CLA – Properties, how to take, side effects…

CLA – Properties, how to take, side effects…

CLA is especially important for obese or diabetic people, those who barely consume fat, as well as athletes and bodybuilders.

It is mainly known for its positive effects on the lipid metabolism and the muscles. Other benefits also include: reducing the cholesterol levels, stimulating the immune system, and blocking cortisol.

Biochemically speaking, CLA or conjugated linoleic acid, is a derivative of linoleic acid and one of the polyunsaturated essential fatty acids that must be consumed through food every day. It belongs to the Omega-6 fatty acids.

Red meat and dairy products are excellent sources of CLA. It promotes the reduction of fatty tissue and the formation of lean body mass (without fat).

In addition, CLA also stimulates the immune system, prevents the hardening of the arteries, and increases the performance and physical resistance.

Linoleic conjugated acid or CLA is advisable for athletes and bodybuilders, as well as for the elderly and those who have a diet that is low in fatty acids.

What is CLA?

CLA is an acronym for Conjugated Linoleic Acid, (a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are positional geometric isomers of linoleic acid). It is an essential fatty acids (which means that it is not synthesized by the organism) produced by the intestinal flora of ruminant animals.

  • Conjugated linoleic acid is one of the polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • The isomers CLA cis-9 trans 11 and trans-10-cis-12 offer the highest bioactivity.
  • It is an essential fatty acid that must be ingested through the diet daily.
  • It plays an essential role in the metabolism of fat, since it does not only improve the availability of the fats but it also supports the destruction of fat cells.
  • CLA also stimulates the muscle metabolism and the functioning of the immune system.
  • CLA is also a powerful antioxidant which inhibits the growth of some types of cancer tumors and it protects the organism against atherosclerosis.
  • It also has a positive effect on the sugar and lipid levels in blood.
  • Dairy products and red meat are excellent sources of CLA.
  • It has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

For more than twenty years, many studies have shown that CLA helps to burn body fat while stimulating the growth of muscle mass.

This is why CLA is the perfect dietary supplement for those who want to “get rid of those extra pounds” while maintaining their muscle mass.

The term conjugated acid means that it has suffered changes in its structure that have to do with the disposition of the double links in the fatty acid molecule.

There are many CLA isomers, but the main ones are isomer cis-9, trans-11 (c9t11), and trans-10, cis-12 (t10c12):

Linoleic acid structure

The main isomers that is produced by ruminants is c9t11, and commercial products commonly have equal amounts of c9t11 and t10c12. Research on the effects of CLA has proven that it has beneficial properties against obesity, cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.

Due to said modification at a molecular level, it is good for health and wellness in general.

Human beings also produce little amounts of CLA naturally in the liver, but as a transformation of linoleic acid (not conjugated).

What is the function of CLA?

The prominent scientist Michael W. Pariza, an expert on CLA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that CLA reduces the body’s ability to store fats.

It also encourages the elimination of stored fat and its transport through the bloodstream in order to be burned by the organism and transformed into energy. The important nutrients are transported in large quantities to the muscle cells, which produces an increase of muscle mass if you do exercise regularly.

Therefore, the nutrients and calories are used to build muscles and are not stored as body fat. CLA is a completely natural fatty acid that destroys fat while stimulating processes like protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Improved physical composition (Burns fat and increases muscles)

Several studies show how CLA effectively increases the metabolism, by enhancing the thermogenesis and burning fatty acids through multiple mechanisms. This process involves an increase of uncoupling proteins (UCP) which help to regulate the energy efficiency and which are responsible for maintaining the body temperature when we are exposed to the cold, as well as for burning the calorie excess from the diet.

The energy that comes from oxidizing carbohydrates, lipids and proteins is used to create ATP. However, if the oxidation is not fully engaged, a part of that energy is lost as heat. The UCP help to disengage this process by helping to dissipate as much energy as possible, accelerating our basal metabolism, which favors fat loss. These proteins are created mostly in the cells from brown fatty tissue, although they are also located in other tissues like the muscles. But apart from an increased metabolism also explains why CLA favors the synthesis of eicosanoids, which causes the release of neurotransmitters such as insulin, serotonin, epinephrine, or dopamine. As a result, the energy and fat metabolism is accelerated.

CLA and the regulation of sugar levels

Another reason why CLA supports weight loss, is its role in improving the insulin activity so that the glucose and fatty acids are available to muscles more quickly and they are not stored as fat cells. It also improves insulin sensitivity, which produces a positive effect on the sugar levels in blood.

CLA and the blockage of lipogenesis and adipogenesis

Another mechanism lies on its ability to block the lipogenesis and adipogenesis. Lipogenesis is the overcrowding of fat on the inside of the adipocytes. Adipogenesis is the differentiation and creation of new adipocytes. CLA is a great tool to avoid the accumulation of fat inside the adipocytes as well as its differentiation and even disposal (apoptosis).

Benefits of CLA for athletes

CLA and increased muscle mass

Rather than favoring an increase of muscle mass, CLA prevents its loss during periods of weight loss and/or cutting phases, this is why we can refer to it as an “anti-catabolic” agent. CLA promotes the storage of glycogen energy to encourage the use of fat as a source of energy. Moreover, it does not use amino acids as a source of energy when there is a calorie deficit. The fatty acid CLA also has antioxidant properties, blocking the anti-catabolic effect of cortisol (the stress hormone).

CLA strengthens the immune system and reduces the inflammation

CLA could also help to stimulate the synthesis of antibodies, enhance the immune system and reduce hypersensitivity or allergic responses. CLA also appears to produce a powerful anti-inflammatory effect.

CLA and cardiovascular health

CLA helps to reduce the creation of atherosclerotic plaque, favoring the release of substances with vasoactive properties, blocking inflammatory processes and reducing cholesterol levels in the cells which are responsible for atherogenesis. There is scientific evidence that CLA may also be beneficial to regulate high blood pressure and to block platelet aggregation.

CLA as a neuroprotector

CLA could also have great protective benefits against the toxicity produced by glutamate in some types of neurological disorders which result in the death of neurons.

Benefits and Properties of CLA for our organism

CLA has a series of benefits unlike any other type of fatty acid. Some of them are:

  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Improved muscle growth
  • Reduced cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood
  • Support to reduce insulin resistance
  • Support for the immune function

It is advisable to use it as a supplement along with a correct hypocaloric diet and regular physical exercise in order to achieve these results.

The recommended daily amount is 3 grams. Those who follow a diet without foods that come from animals (vegetarians and vegans) should consider using CLA since it would help them to solve this deficiency.

CLA supplementation can improve the proportion of lean mass / fat by reducing the accumulation of fat, specially in the abdomen, and by improving muscle growth. CLA achieves this reaction by improving insulin sensitivity, so that the fatty acids and glucose can cross the cell membranes from the muscles instead of being deposited in the fatty tissue.

How do fatty acids destroy fat?

  • Linoleic Conjugated Acid blocks the transport of fats to the adipose cells (where the fat is stored). This is due to the fact that CLA inhibits the action of the LPL (Lipoprotein Lipase) enzyme while favoring the lipolysis (destruction of fat).
  • Moreover, CLA helps to increase and improve the transport of fat to the mitochondria to be oxidized and consumed to obtain energy.

Why is weight not reliable?

Those who use CLA to burn body fat and increase muscle mass can mistakenly believe that they are not losing fat when they check their weight on the scales, since it has barely changed. This is because muscle is denser than fat, so the changes are more remarkable when we see ourselves in the mirror or in tight-fitting clothes.

Defined abdomen

This is the reason why many people often feel disappointed when they go to the gym to lose weight and the rely on the scale.

The body composition changes throughout exercise and training, which reduces body fat and increases muscle mass. The result is a much better physical appearance, but this is not necessarily reflected in our weight. Therefore, you should ignore the scales, since it only shows your total weight, but not the relationship between the fat and muscle tissues of the body.

How to increase the muscle mass?

  • CLA enhances the activity of the CPT enzyme which can be located in the muscle tissue and which is in charge of allowing the transport of fatty acids to the mitochondria so that they are oxidized and used as energy, among other things.
  • Then, physical exercise stimulates the fat transport to the muscle cells where it is consumed.
  • CLA without a balanced diet and an exercise plan does not have the same effects.

We are all aware of the huge problem that obesity entails in today’s society, ingredients like CLA should be taken into account to combat one of the main problems of this century.

Clinical studies show the positive effects of CLA

Recently, a Scandinavian scientist, Ola Gudmundsen carried out a clinical study in which those participants who took CLA could burn their body fat naturally.

60 people with obesity participated in this interesting study. They were randomly divided in five different groups. Each group was given different doses of olive oil daily: 1.7 grams; 3.4 grams; 5.1 grams, or 6.8 grams; except for the last group, that was given 9 grams of placebo. The study lasted 12 weeks.

The fat and muscle mass content was measured at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the study. Gudmundsen reached the following conclusion: “We have observed a significant change in the group of participants who took CLA, who lost one kilo of fat on average during the 12 weeks”.

The most significant thing was that those participants who consumed CLA lost weight and body fat without help from the diet nor physical exercise.

CLA also enhances the effect of other fat burners

Another study was performed in which mice were given CLA and guarana. Even though the mice had already lost a significant amount of fat with just the CLA, adding the guarana also produced an incredible loss of fat of a 50% in just 6 weeks.

The only inconvenient of this study is that it was performed on mice. However, the researchers advise, according to these exceptional results, to combine CLA with other fat burners like guarana to achieve the best results in a short period of time.

CLA is advised for the following cases:

  • Overweight
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss diets
  • Low fat diets
  • Muscle building
  • Atherosclerosis prevention
  • Cases of diabetes mellitus

Side Effects of CLA

CLA is a natural fatty acid (extracted from safflower oil), which has a positive effect on health. Clinical studies have shown that CLA fights against the free radicals like antioxidants do, and it can also reduce the cholesterol levels in a completely natural way.

These studies have also shown that the consumption of CLA has no side effects. Therefore, CLA is an ideal nutritional supplement, since it can also be taken for long periods of time with full confidence.

No side effects or interactions have been detected when taking the recommended dose of CLA as a dietary supplement. However, if you are pregnant, lactating, or taking medication, you should first consult your doctor before taking conjugated linoleic acid. There are studies that have used a dose of 7.5g for a year without reporting any adverse effects nor toxicity. The only thing was a slight decrease of HCL cholesterol and an increase of triglycerides.

Despite the fact that CLA has antioxidant effects, taking very high doses could interrupt the oxidation process and cause just the opposite effect. Therefore, it is essential not to take more than the recommended doses.

What are the sources of CLA?

CLA is naturally found in foods that come from animals almost exclusively, such as milk, dairy products, beef or lamb. Also, corn oil and flax seeds contain small amounts of these fatty acids.

What are the symptoms of a CLA deficiency?

Although it is very difficult to prove a CLA deficiency, it is thought that there is a direct relationship between a lack of CLA and an increase in body fat. A CLA deficiency can also cause growth disorders and skin problems such as acne.

How to take CLA

It is advisable to take between 3.2 and 6.4 g of CLA (in several doses distributed throughout the day) in order to obtain the benefits that we have mentioned previously. This amount would be impossible to obtain solely through food since a normal consumption wold only provide 300 milligrams per day.

CLA and weightlifting

We would have to eat a huge amount of cheese or minced meat to obtain the recommended amount of 3 grams of CLA, but from a nutritional perspective, they are high in fat and calories which ultimately could be harmful for our health. Therefore, it makes sense to take CLA through dietary supplements, which will allow us to obtain the desired effects without consuming calories excessively.

We should keep several things in mind when taking a CLA supplement. It is a fat and therefore its consumption with a meal and other fats will improve its absorption.

Taking CLA with Omega-3 produces a synergy that stimulates fat loss, preserves muscle mass, and increases the adiponectin levels, which is a hormone that prevents the formation of arethomas (fat deposits in the arterial wall) and that has anti-inflammatory effects. A low level of adiponectin is closely related to a high percentage of body fat.

The experts’ opinion on CLA:

1. Fat loss with CLA

A controlled double-blind placebo study carried out in Sweden has proven that CLA can significantly reduce body fat. Taking a daily dose of 4.2 grams of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) for 4 weeks can reduce the circumference of the waist by around 2.5 centimeters, without changing daily habits.

2. Reduced blood sugar levels with CLA

In a recent placebo-controlled study, scientists have shown that a regular intake of CLA leads to an improvement in the glucose levels in the blood. It showed that patients who took CLA had blood sugar levels five times lower than the group of participants who took the placebo.

Types of CLA

As we explained at the beginning of this article, conjugated linoleic acid is made of different isomers, the main ones being cis-9, trans-11 isomer (9,11 CLA) and trans-10, cis 12 isomer (10,12 CLA).

Commercial formulas often include CLA forms that are obtained from vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, or corn). Vegetable oils from safflower tend to have a blend of a 40% of the isomer 9,11 and 44% of the isomer 10,12 along with trace amounts of other isomers.

It seems that 9,11 CLA isomer is the one with the greatest anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties and which increases insulin sensitivity the most. However, 10,12 CLA isomer has the ability to improve the physical composition, by supporting the elimination of fat and increasing the muscle mass.

There are several CLA products available in the market, but the two patented brands that everyone knows are Tonalin® and Clarinol®, both obtained from safflower oil.

CLA by EssentialSeries is a product made of CLA from safflower oil (the same source that is used in the patented Tonalin and Clarinol formulas) which, apart from being a quality product, also has the advantage of being cheaper than other formulas.

If you can to purchase CLA supplements in HSN, click this link.

We always use the best raw ingredients and manufacturing resources. Our prices are affordable because we do not have intermediaries. The products go from the factory straight to your home!

Who can specially benefit from CLA?

  • Athletes
  • Those who want to encourage muscle growth
  • Those who suffer obesity
  • People with a low-fat diet
  • Diabetic people
  • The elderly

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About Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and therefore all his actions are rigorously backed by science.
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