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Is CLA Good for Weight Loss?

Posted by Dr. John Thomas on Sep 1, 2020 12:32:34 PM



New diet trends abound, and ‘magic bullet’ diet pills have flooded the consumer market over the past decade.

However, many of the diet pills we’ve seen over the years like Qnexa, the Brazilian Diet Pill, the Japanese Diet Pill (phenolphthalein) that claim to be fat-blockers, fat-burners, and appetite suppressors have proven to be dangerous.

That said, there are high-quality supplements on the market that can assist in weight management. Navigating the different products can be challenging though. This brings us to today’s topic, CLA. It’s a nutritional supplement that’s gaining popularity, but is it a safe option for healthy weight management?

What is CLA?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an essential Omega 6 fatty acid that humans don’t synthesize. Similar to how we get most of our Omega 3s through fish and seafood, we absorb the majority of our CLA intake through the ungulate-based meat and dairy we eat.

Grazing animals such as cows, deer, and goats have special enzymes that convert linoleic acid from grass into CLA, which they store in their muscle tissue and milk. Plants like safflower also contain CLA but in much lower quantities. This fact makes it challenging for vegetarians and vegans to get the amount of conjugated linoleic acid their body needs. However, some of the highest quality CLA supplements like Tonalin®, use safflower oil or sunflower oil to synthesize high-quality CLA, solving this problem.

Find out which nutrients support healthy weight management in our protocol.

What Are the Potential Benefits of CLA?

Studies have shown significant fat reductions in lab animals given CLA over control groups.* In human trials, the results are modest. However, one study showed that after a year of taking CLA, overweight, but otherwise healthy men and women lost an average of 9% of their body fat without lifestyle changes.*[1]

Another study also showed modest weight loss in humans. CLA reduced the body fat by an average of 2.93 pounds compared to the placebo group.*[2] Another key benefit noted by the scientific community was the ability to retain muscle mass during weight loss.*

Theoretically, it supports weight loss and helps with muscle strength and physical appearance. It may help to move fats in the belly and hips to be used as an energy substrate.*

As an Omega 6, CLA may provide these additional benefits:

  • Immune support*
  • Muscular flexibility *
  • Improved cell membrane structure*
  • Supports triglyceride levels within normal ranges*

Known Mechanisms Behind CLA and Weight Loss*

How does CLA work?

The human body stores fat for energy reserves in emergency situations. It’s similar to how, given a pending crisis like a hurricane about to make landfall, everyone runs to stock up on food and water. The body does the same thing; it stocks up when it thinks it’s in a state of emergency.

CLA impacts the activity of enzymes associated with fat cell storage.* Evidence shows it may support the inhibition of lipoprotein lipase (HR-LPL) and increase carnitine-palmitoil-transferase-1 (CAT-1) activity.* These mechanisms act as a signaler, similar to a co-factor, to convert fat and move it over to muscle groups as an energy substrate.*

In short, it recruits stored fat for immediate use.* Typically, our fat stores are one of the last sources our body taps for energy.

Is CLA Suitable for Weight Loss?

Further testing is needed, but CLA is well-tolerated and should be suitable for short-term use.

It should be noted that mice and hamsters given CLA over extended periods showed an increase in liver-fats. However, human trials have not yielded similar effects.

Does CLA Help to Manage Appetite?

CLA isn’t an appetite suppressor per se, but fatty foods such as nuts and avocados are known to curb hunger.[3] Unsaturated fats play a significant role in signaling your brain that you are full.

A good example is the difference between eating a couple of pieces of avocado toast, versus toast with some grape jelly. The toast with jam is comprised of simple sugars that breakdown easily and therefore it is only going to satiate you for a short while. The avocado toast typically makes you feel full longer because the fat in avocado requires a much more complex process for your body to digest. Because CLA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, it may help to curb appetite similarly.*


Should I Take CLA Before or After Meals?

CLA is all about how and when we burn fat. It’s not meant to be a fat-blocker. We don’t want to impact the fat absorption process during digestion. So, in theory, it would be best to take CLA at least an hour before or after meals.

Like any fatty acid, CLA may contribute to a laxative effect when taken in high doses.* With this in mind, it’s better to take lower doses of CLA two or three times per day to avoid any possible GI irritation.


For those who have realistic expectations about weight management and want to do a slower, healthier form of weight loss, a high-quality CLA such as Tonalin® could be a great adjunct nutritional supplement.* As with any significant nutritional change, it’s best to consult with your preferred healthcare practitioner before beginning a CLA regimen.

By Dr. John Thomas

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Tonalin®-CLA is an exclusively licensed product of BASF personal Care and Nutrition GmbH. Nutritional uses of Tonalin® licensed to BASF under U.S. Patent #5,428,072, 5,554,646 and 5,430,066.

[1] "Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y ... - PubMed." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15159244/. Accessed 18 Aug. 2020.

[2] "Pros and cons of CLA consumption: an insight from ... - NCBI." 3 Feb. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4429457/. Accessed 19 Aug. 2020.

[3] "How Fatty Foods Curb Hunger -- ScienceDaily." 10 Oct. 2008, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007123647.htm. Accessed 18 Aug. 2020.


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