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CLA May Help Reduce Body Fat

[Reduction in Dietary CLA | CLA - A Plant Based Alternative
[CLA Study on Body Fat Reduction]
[CLA Study Shows No Weight Loss – Reduction of Fat Offset by Increase in Lean Muscle Mass]
[CLA Study Reports a Reduction in Abdominal Fat]
[Antiproliferative Effect of CLA on Human Colorectal and Prostate Cancer Cells]
[Antimutagenic effects of CLA]
[CLA Found to be A Powerful Anticarcinogen | References]

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is best known for it abilities to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle, and fight cancer. Dramatic new research has identified a fatty acid that may positively influence body composition.  CLA found mainly in meat and dairy products, used to be abundant in our diets.  But with the trend to lower fat diets, our CLA intake is also declining. 

It is an irony that so many Americans seem to be getting fatter, even as we eat less fatty foods.  Researchers at the University of Wisconsin may have found an explanation for this paradox.1  Their studies suggest CLA may be an important nutrient for optimal body composition, possibly helping to reduce body fat and increase muscle.

CLA stands for Conjugated Linoleic acid, which is an isomer of LA (Linoleic acid). What this means is that CLA has a slight rearrangement of its molecular structure resulting in a fatty acid with altered chemical functions. Conjugated Linoleic acid (CLA) is naturally found in meat and dairy products.

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Reduction in Dietary CLA

CLA used to be abundant in our diets.  Today, however, Americans are eating less beef and full-fat dairy products, such as regular (not low-fat) milk and whole cheese.  This translates to lower levels of CLA in our diets. 

CLA content is also much lower than it used to be in the beef that we do eat.  Researchers believe this may be related to changes in the way cattle are fed.  The green grass eaten by grazing cows is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids including linoleic acid.  Cows have a unique digestive system that converts linoleic acid to CLA – a close chemical relative to linoleic acid.  The CLA is then stored in the cows’ tissues.  It is possible that, since cattle today are predominantly fed oats, barley and hay, rather than grazing on grass, they are no longer producing as much CLA.  In fact, tests show that CLA content in dairy and meat products have decreased by over 60% compared to the pre-1960's.2,3

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CLA - A Plant Based Alternative

There have been many studies done on Tonalin CLA and its effects on health, weight loss, and cancer fighting properties. Many of these studies have been done on animals, and sometimes it's difficult to interpret the results and implications for humans. At the same time, like every other supplement, there are also studies which found it to have little if any positive health effects. Overall, the majority of studies have found Tonalin CLA to have positive effects.4

There is plenty of research which shows CLA has positive effects on muscle/fat composition in animals. Studies have consistently shown CLA promoted less body fat and more lean body mass. Overall, there were little changes in body weight. In these animal studies, CLA had been shown to promote muscle growth, prevent muscle loss, lessen fat accumulation and also increase energy expenditure.

In some recent Tonalin CLA studies done on humans, researchers found 3 to 4 grams of CLA supplementation helped the subjects lose body fat and reduced abdominal fat by 1 inch.

Now it is possible to supplement CLA without consuming large amounts of animal fat.  Tonalin brand of CLA is manufactured by a proprietary process from safflower oil.  Since most CLA supplements use the Tonalin brand, they are available in 1000 mg softgels, consisting of 600 mg of CLA standardized to contain 40% cis-9-trans-11-octadecadienoic acid, one of CLA’s most important constituents.  Three softgels – the suggested daily use – provide approximately the same amount of CLA as eating 5 pounds of beef or 45 one-ounce slices of processed American cheese, or almost a gallon of ice cream every day! 

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CLA Study on Body Fat Reduction

This is an early study done on CLA effects on mice at Louisiana State University. Researchers fed several groups of mice differing amounts of CLA for 12 weeks.  Results after 12 weeks:

  • Mice that were fed no CLA had 9.9g of body Fat

  • Mice fed 0.25% of CLA as part of their diet had 9.3g of body fat

  • Mice fed 0.5% of CLA as part of their diet had 7.5g of body fat

  • Mice fed 1% of CLA as part of their diet had 5.7g of body fat

Conclusion of their research: Supplementing CLA helps reduce body fat, and higher doses of CLA helped reduce more body fat.

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CLA Study Shows No Weight Loss – Reduction of Fat Offset by Increase in Lean Muscle Mass
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, the Scandinavian research team looked at a group of healthy men and women with BMI (body mass index) between 25 and 35. They were then broken into 5 groups: placebo group, and 4 groups which were given different amounts of CLA as follows: 1.7g, 3.4g, 5.1g, and 6.8g per day. Here are the findings:

  • None of the groups had significant changes in body weight or BMI.

  • All 4 groups which took CLA showed significant reduction in body fat and increase in lean muscle - this was even more significant for the 5.1g and 6.8g groups.

  • The 6.8g group also had the greatest lean mass gain.

  • All CLA groups showed a reduction in blood fat and cholesterol.

  • There were a few cases of stomach upsets which was attributed to taking CLA.

  • Subjects also noted an improvement in quality of life due to improved health conditions.

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CLA Study Reports a Reduction in Abdominal Fat

In an article published in the Journal of Obesity, researchers at the department of public health at Uppsala University in Sweden performed a study to determine CLA effects on abdominal fat. This CLA study followed 25 obese men with BMI of 30 to 34, and between the ages of 39 to 64 for 4 weeks. Fourteen men received 4.2g per day of CLA and 10 men were the placebo group.5

After 4 weeks, researchers found a significant decrease in the “Sagittal Abdominal Diameter” of the CLA group - in other words, the CLA group lost a good chunk of fat around the waist. The CLA group had an average loss in waist circumference of 1.4cm.

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Antiproliferative Effect of CLA on Human Colorectal and Prostate Cancer Cells

A study done jointly at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported that CLA may prove effective in the prevention or treatment of colorectal and prostate cancer.  Reported in 2002 in the journal Cancer Letters, this was an in-vitro study which reported that CLA was moderately effective against prostate cancer and induced caspase-dependent apoptosis in human colorectal cells.  With larger doses of CLA, the effects increased.6

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Antimutagenic effects of CLA

As reported in the May, 2000 British Journal of Nutrition, CLA has been shown to inhibit chemically-induced skin, stomach, mammary or colon tumors in mice and rats.7

CLA Found to be A Powerful Anticarcinogen

Researchers at the Department of Surgical Oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo, New York published their CLA research in the journal Cancer in 1994.  Preliminary studies indicate that CLA is a powerful anticarcinogen in the rat mammary tumor model with an effective range of 0.1-1% in the diet.8 

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  1. Pariza, M. et al. (1996). Abstract of Speech at Environmental Biology '96, Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin: Madison.
  2. Chin, S.F. et al. (1992). Journal of Food Composition and Analysis: 5. 185-97.
  3. Parodi, P.W. (1994). Australian Journal of Dairy Technology. Dairy Research and Development Corporation: Victoria. 
  4. Belury, Martha A. & Vanden Heuvel, John P. (1997) Nutrition & Disease Update Journal: 1(2) (in press).
  5. International Journal of Obesity. Aug 2001
  6. Palombo JD, Ganguly A, Bistrian BR, Menard MP. The antiproliferative effects of biologically active isomers of conjugated linoleic acid on human colorectal and prostatic cancer cells. Cancer Lett 2002 Mar 28;177(2):163-72. 
  7. Kritchevsky D. Antimutagenic and some other effects of conjugated linoleic acid. Br J Nutr 2000 May;83(5):459-65.
  8. Ip C, Scimeca JA, Thompson HJ. Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anticarcinogen from animal fat sources. Cancer 1994 Aug 1;74(3 Suppl):1050-4. 

Complete list of hundreds of CLA references: 

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