Conjugated Linoleic Acid: Burns Fat, Treats Diabetes, And More

Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
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What if I say you need fat to burn fat? Yes, I am serious. You actually require fat to reach your weight loss goals faster. Quite a revelation, isn’t it?

Not all fats are created equal.

Some are bad. Some are good. But some are downright powerful. And conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) is one of them. It is one of the few healthy fats that your body absolutely requires. CLA has terrific benefits – the most potent of them is aiding weight loss. In this post, we’ll learn all of that and the other ways CLA can make your life easier. Keep reading!

Table Of Contents

Why CLA Anyway?

Let’s first understand what CLA is. CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in dairy and meat products. It is available as a supplement too, which is quite popular among weight loss enthusiasts.

All types of fats are made of fatty acids. Fats are of two types – essential (which we need to obtain from our diets, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), and non-essential that the body can synthesize on its own. Though omega-3 and omega-6 have slightly opposite effects, we need both to balance the functioning of our immune, digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems.

The standard American diet contains more of the omega-6 fatty acids, which is why it is often termed as inflammatory. Studies show how excess intake of omega-6 can trigger the body to produce inflammatory-promoting chemicals, causing havoc (1).

And CLA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Then, how on earth is it going to do you good?

It does, because it acts like an omega-3 fatty acid in the body, thereby fighting inflammation. Interestingly, CLA also controls the production of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger. It also improves the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Now you know why you must take CLA. More so, if you are looking for ways to curb hunger and achieve healthy weight loss. And here is what Dr. Mercola has to say about conjugated linoleic acid and weight loss:

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What Are The Benefits Of CLA?

1. Aids Fat Burning And Weight Loss

In a study, women lost 9% of their body fat in one year just by taking CLA and without changing any of their eating or lifestyle habits (2). Though this in no way means that CLA is a magic weight loss pill, it sure does throw light on the acid’s weight loss benefits.

Several other studies have shown CLA to burn fat efficiently. The acid has an impact on energy metabolism, which is one way it triggers healthy fat burning. And though certain human studies have shown mixed results, the evidence is promising. Supplementation of CLA was found to decrease body fat mass in non-obese people (3).

2. Aids Diabetes Treatment

CLA intake has been linked to lower blood glucose levels. Some sources suggest that the acid may help in insulin regulation – and this is how it may benefit diabetics (4).

One study published by the Ohio State University also mentioned how including CLA in one’s diet could lower blood sugar levels and body mass (often associated with severe diabetes).

3. Helps Fight Cancer

Animal studies show that 0.5% CLA in the diet can cut the risk of tumors by as much as 50%. Some research has also shown CLA to be effective in preventing cancers of the breast, skin, lung, and colon (5).

4. Combats Inflammation

One German study shows how CLA helped fight inflammation in bovine epithelial cells (6). And as CLA can mimic the functions of omega-3 fatty acids, it sure can be beneficial to combat inflammation.

Due to these properties, CLA can also help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. An American study speaks of how CLA can be a good tool to prevent the symptoms of arthritis, in addition to other inflammatory diseases (7).

5. CLA Boosts Immunity

5. CLA Boosts Immunity
Image: Shutterstock

Several animal studies have shown how CLA can boost immunity and prevent disease – and as a result of this, it was even found to be a potential cancer treatment (8). Another UK study shows us how CLA is one of the few natural fatty acids that can benefit the human immune function (9).

CLA was also found to help asthmatics. The acid can improve the functioning of the airways, thereby alleviating asthma symptoms (10). Studies also link the rise in asthma cases in the Western countries to a decrease in CLA intake over the years.

6. Can Help Build Muscle

As per some studies, taking CLA while regularly working out increases muscle (arm girth and leg press gains) mass. Another American speaks about how CLA can improve lean muscle mass and muscle metabolism, which also can have a great impact on your overall health (11).

7. Can Help Prevent Osteoporosis

Studies show that taking CLA along with calcium can improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis. The two can work together to prevent bone loss, which is also often associated with menopause (12). CLA fights inflammation in the bone, which helps improve bone strength. The acid was also found to prevent age-related bone loss.

These are the ways conjugated linoleic acid makes your life better. But how can you make sure you get enough of it?

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What Are The Sources Of CLA?

Beef and dairy products (butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and homogenized milk) are the best sources of conjugated linoleic acid. But the quality of CLA largely depends on what the animals ate, so it is best if you go for these sources coming from grass-fed beef or goats or sheep (13).

If you are a vegan, you can go for white button mushrooms and pomegranate seed oil. However, these sources don’t contain as much CLA as beef and dairy. In that case, you can always go for supplements after consulting your nutritionist or health care provider.

You can buy CLA supplements from your nearest health store. Or procure them online from Amazon or Walmart.

Talking about the dosage, you can take about 3.4 grams or 3,400 milligrams of CLA a day. Also, keep in mind that CLA supplements vary in terms of concentration. Hence, go for those brands that contain more than 80% CLA (check the packaging).

We saw the rosy stuff about CLA. But what if there is something not so rosy about it?

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What Are The Side Effects Of CLA?

Before you take CLA, there are certain things to be kept in mind:

  • Possible Issues In Children

Though CLA could be safe if taken in medicinal amounts for up to 7 months, no source supports its safety for long-term use.

  • Issues With Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

There is not enough information with respect to the safety of CLA during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hence, stay safe and avoid use.

  • May Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much

If you are already on diabetes medication, ensure you check with your doctor before using CLA. He might change the dose of your medication accordingly. The same holds true if you are suffering from metabolic syndrome.

  • Issues With Surgery

CLA might cause extra bleeding as it slows down blood clotting. Hence, you must stop using it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

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CLA is a powerful fat. Just ensure you take it the right way, and you will see your health getting better.

Tell us how this post has helped you. Simply leave a comment in the box below.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

What is the best time to take conjugated linoleic acid?

CLA supplements work best if you take them right before or during a meal. If you are getting CLA from food sources, you can include them in your meal.

Does CLA interact with any drugs?

There is not enough information regarding this as of now. But we recommend you talk to your doctor if you are already taking medications or other supplements.


  1. 8 food ingredients that can cause inflammation”. Arthritis Foundation.
  2. CLA: The new miracle weight loss pill?” WebMD.
  3. Six months supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Cross-sectional study of conjugated linoleic acid…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Conjugated linoleic acid inhibits expression…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Anti-inflammatory effects of conjugated…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on bone formation…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  8. [Conjugated linoleic acid as a potential…]”. US National Library of Medicine.
  9. Effect of CLA supplementation on immune…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  10. Take 4.5 grams of this each day…”. Dr. Mercola.
  11. Impact of conjugated linoleic acid…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  12. Conjugated linoleic acid and calcium…”. US National Library of Medicine.
  13. Factors affecting conjugated linoleic acid content…”. US National Library of Medicine.
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Ravi Teja Tadimalla
Ravi Teja TadimallaSenior Editor
Ravi Teja Tadimalla is a senior editor and a published author. He has been in the digital media field for over eight years. He graduated from SRM University, Chennai, and has a Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition & Research from Wageningen University.

Read full bio of Ravi Teja Tadimalla
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