CLA: The New Miracle Weight Loss Pill?
May 20, 2004 -- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a contender
for the weight-loss miracle pill. One group of overweight women lost 9% body
fat in one year's time. Not bad, since they didn't change their lifestyle or
"We really believe this is promising," lead researcher
Jean-Michel Gaullier, PhD, with the Scandinavian Clinical Research Group, tells
WebMD. His study appears in the June issue of the American Journal of
"It is the first time we have looked at the effects of CLA
on body composition to get unequivocal results," he says.
But here's one concern: The volunteers taking CLA had changes
in certain heart disease risk factors. But Gaullier tells WebMD that the
changes seen in cholesterol level and blood sugar levels were not
However, the findings warrant further investigation, says Cindy
Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic and a
spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She agreed to comment on
"The impact [of CLA] on heart disease and diabetes needs to
be investigated further," Moore tells WebMD. "This is what science is
all about, piecing together studies that provide the bigger, broader
What Is CLA?
CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in meat and dairy
products. It is also a popular dietary supplement that is sold with claims of
helping people lose fat, maintain weight loss, retain lean muscle mass, and
control type 2 diabetes -- the type of diabetes that is often associated with
In health food stores, CLA is sold as a pill or as a syrup. The
syrup tastes pretty good and can be mixed with food, Gaullier tells WebMD.
"But if you break the capsules apart and try to mix it with yogurt, it
tastes very bad. It has a very bitter taste."
CLA comes in varying concentrations. Be sure to buy a product
containing 80% CLA to get maximum weight-loss results, he says.
In small studies involving animals, CLA has been shown to
prevent heart disease and several types of cancer, Gaullier says. It also
appears to enhance the immune system.
Smaller studies of CLA's effectiveness in weight loss have
shown some contradictory results -- possibly because they used body fat scales
to measure improvements, and those scales are not very accurate, he tells
WebMD. In his study, Gaullier used a body-scanning technology called DEXA
(dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). "It is very accurate in measuring body
fat," he tells WebMD.
His is the first long-term study of CLA's safety and
effectiveness in weight loss.
Some Weight Loss, Excellent Body Fat Loss
Gaullier's study involved 180 overweight men and women, all
between 25 and 30 BMI (body mass index). A BMI -- an indicator of body fat --
over 25 has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other medical
problems, such as diabetes. The volunteers were mostly female -- 149 women and