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The Value of CLA for Weight Loss

What is CLA? 

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed meat and dairy products. The mechanisms that make CLA so effective for weight loss are complex, so let’s get started. Here’s what you need to know about CLA and its beneficial effect on body weight.

What is CLA? 

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid. You may have heard of linoleic acid before - it’s the type of fat found in vegetable oils - that are known to be harmful. Linoleic acid is pro-inflammatory, and has been shown in research to increase the risk of heart disease. However, conjugated linoleic acid is molecularly different to this, and thus, has its own distinct and unique benefits.

As defined in a 2006 study published in Food Science, Technology & Nutrition: conjugated linoleic acid is a mixture of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid, in which the double bonds are conjugated. In contrast with linoleic acid, in which the bonds are separated by methylene. What may seem like a small molecular difference, actually has profoundly different health outcomes.

Where does CLA come from? 

CLA is a polyunsaturated trans fat, but unlike the majority of industrial trans fats, CLA is naturally-occurring. It is found in meat and dairy products, particularly those animals that have been grass-fed, containing up to 500 percent more CLA than animals that have been grain fed.

To get enough CLA to enjoy the benefits, the best way to consume CLA is through supplementation.

What are the benefits of CLA? 

CLA is a popular weight loss supplement, and for good reason. It initially gained traction for its anti-cancer properties, but upon further research, scientists found it has beneficial effects for weight loss.

An early study published in 1997 found that when mice were given CLA supplements, they experienced 60 percent lower body fat and 14 percent increased lean body mass compared to mice that were given a placebo.

The change in body composition are associated with various mechanisms, including:

A randomized controlled trial published in 2012 found that in humans, CLA supplementation caused decreases in body weight, BMI, total fat mass, body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, and other key body weight biomarkers.

Another placebo-controlled clinical trial supported this, discovering that CLA supplementation significantly reduced body fat mass compared to the placebo.

The other health benefits of CLA

Aside from its benefits for fat loss, CLA has other health benefits including inhibiting candida growth, a condition commonly experienced by those with overweight or obesity. The overgrowth of the Prevotella bacteria genus has consistently been connected to weight gain in research, so even if you diet and exercise, candida is likely going to prevent weight loss.

A 2011 study found that CLA inhibits candida, by blocking the germ tube formation, downregulating the expression of certain genes, and regulating bacteria growth in the gut. Moreover, an animal study found that CLA has a protective effect on gut health, including less intestinal permeability, modulating inflammation, and supporting the integrity of the intestinal epithelium - all key markers of gut health. Improving gut health and the bacterial ecosystem is linked to better body weight regulation.

We hope this gave you an insight into the powerful effects of CLA when used as part of a medical weight loss program. For more information, please contact us to get your weight loss journey started today.

David J. Bauder, PA-C David Bauder, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant and the medical director at Weight Loss and Vitality in Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC. He enjoys helping patients optimize their physical and mental health to improve their overall well-being. He earned his physician assistant degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Afterward, he gained admission into the reputable graduate program for physician assistant studies at the University of Nebraska Health Science Center in Omaha. David has over 25 years of experience working as a physician assistant. He’s practiced in podiatry, family medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, urgent care, and functional medicine.

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