What is CLA?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a family of omega-6 fatty acids which have only relatively recently drawn nutritional attention. This article will explain what CLA is and investigate what...

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a family of omega-6 fatty acids which have only relatively recently drawn nutritional attention. This article will explain what CLA is and investigate what it does in the body.


Foods High In CLA

CLA is not abundant in many foods, but is highest in meat products from ruminants (such as beef) or their milk. The CLA content of these products is very dependent on the diet of the animal, and grass fed beef can contain up to 500% more CLA than beef fed or feed such as hay.


CLA & Cancer

There have been a large number of animal studies which shown that CLA can inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, especially those developing in the skin and colon cells. Human studies on CLA and cancer are much less conclusive, and there is a large amount of debate about its benefits to breast cancer sufferers. Some studies shown that some forms (Trans-10, Cis-12) of CLA may actually have negative affect on breast cancer suffers. However, the majority of studies have shown CLA to be beneficial, and it can improve the action of tamoxifen (breast cancer drug). This indirect benefit may be the cause for inconsistent results as not all studies used tamoxifen.

Despite the promising results for CLA in reducing cancer there is still much which is needed to be understood on this topic, and it shouldn’t be taken for its potential to reduce cancer.


CLA & Weight Loss

The most promising benefits of CLA are its affects on weight loss. There have been over 30 human studies on CLA to investigate its effects on weight loss. They all used various dosages, and were conducted for various lengths of time. A meta analysis of all these studies showed that 3.2g/day of CLA is the most effective dosage at aiding with weight loss, and dosages over 3.2g/day don’t have any additional benefit. The scientific evidence supporting CLA’s ability to aid with weight loss is much greater than other supplements labelled as ‘weight loss supplements’ such as acai berry.

There is also a large amount of evidence to show that CLA can increase the amount of lean body mass on an individual, and so although it is aiding with fat loss the weight differences will not represent how much fat you have lost as you may have gained more muscle. For this reason it is more effective as a body toner than a weight loss supplement.


Other Benefits & Negative Effects Of CLA

There is growing evidence that increasing the amount of CLA in your diet will offer protective effects against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and improve immune function. These benefits could be a result of eating healthier meats (grass fed) as opposed to the increased CLA content.

Consuming too much CLA from foods alone is very difficult to do, but you can overdose on CLA from supplements and this can result in nausea, hyperglycemia and allergy symptoms such as rashes, itches and wheezing – this is rare though, and often nothing to worry about.



CLA is a healthy omega-6 fatty acid, and has shown anti-cancer properties for a number of types of cancer, but these need further investigation to fully understand how CLA works against various cancers. CLA is one of the most scientifically supported natural fat loss dietary supplements and is supported by a variety of different studies, and it may also aid with increasing lean body mass.

In order to increase CLA consumption eat grass fed meat (especially beef and lamb), and drink milk produced from grass fed cows. These animals have a naturally higher profile of CLA in their fat. Alternatively you can use CLA supplements.




Whingham LD, Watras CA, Scholler DA (2007). “Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans. Am”. J Clin Nutr 85 (5): 1203–1200.


A. De La Torre, D. Gruffat, D. Durand, D. Micol, A. Peyronc, V. Scislowskia, D. Bauchart. (2006). Factors influencing proportion and composition of CLA in beef. Meat Science. 72 (2), 258–268.


Aurora Aarco, Manuel M. Juareza, Nigel Bruntona, Przemyslaw D. Wasilewskia, Brendan Lynch, Sung-Sil Moon, Declan J. Troya, Anne M. Mullen . (2009). Enriching breakfast sausages by feeding pigs with CLA supplemented diets. Food Chemistry. 114 (3), 984–988.


Md M. Rahman, Ganesh V. Halade, Amina El Jamali, Gabriel Fernandes. (2009). Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) prevents age-associated skeletal muscle loss. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 283 (4), 513–518.


Yeonhwa Park, Michael W. Pariza. (2007). Mechanisms of body fat modulation by conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Food Research International. 40 (3), 311–323.

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