Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that is naturally found in beef and dairy products. CLA levels in dairy products may be modified by changing the animals' diets. Most CLA dietary supplements are made from safflower oil. However, CLA is also found in other vegetable oils, including hydrogenated soybean oil.
Scientific interest in CLA began in the 1980s as a result of early evidence suggesting anticancer effects. Since this time, interest in CLA has broadened to areas of weight loss, exercise performance enhancement, and altered body composition. Conjugated linoleic acid is now a wide-selling supplement marketed to reduce obesity and body fat. Conjugated linoleic acid has also been studied for its effects on allergy, asthma, hair loss, heart disease risk, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, immune function, and rheumatoid arthritis. The two dominant isomers, or forms, of CLA that have been studied are the cis-9,trans-11 (c9,t11) and the trans-10,cis-12 (t10,c12) forms.
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Combination product examples: ProMass™ (gamma-linolenic acid and CLA).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a popular supplement marketed to reduce obesity and body fat. While some human evidence suggests that CLA may reduce body fat mass and body weight, results of other studies failed to show these effects. Additional research is needed in this area before firm conclusions can be made.
Limited research suggests that CLA may reduce sneezing due to birch pollen allergy. Further research is needed.
Limited human research showed that CLA may help asthma patients' lung function. Additional research is needed in this area.
Although early evidence suggested that CLA had anticancer effects, human studies are needed to investigate the potential anticancer potential of CLA.
Cardiovascular disease risk
Some, but not all, human studies showed a decrease in blood pressure with CLA treatment. Additional research is needed to investigate the possible cardiovascular effects of CLA.
Early evidence suggested that CLA might increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose; however, other studies have suggested that CLA increases insulin resistance in humans. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Exercise performance enhancement
Results from studies of the effects of CLA on exercise performance are mixed. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Preliminary research showed reduced hair loss after CLA treatment. More research is needed in this area.
High blood pressure
Early evidence suggests that CLA supplementation may reduce or prevent high blood pressure. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Early evidence suggests that CLA supplementation may have beneficial effects on blood lipids. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Based on human research, CLA may have small, significant effects on some immune markers. Additional research is needed in this area before a conclusion can be made.
Limited research showed that CLA decreased pain, stiffness, and medication needs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Additional research is needed.