5 Benefits of CLA Supplementation

CLA Supplement Benefits
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a mixture of fatty acids that are found in meat and in dairy products, but which can also be consumed as a supplement. CLA has become very popular in bodybuilding circles, and is increasingly becoming popular in the general gym-going population.

CLA has been found to have many benefits, but mostly in animal tests rather than human ones. For every study that finds a benefit, there are usually half a dozen that do not find that benefit. This does not mean that the benefit does not exist though, it just means that more research is clearly needed. Unlike popular supplements such as whey protein, creatine, or caffeine, CLA does not have thousands of studies behind it.

Supposed Benefits of CLA Supplementation

CLA Benefit #1. Increased Metabolism

In a study by Nazare et al (2007) CLA was found to increase resting metabolic rate (RMR) [1]. Your RMR is the amount of calories your body burns when you are at rest. Having an increased RMR could theoretically lead to fat loss so long as your calorie intake did not increase. The study found that taking CLA for 14 weeks significantly increased RMR but had no effect on body composition. Possibly combining the program with a calorie controlled diet, and exercise could have seen those body composition changes.

Benefit #2. Increased Lean Muscle Mass

Lean mass refers to muscle mass, and some studies have found that CLA can increase lean mass. A study on obese people (effects of CLA seem to be much greater in obese persons compared to non-obese) found that 12 weeks of CLA supplementation lowered body fat whilst increasing Lean Muscle Mass [2].

Another study, that combined CLA with Omega-3s found that fat mass was reduced and lean mass increased in young people and obese people but not in old people, or lean people (the study had 4 groups) [3]. This was another study that showed CLA having more of an effect on obese people than lean people, it also demonstrated that CLA can have an impact on lean muscle mass. Another discovery this study made was that CLA could be more effective when combined with Omega-3 fatty acids (something we will look at later).

Benefit #3. Decreased Fat Mass

Fat oxidation is the use of stored fat for energy, and it is what leads to decreased fat mass. As mentioned earlier Blankson et al (2000) found that CLA supplementation reduced body fat in Obese people [2]. A Chinese study also found that 12 weeks of CLA supplementation led to decreased fat mass in obese persons [4].

A study on Obese and overweight children found that CLA supplementation decreased body fat over a period of six months [5]. Again, CLA was found to be most effective when used on obese persons.

Another study compared CLA with Safflower oil, and found that they both increased weight loss in Obese and overweight women [6]. It also posited that both CLA and Safflower oil could be beneficial for glycemic control (excellent news for diabetics and for overweight people).

Laso et al (2007) looked into the effects of CLA combined with milk on the reduction of fat mass in overweight and obese persons [7]. Interestingly this study found that there was a significant reduction in fat mass in overweight people, but not in obese people. Which is different to the results of all of the other studies mentioned.

Benefit #4. Prevents Holiday Weight Gain

Over a period of 6 months overweight adults took CLA, not only did they lose significant amounts of weight they also avoided weight gain during the holiday season [8]. When compared to the CLA group the placebo group put on much more weight over the holiday period. This could be due to CLA’s effect on Resting Metabolic Rate or its fat burning potential.

Benefit #5. May Prevent Cancer

Whilst a study did find that CLA decreased the proliferation of prostate cancer cells [9], it could not provide an answer as to why this happened. Hopefully it does have an effect, but until scientists understand why this effect occurs it is difficult to prove that this is the case.

How to Take CLA Properly For The Best Results

According to Examine.com the ideal daily intake of CLA appears to range between 3,200 and 6,400mg [10]. It also states that there has been no evidence of higher dosages being effective. A few studies have found that CLA works more effectively when combined with other supplements. As mentioned earlier CLA combined with Omega-3s reduced fat mass and increased lean muscle in both young people and obese adults.

Another study looked at a combination of CLA and Fucoxanthin, a pigment (something that creates color) found in brown seaweed [11]. The study found that combined they could improve lipid metabolism (creating energy from the breakdown of dietary fats), though the study was on rats rather than humans. If you would like to see which CLA supplements we have tried, see our best CLA supplements article.

Should You Take CLA?

If you are obese or very overweight and lead a sedentary lifestyle then CLA could be of some use, combine it with diet and exercise and you could really make a change to your physique. Of course, diet and exercise alone would be doing the majority of the work!

If you are training regularly and keeping within a calorie deficit then you probably won’t receive any benefits from CLA supplementation. Well not based on current research anyway, many of the studies appear to be based over 6 months and some of the studies that have shown results have pointed this out as a limitation. It could be that 2 years of CLA supplementation could make all the difference.

At the end of the day, the thing that will make the biggest difference to your body composition is you, your brain, your hard effort, and your commitment. Train regularly, keep within your calories, and be patient. You will get better results than any bottle of pills could ever offer.

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