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Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Weight Loss

Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Weight Loss

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Are you getting enough conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in your diet? Do you know what CLA does for you and how it can benefit you as you pursue a healthy lifestyle? Do you know which foods contain CLA to help you to make sure you will get enough of it?

Dry hair, hair loss and slow healing wounds are all signs of a deficiency or lack in your body of conjugated linoleic acid.  That said, those are symptoms when your CLA levels are quite deficient and have been that way for a while.  This doesn’t happen if your levels have dipped for only a couple of days.

What is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

Conjugated linoleic acid is an essential amino acid.  It is a part of a group of unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids. This means that your body cannot produce it on its own.  You must obtain CLA by eating it in your food or by taking it in supplements. 

That said, if you haven’t been getting enough, it’s important to inform yourself about the best food sources and then make sure you are working them into your diet.  This is particularly true if you also want to use this nutrient to support your efforts to lose weight.

Dietary Sources of CLA

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is not manufactured by the human body so we are dependent on getting it through our diets. Dietary sources high in CLA content include:

  • Vegetable oils (olive, safflower, and canola),
  • Eggs,
  • Meat,
  • Dairy, and

Low-fat foods contain less amounts of CLA than their higher fat, unaltered counterparts. The trend to low-fat eating, has resulted in many people now having a deficiency of conjugated linoleic acids in their diet.

Another reason for CLA deficiency in today's diets is due to farming practices that have changed over the years, moving away from grass fed animals and towards grain and factory fed ruminants. A recent study shows that grass fed animals have up to 500% more CLA in their systems than do grain feed animals. Therefore, in order to maximise the amount of conjugated linoleic acid you are consuming in meat, buy only free-range products. Free range meat products, including free-range beef, chicken, turkey and bison can now be found in most grocery stores.

CLA and Weight Loss

In the body, CLA increases lean muscle mass while decreasing body fats by interfering with the way the body stores fat. It also helps the body to use existing fat for energy. One of the leading scientists into CLA research, Dr. Michael Pariza of the University of Wisconsin, puts it this way “CLA does not make a big fat cell small it keeps a little fat cell from getting big”.

Because of these properties, CLA is being used to enhance weight loss. Did you notice the word ‘enhance’. CLA supplements are not magic pills and do not in any way replace the benefits of a good diet and exercise, but when these three are combined there will be noticeable benefits for weight loss.

Recommended Daily Intake of CLA

The medical professionals figure we optimally need 3 to 4 grams (the equivalent of 1 teaspoon) of CLA per day. Interestingly, kangaroo meat has the highest CLA concentration of any human food source. However if you are not getting sufficient CLA from your diet, and it just isn’t possible to “throw another Roo on the barbee”, supplements are available. The most popular CLA dietary supplement is Tonalin CLA made from safflower oil. Tonalin is available on-line, in pharmacies and health food stores at around $20 for a month’s supply. Or you could take a teaspoon of vegetable oil a day for a fraction of the cost.

Health Benefits of CLA

Over 200 studies on CLA have been conducted worldwide and results show a definite promise in its cancer fighting properties, and ability to reduce tumor growth, for asthma and allergy control and in regulating blood sugar problems like diabetes. However conjugated linoleic acid has not been given the golden seal of approval across the medical community for these applications because so many of the CLA trials have proven inconsistent and inconclusive.

That said, supplementing if you are not getting enough conjugated linoleic acid is typically considered to be safe when taken orally and within a reasonable amount.  WebMD has called it likely safe or possibly safe when taken by healthy adults.  That said, it’s still important not to take it if it is not needed or if you have certain health conditions.

If you’re thinking of taking conjugated linoleic acid supplements as stand-alone pills or as a part of a larger formula, it’s a good idea to speak with a doctor.  That way, you can know with confidence that the supplement will be safe for you to use and will be appropriate when taking your goals, health conditions, medication use and other medical history into consideration.