Journal published a study which showed that in North America, the average healthy adult consumes 94.9mg per day, while consumption also differed according to dietary patterns.
While consuming CLA is good for your health, it is important to remain aware that consuming it in super high dosages can escalate your risk of developing insulin resistance among other health threats. That’s why it’s important to speak with your doctor before increasing your dosages of any supplement. For information on the best natural sources of CLAs search for average dietary fat recommendations.
Foods That Are High in CLA
CLA, also known as conjugated linoleic acid, is a polyunsaturated essential fatty acid from the omega-6 family, which is responsible for providing structure, elasticity, and support to cell membranes. The Linus Pauling Institute recommends a daily CLA intake of 3 grams per day for optimal health. Some of the benefits that you can expect to derive from CLA supplementation include a significant reduction in body fat, as well as anti-cancer and anti-heart disease properties. While additional research needs to be conducted, the available findings are quite auspicious, to say the least, and you can easily boost your CLA intake by consuming foods like milk, eggs, and beef.
The October 1999 edition of the Journal of Dairy Science indicated that beef is the most CLA-rich dietary source available. However, the type of food consumed by the cows will ultimately determine the amount of CLA present in the resulting beef. For example, cows that consume corn have significantly lower amounts of CLA than grass-fed cows. This is because the grass contains a lot of omega 3 fatty acids, which are not present in corn. There are 4.3 milligrams of CLA in each gram of ground beef fat.
The milk of grass-fed cows contains impressively high amounts of CLA. In fact, the 2004 edition of the Circulation Journal reports that cows that graze at high altitudes have a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets than cows that graze at lower altitudes due to the quality of grass that they have access to. It’s important to note here that it is the fat of the milk that contains CLA which means that non-fat milk or low-fat milk contains little no CLA when compared to whole cow’s milk. Each gram of the fat found in cow’s milk contains 5.5 milligrams of CLA.
Eggs are also a great way to get CLAs into your diet, and it is especially prevalent in grass-fed chickens. The egg yolk is the most CLA-rich part of the egg. The 2004 edition of the Food Chemistry journal shows that even after frying, eggs retain their CLA content. To prove that CLA fortification has all the benefits without any adverse effects, the Linus Pauling Institute fed CLA-fortified eggs that were fed to a group of hamsters. The goal of this research was to use the same procedure to fortify eggs that are for human consumption to improve CLA intake in response to the dwindling consumption of CLA in the standard Western diet.
What to Know Before Taking Conjugated Linoleic Acid
CLA is essentially a fatty acid. However, one has to keep in mind that not all fats are created equal. CLA is unique and popular for a reason. In fact, the scientific community has been interested in CLA ever since the 1980s, and if you want to learn more about conjugated linoleic acid supplement before you try it out, read on:
Related to Omega-6-Fatty Acids
CLA is associated with Omega-6 fatty acids, which are also known as linoleic acid. This fatty acid is well-known for the fact that it can help to prevent cell damage, especially after strenuous physical activity. Essentially, CLA is made up of different linoleic acids that are bound together by various chemical bonds.
More Abundant in Free-Range Meat
Conjugated linoleic acid was initially discovered in the 1980s, and it’s made up of 28 omega-6 fatty acid isomers. It is mostly found in meat and dairy products, although it’s important to remember that not all meats are made equal. There is more CLA contained in grass-fed beef than there is in grain fed beef. In fact, current research shows that there is 5 x more CLA in grass-fed cows than there is in grain fed cows.
Studies further reveal that a decrease in CLA levels of grain fed cows is usually caused by having a low pH level in their digestive system. The bacteria which create CLA simply cannot thrive in an acidic environment.
Potential Anti-Cancer Properties
It has also been discovered that CLA could contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help with the prevention of cancer. In fact, animal research shows that CLA supplementation does indeed halt the growth of cancerous cells. According to the research CLA has latent anti-carcinogenic properties which can help to fight lung, liver, skin, mammary gland and stomach cancer.
However, the question is; will it have the same effect on humans? The truth is that it’s still too early to tell whether human CLA consumption will exhibit the same anticancer properties. However, there is a certain study which shows that a high intake of CLA for women can lead to reduced levels of breast cancer.
Helps Burn Fats
Obesity is one of the most pertinent health issues of our modern age. The problem is that our modern lifestyle compels us to consume more calories than we need. Consequently, this leads to rapid weight gain and disease. With CLA, your body can burn adipose cells more efficiently.
Tests that were conducted on both humans and animals show that CLA supplementation can facilitate the oxidation of fatty acids and adiposities, thanks to an increase in carnitine palmitoyl transferase- a fat that metabolizes enzymes.
Reduces Cardiovascular Problems
CLA is very effective at transforming stored body fat into energy for the body to use, which is why it is believed that it can also help to decrease one’s chances of developing cardiovascular illnesses. It has also been shown to inhibit and manage atherosclerosis. Studies also reveal that CLA consumption can prevent the build-up of lipid deposits and plaque in the arteries, while actively reducing blood pressure.
Type 2 diabetes patients can also benefit from consuming CLA. Currently, there are 29 million sufferers of type 2 diabetes in the US alone! And this is mainly the result of lifestyle choices as well as genetics.
Penn State College recently did some research on mice that have a predisposition of type 2 diabetes and found that CLA can trigger PPAR receptors, which in turn increases the metabolism of glucose in the body. Consequently, the PPAR receptors work to stimulate certain proteins that increase insulin action.
A lot of people that struggle with weight gain point to cravings as the main culprit behind this problem. The good news is that CLA has been proven to help suppress hunger pangs, thanks to the fatty acid’s ability to increase the body’s leptin levels. With more leptin, your body can fight cravings more effectively.
Builds Muscle Mass
Building muscle mass is a major obsession among the fitness community as a whole. Bodybuilders, weightlifters and fitness junkies alike, invest in whey powders, high protein meals, and BCAAs to ‘get gains.’ However, supplementing with CLAs can also help you to build muscle mass more effectively.
A recent study took 24 bodybuilders and gave them 7.2 grams of CLA per day to see what would happen. After the study, the participants saw a significant increase in muscle mass and strength, thanks to improved anabolic function.
The Difference Between Natural CLA and CLA supplements
The type of CLA that you get from supplements is quite different from dietary CLA. For example, free-range meat contains naturally –occurring CLA which is mostly made up of t11 and c9, whereas CLA supplements are made up of c12 and t10.
While each type has its benefits, it is generally recommended to opt for naturally-occurring CLA whenever possible and avoid CLA supplements.
Taking a higher dose of CLA than that which is recommended can lead to a few drawbacks, especially when it comes to the chemically altered linoleic acid found in CLA supplements. Studies show that overdoing it can lead to nausea, diarrhea and a build-up of fat in the liver. That’s why we recommend consulting with a medical practitioner before you start taking any supplement, including CLA.
Large Doses May Cause Serious Side Effects
The available research unequivocally shows that naturally occurring dietary CLA is highly beneficial. On the other hand, the CLA from supplements is made up of chemically altered linoleic acid, which is in turn derived from unhealthy vegetable oils.
In supplement form, CLA is significantly higher in c12 and t10 linoleic acid. Plus, nothing beats getting your nutrients and molecules straight from the source, in real natural food. That said, you should still take CLA in recommended dosages to be on the safe side.
Studies show that going over the recommended CLA dosage can lead to a fat build-up in the liver, which will result in the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Several studies -which were done on both animals and humans- indicate that even though it reduces body fat, CLA can stimulate insulin resistance and inflammation, which decreases HDL-the good cholesterol that you want to have.
On the other hand, it’s important to note here that the dosages used in the animal studies may have been exaggerated and were much higher than the dosages typically utilized by people who supplement with CLA. However, the human studies featured sensible dosages and still led to some concerning side-effects.
Here are just a few examples of CLA supplementation side-effects:
After supplementing with CLA, you might sense a bit of fatigue, and this will have a negative effect on your attention span, focus and level of energy during the day. You might also have to sleep for longer now to wake up feeling energized the next day.
Consuming CLA may also lead to a bit of intestinal irritation, which often manifests as having to take more frequent trips to the bathroom for number 2, loose stools, and even diarrhea. Sometimes, diarrhea may come with bloating, cramping, stomach pain and dehydration. The dehydration itself can lead to having dry skin, headaches, a constant feeling of thirst and dizziness. If you notice symptoms of dehydration or urgent and frequent diarrhea, then it might be a good idea to consult with your physician as soon as possible.
Some people may also experience stomach discomfort as a result of supplementing with CLA. You may lose your appetite as a result of nausea, and you may even start vomiting. If you experience any of these side-effects, seek help from a professional medical practitioner immediately.
Additional Health Concerns
Anyone that has a family or personal history of diabetes or heart disease should speak to a health practitioner before supplementing with CLA. According to health experts from the University of Michigan Health System, CLA intake can mess with blood vessel function, which hikes up your heart disease risk significantly. Also, CLA supplements come with the added risk of increasing blood sugar levels, which might make matters worse for people living with diabetes.
Dosage and Safety
A lot of the human studies mentioned in this article featured dosages that ranged from 3.2 to 6.4 grams per day and the higher the dosage, the higher the risk of developing side effects. According to the FDA, adding CLA to foods can significantly decrease its risk profile and relegate it to GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) status. That said, it’s important to take this advice with a grain of salt because it’s the same FDA that recommends high fructose corn syrup and soybean oil as ‘safe.’
Should You Take It?
In my opinion, I don’t think one should risk their health for the sake of losing some body fat.
However, since the onus is on you, if you decide to take CLA supplements, then you should at least get your blood tested on a regular basis to make sure that your metabolic and liver function are still doing fine.
While naturally occurring CLA from beef and dairy seems fine, it is probably not a good idea to consume chemically altered CLA, as it’s made from harmful vegetable oils that are not exactly good for your health.
Having a body that you can be proud of feels great, but it’s not worth sacrificing your liver and general health for.
Our Number One Product Recommendation
If you decide to go the supplement route and get your CLA intake from capsules, then the PurityLabs CLA Safflower Oil Supplement is the ultimate CLA supplement currently available on the market. It’s made from non-GMO organic safflower oil and features 80% conjugated linoleic acid from plant-based sources (i.e., safflower oil). Each serving will give you 4,500 mg of CLA to help with weight loss, promote healthy bones, boost immune health, and improve metabolic action, muscle mass production, etc.
It’s non-stimulating and completely natural, which means that the producers haven’t added any harmful preservatives in it. Some of the benefits that you can expect to enjoy when taking a daily dose of the PurityLabs CLA Safflower Oil Supplement include fat cells decrease to reduce the overall body fat mass, metabolism increase, and natural weight loss.
However, keep in mind what we said earlier that a CLA supplement is not a miracle drug, and you shouldn’t expect results if you don’t put in the work. So, for the best results, make sure to complement your CLA supplement intake with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet.
The good news about the PurityLabs formula is that it’s free from superfluous fillers, artificial preservatives, harmful GMOs and other additives that could be harmful to your health. It’s purely made from safflower oil, from which the CLA is derived. Plus, the PurityLab facilities are subject to strict third-party testing, so you can rest assured that the company’s claims are backed by proper testing.
You’ll also be glad to know that your purchase will be backed by a 365-day Empty Bottle Money Back Guarantee, which means that if you are dissatisfied with the product’s performance, then you can send the empty bottle back to them for a full ‘no questions asked’ refund!
That said, as with anything you must exercise caution and moderation when supplementing with CLA, which means you should take it in the recommended dosages, as overdoing it can lead to side effects such as nausea, lethargy, diarrhea, etc.
It’s nutritious, cost-effective, non-GMO, all-natural and it provides a high quantity of CLA per serving than most of its competitors, which means that you can take it at reasonable dosages and still get the desired effects.
So, if you’re serious about fast weight loss and would like a little help with losing fat, reducing craving and gaining muscle mass, then CLA supplementation might be a good idea. Otherwise, make sure to eat right, move more and enjoy life!