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Conjugated Linoleic Acid
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Conjugated Linoleic Acid Usage

Written by FoundHealth.

Therapeutic Uses

While CLA is often recommended for aiding weight loss or improving body composition (ratio of muscle to fat), evidence from studies is conflicting. 1 One meta-analysis (systematic statistical review) of all the data found minimal benefits at most. 2 Another meta-analysis concluded that, when taken at a dose of 3.2 grams per day, CLA slightly reduces body fat levels. 3 Finally, in one study, a combination of CLA and chromium failed to improve body composition. 4

Note: Some, but not all studies have raised concerns that use of CLA by overweight people could raise insulin resistance and therefore increase risk of diabetes. In addition, it might increase cardiovascular risk in other ways, as described in the Safety Issues .

One study failed to find that CLA-enriched milk is helpful for metabolic syndrome , a condition associated with increased risk of heart disease. 5 A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 subjects tested CLA as a treatment for people with allergies to birch pollen (a common cause of hay fever ), and found some evidence of benefit. 6 A small double-blind trial found weak evidence that CLA might be useful for high cholesterol. 7 Some animal and test tube studies suggest that CLA might help prevent cancer , but the evidence is preliminary and inconsistent. 8 One study failed to find that CLA can enhance immune function. 9


  1. Erling T. A pilot study with the aim of studying the efficacy and tolerability of CLA (Tonalin) on the body composition in humans. Liilestrom, Norway: Medstat Research Ltd.; 1997. (Unpublished.)
  2. Voevodin M, Sinclair A, Gibson R et al. The effect of CLA on body composition in humans: systematic review and meta-analysis. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(suppl S55).
  3. Whigham LD, Watras AC, Schoeller DA. Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 85(5):1203-11.
  4. Diaz ML, Watkins BA, Li Y, et al. Chromium picolinate and conjugated linoleic acid do not synergistically influence diet- and exercise-induced changes in body composition and health indexes in overweight women. J Nutr Biochem. 2007 May 23. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Laso N, Brugué E, Vidal J, Ros E, Arnaiz JA, Carné X, Vidal S, Mas S, Deulofeu R, Lafuente A. Effects of milk supplementation with conjugated linoleic acid (isomers cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis-12) on body composition and metabolic syndrome components. Br J Nutr. 98(4):860-7.
  6. Turpeinen AM, Ylönen N, von Willebrand E, Basu S, Aro A. Immunological and metabolic effects of cis-9, trans-11-conjugated linoleic acid in subjects with birch pollen allergy. Br J Nutr. 100(1):112-9.
  7. Noone EJ, Roche HM, Nugent AP, Gibney MJ. The effect of dietary supplementation using isomeric blends of conjugated linoleic acid on lipid metabolism in healthy human subjects. Br J Nutr. 88(3):243-51.
  8. Chajes V, Lavillonniere F, Ferrari P, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid and the risk of breast cancer. Presented at: European Conference on Nutrition & Cancer; June 21-24, 2001; Lyon, France.
  9. Nugent AP, Roche HM, Noone EJ, Long A, Kelleher DK, Gibney MJ. The effects of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation on immune function in healthy volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr. 59(6):742-50.


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