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Does CLA Help With Weight Loss?

By Toby Pendergrass ; Updated July 18, 2017

You can find a variety of over-the-counter weight loss supplements online and in pharmacies, and many promise to help you reduce in a period of days. Conjugated linoleic acid, a fat often contained in slimming drugs, may aid in weight loss, although more research is needed to determine potential benefits and any safety concerns. Separate fact from fiction regarding CLA and weight reduction to ensure your safety. Alert your family physician before taking any drug to lose weight.

Understanding CLA

Conjugated linoleic acid is a compound created by bacteria that thrive inside the digestive tracts of animals that graze, including cows. The bacteria transform linoleic acid, a common omega-6 fatty acid, into CLA. Although you consume CLA in small amounts when eating meat such as beef or consuming cheese, milk and other dairy products, higher quantities of the compound are available in over-the-counter supplements.

Weight Loss Claims

Companies that profit from dietary supplements often advertise CLA as beneficial for a variety of conditions, including cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Proponents of the compound also claim that taking CLA can help you significantly reduce body fat and build muscle. Those who seek quick weight loss often embrace CLA, since muscles use calories faster than other body tissues and allow your body to burn calories for longer time periods.

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Inconclusive Evidence

While CLA may be proved a safe and effective method for fat reduction eventually, evidence demonstrating conclusive benefits is lacking. Most studies on CLA have been conducted on animals. Results obtained from research on humans have been inconsistent, and some who've consumed the compound during testing experienced increased levels of fat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require testing for dietary supplements, which means that companies are free to market CLA even without research proving its effectiveness or safety.

Risks & Safe Weight Loss

Diarrhea, fatigue and nausea are common side effects of CLA when taken as a dietary supplement, although the small amounts of the compound found in food and beverages are not considered harmful. Consumption of CLA supplements is not recommend for women who are pregnant or breast feeding. Avoid the risks associated with CLA and other unproven weight loss methods by exercising at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Walking, jogging, tennis and swimming are effective calorie-burning exercises, while weight training approved by your doctor also reduces fat. A healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products is key to effective weight loss.

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