Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), is a common ingredient in a wide variety of health supplements. There is some concern about the long-term safety of CLA in supplements, and also about the claims made by many supplement manufacturers that CLA is an effective fat burner.
In its purest form, CLA is found in beef, pork, and dairy products. It is used in dietary supplements to improve muscle mass and strength. The word “CLA” actually stands for conjugated linoleic acid. Scientists have used this term for years to refer to both CLA and other animal fats that are derived from meat such as lard, tallow, and bacon.
Conjugated linoleic acid is easily absorbed by the body, with the exception of its conversion to arachidonic acid. In other words, it cannot be converted into another type of fat. To get into the bloodstream, it must first be metabolized by the liver.
When studies were first conducted on CLA supplements, it was only manufactured under FDA regulations for specific conjugated linoleic acid. Over the years, other fat sources were introduced to the market, including soybean oil, palm oil, coconut oil, or sunflower oil. Each of these fat sources has a different molecular structure that could potentially affect the way it is metabolized by the body.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that individuals who took CLA had a higher level of exercise tolerance than those who did not take CLA. However, another study in the same journal showed that CLA could cause free radical damage in the body.
Many people think that the FDA is currently investigating the safety of CLA in supplements. However, they are actually conducting a separate study on the effects of CLA on the human immune system. One thing that these studies will show is whether CLA causes serious reactions.
Another factor that has been troubling consumers is the possible side effects of taking conjugated linoleic acid. If the FDA discovers that CLA causes side effects, it could then ban its use in all supplement products.
No supplement should be taking anything that is derived from other sources, because these unnatural oils can be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals. They also may contain very small amounts of the active ingredient, which is why the FDA does not approve them for human consumption.
It is unlikely that CLA is an effective fat burner. Some people do experience minor weight loss when they take CLA, but most people lose more weight when they consume lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and healthy carbs instead.
The reason that CLA appears to help with fat loss is because the natural fatty acids it contains may provide additional calories that a person would have consumed had they eaten more protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, it is difficult to separate CLA from these elements, especially in the consumer marketplace.
What is clear is that CLA has an important role in raising the body’s level of naturally occurring EPA and DHA. This increases levels of the “good” cholesterol, which can prevent problems related to heart disease and stroke.
No reputable manufacturer of dietary supplements would ever recommend that a supplement should be taken with food. However, the fact that CLA is being marketed as a fat burner in all sorts of supplements is cause for concern, since it can be very detrimental to the body’s ability to function properly.