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CLA, Is It a Fat Loss Super Supplement? by Mike T Nelson PhD(c) Research is confusing on fat loss supplements. Is most of it hype? Read on and find out the latest research on a fat loss fat (say that really fast 3 times) called CLA.

A Really Geeky Coffee Cup

Only a hardcore research geek gets all excited about finding the "secret" booth at conferences where they give away an awesome mug like the one above. I picked this one up at the Experimental Biology (EB for those in the know) conference in DC. It also works great to mix up some instant high fiber oatmeal in the morning instead of paying $17 for a piece of toast, a bagel and orange juice. Oral glucose tolerance test anyone? I think I will pass. Even if you don’t have a cool mug like mine, you can benefit from research to help you add more muscle, strength and drop fat. How you ask? Read on Research Tip When you are reading research (which I know you all secretly do, admit it!) a huge tip is to first thing to look at the subjects to determine: Animal, human, or plant? Ok, so plants are out for sure in the fitness research area (except as something to eat, well I guess animals are in that category too), so we are left with animal and human research.


I can hear all the pubmed ninjas screaming already “Animal research sucks since I am not a hairy white rat” While some may argue with that statement, let’s look at human vs. animal research in regards to a potential magical fat that can burn fat! Before we dive into this hot topic, we will take a side trip to understand the benefits of animal vs. human research since it is a very critical component. 2 Rat Research Pros 1) The End Any study where the animal was sacrificed would be at the top of the list not to be a volunteer in, right? I used my psychic powers to visualize a very short list. And no you can’t list your neighbor Bob who never returned your lawnmower in 1983 or the goons at the local Panet Fitness into those studies. Ok, I kid, I kid, as they would not pass IRB mustard and we are safe as some research just can't be done humanly on humans. Rats 1, Humans 0. 2) Easier To Do Running your own experiment on humans is much more intensive and time consuming. I can say that from first hand knowledge. Humans are busy people (just like you). Coordinating them and getting them to follow the protocol closely takes time (read: many grad students). 2 Human Research Pros 1) Translates better to you! Since you are not a 205 pound white Wistar rat, data collected from another human is more relevant to you and your efforts to gain muscle, strength, and lose fat. 2) More Realistic Related to #1, the results obtained are going to be more realistic of what to expect. As we will see, this is very important to understand so you don’t spend your hard earned money on worthless supplements to burn fat and gain muscle.


Super Rats Burning Tons Of Fat Dietary fat is an essential component in everyone's diet, despite the crazy low fat craze of the 80s.

The 80s Low Fat Diet Craze Lives On Is there a special fat that can burn fat though? A fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid. The two main essential diestary fatty acids are omega-6 and omega 3. Back in the early 2000s, CLA was all the rage as a fat burning fat. It can be found in nature as one of the fats in beef and dairy, so it can be sold in supplemental form. While there are many different types (isomers) of CLA the main ones are the trans-10, cis-12 and cis-9, trans-11 forms. Both of which are a mouthful for sure. Enough Science Babble Professor, Does It Work?


Much of the early (and even recent) data on CLA is from our 4 legged fury friend the rat. Looking at these data, we see that CLA is crazy good! One study showed done by James P. DeLany et al. showed a 10% drop in body fat with CLA in only 12 weeks! That is some insane fat loss my friend for a supplement! If you are currently 19% body fat, in 12 weeks you would be in the single digits just by taking some CLA (ok, a crap ton of CLA, but still…..) In the same study, CLA showed a nice dose response effect, so the more you took the more fat you lost!

Fat Weight vs CLA Percentage (adapted from Gaullier JM, et al. 2005) The mice still ate the same amount of food too! No need to starve yourself, just take some CLA, right? Many other studies went on to verify this response, showing that CLA was able to make super fit and lean mice. But……what about you and me? Will it work for you to speed up your fat loss results? Human Data on CLA For Fat Loss Despite CLA being in the food chain, human trials were a bit slow to come around. Heck, even just recently researchers are still looking at CLA in rodents, but now combining it with other things (Macarulla, AN 2011).


In one of the longest trials on CLA in humans, Jean-Michel Gaullier and friends showed that CLA did work! Sweet! I am off to the supplement store to get some right now! Hold on their Tex, just because the result was statistically significant, does not mean it will do crap in the really real world. After 2 years, compared to a placebo, one type of CLA showed a lost of 1.8 kg (give or take 3.7 kgs) and the other CLA group lost 2.7 kgs (give or take 3.4 kgs). At its best, over 2 whole friggin years, the average was just under a 6 lbs loss. I am unimpressed and this was one of the more positive studies! In a meta-analysis (think many studies pooled together), CLA did not appear to do much for muscle gain either (increase in fat free mass). Schoeller DA, et al in 2009 reported a very short term effect of less than 1% with CLA. Summary: CLA Effect on Fat Loss What did we learn today? Some animal models are a great start for research, but the actual human data may not pan out as well. CLA is a an awesome supplement for fat loss…………IF you are a rat. CLA does not appear to be harmful though, but not as beneficial for us human as our rodent friends. Rock on Mike T Nelson

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