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CLA - Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is an omega-6 essential fatty acid (EFA), which is said to burn fat, build muscle, and fight cancer. CLA has been called “the fat that makes you thin,” but the average American diet provides less than 1 gram of conjugated linoleic acid a day. Some researchers attribute the rise of obesity in America to the consumption of less and less CLA.

It should be fairly easy to get CLA from dietary sources alone—its main sources are beef, cheese, milk, and other dairy foods. However, conjugated linoleic acid is produced in large part by grass-fed cows—cows in the U.S. are more likely to be fed in feedlots rather than allowed to graze freely. This has lead to a great reduction of CLA in American milk, beef, and dairy supplies. Right now, the only way for the average American to get the same amount of CLA regularly consumed in other countries is through supplementation.

Research suggests that conjugated linoleic acid may indeed help reduce body fat. In laboratory studies performed with mice, CLA reduced body fat by 88 percent in just six weeks. Initial studies of the effects of CLA on humans have been promising as well. In a double-blind study published in the December 2000 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, participants who took CLA lost six pounds more body fat compared to those in the placebo group. The study found that 3.4 grams of CLA each day is needed to reduce body fat.

Conjugated linoleic acid has been researched as a possible treatment for many diseases, including breast cancer, obesity, and heart disease. It may also help increase metabolism, build muscle, boost the immune system, and help regulate blood sugar. In a study conducted at Purdue University in Indiana, CLA was found to improve insulin levels in about two-thirds of diabetic patients, and moderately reduced the blood glucose level and triglyceride levels. CLA supplementation may be especially helpful to those with diabetes or hypothyroidism, although anyone with a serious illness should consult a doctor before taking supplements.

CLA is available in most drugstores and health food stores, and often marketed as a weight-loss formula or fat burner. The December 2000 study used Tonalin, but there are many other brands to choose from. Just be sure to get a reputable brand—some conjugated linoleic acid supplements were revealed to be nothing more than vegetable oil in fancy packaging.

There have been no toxic effects linked to CLA supplementation, although some people do report stomach upset when they take extremely high doses.

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