Conjugated Linoleic Acid Can Help Increase Thermogenesis

CLA Burns Body Fat

Of all the ways to help burn body fat, thermogenic agents - such as ephedrine and yohimbine, along with any of their boosters, including caffeine, white willow, and phenylalanine - are a very efficient way to get on board the weight-control train. However, most thermogenic agents provide a certain stimulation, not unlike that of caffeine, that goes along with the experience.

If you don't care for the stimulation (although many people love it), or if you don't want it all the time (not in the evening, say), or if you want to help maintain your body weight and not gain any fat, having another choice is advantageous. In such cases, the alternative of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is for you.

CLA is a natural polyunsaturated fatty acid found predominantly in foods originating from ruminants. It is created through the fermentation of grain with the help of certain bacteria - in the belly of a cow, for example. The grain must be exceedingly fresh, and the ruminant must not have eaten silage or other preserved or prepared food.

In a study in which the CLA content of milk fat was examined under various feeding regimens, cows allowed to graze freely on the range, and not fed supplementally with corn silage or corn oil, had 500% more CLA in their milk fat than cows fed typical dairy diets.1 Other than dairy products, meat is the most common source of CLA. It is richest in beef, but it is also found in lamb and veal and, to a lesser degree, in pork, chicken, and turkey.2

Evidence compiled over the last decade has led to the recognition that CLA possesses unique and potent antioxidant activity.3 In the body, it is taken up by phospholipids, a class of fats that serve as the principal structural components of cell membranes. CLA is now thought to represent a previously unidentified defense mechanism against membrane attack by oxygen free radicals. It is also thought to help protect against atherosclerosis and cancer. It enhances body composition by helping to increase muscle while reducing fat. Moreover, in animal studies, CLA has been shown to increase bone mass and to exert a positive effect on diabetes. Clearly, CLA is a serious health food.

CLA has received considerable attention due to its reported ability to inhibit carcinogenesis and to attenuate atherosclerosis in laboratory animals, both of which benefits are attributed to its antioxidant properties. As well, CLA may positively affect energy metabolism and decrease the storage of fat - mechanisms that are believed to influence tumorigenesis and inflammatory responses indirectly. When mice were fed CLA together with their regular diet, the result was reduced body fat and increased lean muscle.4,5 In other published studies on mice in the same laboratories, it has been shown that CLA:

  • Increases energy expenditure6
  • Rapidly reduces adiposity (fat buildup)7

Although the precise mechanisms for these actions of CLA are not known, the mobilization and loss of body-fat stores certainly do not result from a reduction in energy consumption. In a carefully controlled study, it has been shown that CLA will reduce body-fat stores without any reduction of energy intake.7

When mice were fed a high-fat diet containing 1% by weight of CLA for 5 weeks and then compared with control mice, their stored body fat had decreased by approximately 50%, but there were no significant changes in body weight.7 This meant that there was an equal gain in lean body mass, i.e, CLA increased muscle mass as it decreased fat!

CLA increased energy expenditure consistently by an average of 8% throughout the experiment. This increase, in conjunction with a constant energy intake, was apparently sufficient to account for the lower body-fat stores in the CLA-treated mice.

The authors of the study concluded that CLA acts to reduce body-fat stores by chronically increasing the cellular metabolic rate. CLA can help increase your muscle mass while it burns fat. Is it any wonder that some scientists are calling CLA a new nutrient? You will too, once you begin to experience its many health-supporting advantages. And a view of your new self in the mirror may stop you in your tracks.


  1. Dhiman TR, Anand GR, Satter LD, Pariza MW. Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci 1999 Oct;82(10):2146-56.
  2. Ha YL, Grimm NK, Pariza MW. Anticarcinogens from fried ground beef: heat-altered derivatives of linoleic acid. Carcinogenesis 1987 Dec;8(12):1881-7.
  3. Pariza MW, Ha YL. Newly recognized anticarcinogenic fatty acids. Basic Life Sci 1990;52:167-70.
  4. Park Y, Albright KJ, Liu W, Storkson JM, Cook ME, Pariza MW. Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on body composition in mice. Lipids 1997 Aug;32(8):853-8.
  5. Park Y, Storkson JM, Albright KJ, Liu W, Pariza MW. Evidence that the trans-10,cis-12 isomer of conjugated linoleic acid induces body composition changes in mice. Lipids 1999 Mar;34(3):235-41.
  6. West DB, Blohm FY, Truett AA, DeLany JP. Conjugated linoleic acid persistently increases total energy expenditure in AKR/J mice without increasing uncoupling protein gene expression. J Nutr 2000 Oct;130(10):2471-7.
  7. DeLany JP, Blohm F, Truett AA, Scimeca JA, West DB. Conjugated linoleic acid rapidly reduces body fat content in mice without affecting energy intake. Am J Physiol 1999 Apr;276(4 Pt 2):R1172-9.

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