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Supplement Can Help Manage Both Weight and Diabetes

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Aug. 20, 2000 (Washington) -- It may not make you lose much weight, but it will help you keep pounds off, while also perhaps delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes and controlling the disease.

Those are the results of the first U.S.-based studies in people of the effects of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. CLA is a popular dietary supplement commonly used to help people lose fat, maintain weight loss, retain lean muscle mass, and control type 2 diabetes -- the type of diabetes that is often associated with obesity.

CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in many meat and dairy products. In studies in animals, it has also been shown to fight arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the artery walls, and several types of cancer. It also appears to enhance the immune system. The results of the first U.S. human studies were presented Sunday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Michael Pariza, PhD, is director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where the fatty acid was discovered and where it has now been shown to aid in weight management. "It is keeping little fat cells from getting big," explains Pariza, one of the study's lead investigators and a member of the team that documented CLA's existence in 1978.

Since that discovery, two decades' worth of study has yielded much information about the effects of CLA, he tells WebMD. The latest study simply confirms that CLA is a safe and effective option for weight management, when combined with dieting and exercise, he says.

For the study, 80 obese people were told to diet and exercise, and their weight and body composition were monitored over a six-month periods. Most lost 3-5 lb but regained most or all of that weight. However, those study participants who took CLA retained an even ratio of muscle and fat over the six months -- while those who did not take the supplement put pounds back on at the more typical ratio of 75% fat to 25% lean mass, he says.

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