cal foods

The Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleum Acid (CLA)

By Anthoney J. Andersen –

In today’s world, exercise and supplementation go together like motivation and success. With so many options to choose from, it’s often puzzling on which supplements provide results and which ones are scams.

So, if you’re looking to shed fat while increasing lean body mass, then the following information will provide some insight into one of the supplements that has grown widely popular in recent years, and will hopefully alleviate some of the skepticism surrounding today’s workout supplements.


According to, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) refers to a group of chemicals found in the omega family of fatty acids, which perform vital functions in the body and are necessary for optimal health and physical condition.

CLA is used to help treat cancer, heart disease, obesity, weight loss caused by chronic disease, bodybuilding and limiting food allergy reactions.

Up until a few years ago, CLA was an unrecognized nutrient – it occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, particular in beef, turkey and some dairy products. Because of this, CLA is not considered a drug, but a dietary supplement.

CLA appears to be involved in the regulation of fat, or adipose tissue, by the body. Though the precise role that CLA plays is still unknown, according to Pennington Biomedical Research Center, CLA assists in the use of body fat as a source of energy. Studies, in which animals were fed diets high in CLA, resulted in an increase energy disbursement and a decrease in body fat levels.

In addition, CLA appears to prevent the decrease in metabolic rate often associated with decrease in caloric consumption.

Therefore, CLA’s function is twofold: not only does it assist in the metabolism of stored body fat for fuel, but it also helps prevent the metabolism from slowing down while on a diet.


CLA use among athletes and mainstream fitness enthusiasts is increasing at an astonishing rate. The product is currently being promoted as a fat burner and muscle-tone enhancer in a variety of muscle building magazines.

According to, some of the most suggested benefits associated with CLA supplementation include:

  • Increased metabolic rate: This is an obvious benefit for any athlete/bodybuilder looking to lose weight while increasing his or her body composition.
  • Enhanced muscle growth: Muscle burns fat, which also contributes to increased metabolism – which is beneficial to weight loss and management.
  • Lowers cholesterol and triglycerides: Since many individuals struggle with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels (a type of fat found in the blood), any added assistance that can help decrease a person’s high cholesterol level can be advantageous to their overall health.
  • Lowers insulin resistance: Lowering insulin resistance has been shown to help prevent adult onset diabetes and make it easier to control weight.
  • Enhances immune system: With the various bacteria that can contribute to person’s poor immune system in contemporary society, any help with boosting immune system function can be a positive benefit to all.


If you’re someone who is hesitant when it comes to taking pills or powdered supplements – and are looking for a more natural way to consume CLA – then the best sources to turn to are animal meats – mainly from cows, goats and sheep.

Specific dietary recommendations have not yet been established for CLA, so follow the daily recommendations for omega-6 fatty acids. The American Dietetic Association suggests that three percent to 10 percent of your daily fat intake should come from omeg-6 sources.

For example, a person consuming 2,000 calories per day would look to consume seven to 22 grams of omega-6 fatty acids a day. A study published in 2001 in the Nutrition Research Journal estimated that the average intake of CLA among healthy adults in North America was 94.9 mg per day, but intakes varied greatly depending on dietary patterns.

beef steakBEEF

According to, the total amount of CLA from these foods varies greatly depending on what the animals ate. For example, the CLA content is 300-500 percent higher in beef and dairy from grass-fed cows, compared to grain-fed cows.

This is due to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids found in grass that is not present in corn. Fresh ground beef contains 4.3 mg of CLA per gram of fat.


Milk contains high amounts of CLA, especially from cows that are grass-fed. A study published in 2004 in “Circulation,” reports that cows fed grass at higher altitudes tend to have even more CLA content than those fed at lower altitudes, due to the omega-3 fatty acid content in the grass.

It’s important to note that CLA is found in the fat of milk; so consuming low-fat or non-fat versions of milk would have smaller amounts than whole milk. Cow’s milk contains 5.5 mg of CLA per gram of fat.


Eggs are another great source of CLA. Like with cows, chickens that are grass-fed have a higher amount of CLA in them. A study published in August 2004 in Food Chemistry reports that CLA content was maintained even after frying.

The Linus Pauling Institute fortified eggs with CLA in an effort to determine the effects of fortification on CLA levels in hamsters and proved to be effective without adverse effects. The idea is to use the same process in eggs for human consumption to improve the amount of CLA in the diet since food sources are limited in the Western diet.


CLA can also be found in pill form from your local grocery or vitamin store. If you’re interested in the potential health benefits of CLA, it’s recommended that you also consider taking supplements in order to consume enough CLA for a physiological effect to occur in your body, indicates the NYU Langone Medical Center. People typically take three to five grams of CLA per day through supplementation, a dose generally not achievable by eating food alone.


Even though research has shown that CLA can have many health benefits, you should first talk to your doctor before taking CLA supplements to prevent possible side effects. For example, since CLA has been known to impair your body’s ability to regulate your blood sugar levels, taking CLA supplements may be harmful to individuals with diabetes.

So have your doctor check to see if your body requires CLA supplementation – and if it does – he or she can recommend the right dosage for you.

Stay healthy.