The “Six-Pack Supplement”? – CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
The supplement market contains a whole array of products that have been specially formulated to help you lose fat and develop a six-pack. These range from lipolytic agents, thermogenics, thyroid stimulators, fat transporters and appetite suppressants. But few have been supported by as many medical journals (both through anecdotal and epidemiological evidence) as the special fatty acid known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid` (CLA). I examine the facts, research and studies surrounding CLA to see why researchers at I-Shou University in China are using as a potential treatment for obesity and why it could be a potential anti-cellulite treatment.
Led by head researcher Chih-Kun Huang MD the study took 63 participants and randomly assigned them to supplement their diet with 3.4 grams of Conjugated Linoleic Acid or a placebo in the form of salad oil per day. After 12 weeks results showed the group that were supplementing with CLA displayed average decreases in bodyweight of 0.7kg, body fat mass of 0.58kg, fat percentage of 0.6% and a BMI of 0.31 kg/m2. Talking about the study Chih-Kun Huang said ‘to our knowledge this is the first randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effect of CLA on body fat composition and the results seem promising.’ In a concluding statement he said ‘the consumption of milk supplemented with CLA (3.4 grams per day) significantly decreased the body weight, BMI, body fat mass, fat percentage, subcutaneous fat mass and the waist-to-hip ratio in subjects over just 12 weeks.’
So what exactly is CLA and what benefits are there to taking it? Well it’s a naturally occurring, special kind of fatty acid that’s mainly found in beef and cheese however it’s only in these foods in low doses (not close to the 3.4 grams used in the study at I-Shou University mentioned previously). This is why nutritionists often recommend supplementing with a purer, supplement form of CLA so you’re able to get a sufficient amount in your diet as supported by further research at Uppsala University in Sweden that found supplementing 4.2 grams of CLA a day in healthy, young subjects resulted in a 3.8% decrease in body fat compared with individuals not taking the supplement.
Now whilst it’s clear research supports the supplementation of CLA as a means of lowering your body fat, it’s still not entirely known the exact mechanism by which it works. However experts theorize it reduces your body fat in 2 ways: firstly research conducted at the University of País Vasco found that conjugated linoleic acid interferes with a substance in your body called lipoprotein lipase, which aside from various other roles in the body is mainly responsible for storing fat in the body. Furthermore Simón. E et al 2005 of the same study found that CLA actually helped the body use its existing fat for energy. Therefore studies show CLA not only inhibits the storing of fat it also enhances the burning of fat.
Another reason why CLA supplementation has increased in recent years is following promising research conducted by Dr Lawrence Birnbaum in Beverly Hills, California that found it could reduce the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite effects 85% of women in the UK and is a term used to describe the dimpled appearance of skin caused by fat deposits that are just below the surface of the skin. Whilst scientists don’t know exactly what causes it, it’s believed to be related to a body’s inability to get rid of toxins, fat and fluid which becomes trapped under the skin and causes fibrous tissue to become hard which is responsible for producing the dreaded dimpling effect.
Regarding CLA as a potential anti-cellulite treatment, Dr Lawrence Birnbaum’s study (later published in the ‘Advances in Therapy Journal’) took 60 females and supplemented their diet with CLA for 60 days. Results showed ‘in as many as 75% of the women, the appearance of the skin improved significantly, and thigh circumference was reduced by an average of 0.88 inch.’ These results were also supported by a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science by A.V. Rawlings who stated ‘CLA was proven to ameliorate the signs of cellulite and improve the appearance of skin.’ Experts believe it could be down to CLA’s powerful anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant properties that work together to rid the body of toxins. Essentially it’s thought the CLA prevents the accumulation of toxins, fat and fluid under the skin which causes the fibrous tissue to become hard and ‘dimpled.’
So in summation, studies and experts believe that unlike thermogenics and appetite suppressants that help you lose weight, CLA will favourably enhance your body composition through a much ‘subtler’ biological method. Regarding dosage, there seems to be different amounts that have proved effective in various studies ranging from 1.4 grams to 6.5 grams. The most common dosage seems to be 3 grams per day, so it may be advisable to start with this dosage and increase or decrease depending on how your body responds. Finally if you’re thinking of supplementing your diet with CLA, TPW soft gels are considered the purest on the market since they’re derived naturally from safflowers.
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– Gaullier J et al (2003) ‘Effects of CLA in moderate overweights during one year supplementation.’ 94th AOCS annual meeting and Expo, Kansas, May 2003