Research shows that CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) fat is ideal for weight loss. However, the effects are not translated to human beings when availed in supplement forms.

The quest for weight loss is more popularized because many people want to be fit for the beauty industry when they have the ideal shape. Others have medical conditions or are obese and feel inclined to lose excess fats. With such hype, many supplements for weight loss are on the market, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is one of them. Research shows that CLA can help with weight loss, primarily in animals, but the same effects are not translated to human beings upon taking CLA supplements. As such, you may wonder if you should take CLA supplements for weight loss. Peer into this article to understand what CLA is and if you should supplement with it to achieve weight loss.

Defining CLA

First things first, let’s understand what conjugated linoleic acids are. Simply put, they are a type of dietary fats found in animals, particularly in milk and muscle tissues. As such, eating beef (preferably grass-fed cows) or drinking milk, as well as dairy products like feta cheese, cheese, mozzarella cheese, butter, and ghee, helps you get CLA. Conjugated linoleic fatty acids are not manufactured by the body but are made from omega-6 acids when animals feed on plants and take in omega- 6s.

CLAs are not essential fats

Essential fats are those the body does not produce but has to rely on the diet to get them. As such, not eating foods rich in such fats may lead to certain deficiency diseases and symptoms and prevent one from having optimal health. Although the body does not produce CLA, it does not necessarily mean that CLAs are essential fats. This is because there are many precursors to this fat.

Different types of CLA

There are different forms of the conjugated linoleic fats, with c9, t11 (cis 11, trans-11), and t10, c12 (trans- 10, cis 12). Both are found in the diet, but c9, t11 dominates, and the t10, c12 are only present in small amounts. Contrarily, CLA supplements have t10, c12 since this very form is linked to weight loss benefits. Studies feel that the effect of t10, c12 fats in animals differs from their bearing on human beings, as shown by previous studies.

The prefix ‘trans-‘ means that the main two forms of conjugated linoleic acids are trans fats. Trans fats are artificially manufactured by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make them stable at room temperatures. Unsaturated fats have open bonds, which hydrogen occupies to form trans fats. Industrial trans fats are touted as unhealthy since they are linked to inflammation and higher risks of chronic diseases. In fact, trans fats are banned in the USA and are not used in fast foods and baked products because of the associated health benefits. On the contrary, the trans fats in CLA are generally healthy and are not linked to inflammation and inflammatory conditions.

CLA may aid weight loss in animals

Studies show that using CLA on animals effectively leads to weight loss. The mechanism behind this has not been fully understood, but other sources link it to the increased production of protein and fats that add to fat metabolism. More intake of CLA boosts the expressions of these enzymes and proteins, promoting weight loss. In one study, mice were given CLA for 6 weeks, and the rodents shook as much as 70% of total fat content in the end. Furthermore, the study realized that the effect of CLA for weight loss in animals is dose-dependent. As such, increasing the animal’s CLA intake leads to more weight loss.

Test-tube studies show that CLA might aid with weight loss in animals

Further studies in controlled environments and test tubes show that there is weight loss in animals with CLA administration. For instance, a study took pigs cells and administered CLA. The cells revealed amazing weight loss effects, which, like the rodent test, was dose-dependent. Following the promising results, researchers were moved to try CLA on man.

Conjugated linoleic acid fats may not be as effective for weight loss in human beings

Although studies show that CLA administration in animals may help them lose fats and overall weight, these effects are not translated to human beings. Of course, there is a pinch of effects, but it’s almost insignificant. For instance, a study gave a sampled population a placebo or 3.2 g of CLA, and the latter group lost about 0.05 kg per week. This translates to 0.2 kg in a month, which is quite minuscule. In another study, obese people were given a placebo or a daily dose of 2.4 g- 6 g of CLA for 6 months to one year. The CLA group experienced more weight loss than the placebo group and lost about 1.33 kg. Honestly, losing 1.3 kg in 6-12 months is not sustainable or significant in the long or short term. Still, these insignificant effects do not come without the negative side effects of processed products like supplements. As such, taking CLA supplements for weight loss is not wise.

The t10, c12 CLA may not be as effective as c9, t11 for weight loss

Some sources argue that CLA is more effective for weight loss in animals than human beings because of the forms in which they are found. Most supplements have t10, c12 CLA, which, despite being linked to weight loss, does not produce such effects in human beings. Contrarily, animals have both t10, c12 and c9, t11, which could be why they have better weight loss results than human beings.

Stick to the diet to get CLA

Although CLA may not be effective for weight loss in humans, it still has many positive effects, especially when sourced from the diet. As such, eat dairy products like butter, ghee, cheese, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, beef round, lamb, etc., to source CLA from the diet. What’s more, these do not come with the inflammatory risk.


Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a natural dietary fat in animals. Its supplements are marketed for weight loss, but they don’t help shake off significant weight in humans as in animals. As such, sticking to dietary sources such as ghee, lamb, butter, cheese, etc., is a better way to go.

Nutritionist. Bluffton University, MS

In today's world, people's eating and exercise patterns have changed, and it is often lifestyle that is the cause of many diet-related illnesses. I believe that each of us is unique – what works for one does not help another. What is more, it can even be harmful. I am interested in food psychology, which studies a person's relationship with their body and food, explains our choices and desires for specific products, the difficulty of maintaining optimal body weight, as well as the influence of various internal and external factors on appetite. I'm also an avid vintage car collector, and currently, I'm working on my 1993 W124 Mercedes. You may have stumbled upon articles I have been featured in, for example, in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Grazia, Women's Health, The Guardian, and others.

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