CLA – The underestimated fat.

When you hear someone say "add fat to lose fat" it can be against everything we've been led to believe. I'm going to explain why it may be hard to believe, but it's true.

CLA is related to the omega-6 fatty acids, one of the two types of essential fatty acids that help the body increase its metabolic rate, boost your immune system and help keep your cholesterol levels in check. CLA is found in dairy produce and animal fats, such as beef, lamb, whole milk, and eggs. It cannot be produced by the human body so needs to come from your diet or as a supplement.

In the late 1980s, Michael W. Pariza, a professor in the Department of Food Microbiology and Toxicology at the University of Wisconsin, discovered an isolated agent in fried hamburger that reduced the incidence of cancer in mice. After much work his team unmasked the mystery element: a chemical form of linoleic acid they called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA.

Studies into CLA and it's benefits/effects on humans examined many variables and came up with various conclusions, one consistent finding was that CLA helped people lose body fat.

Some of the most cited is a Norwegian study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2000. It found that CLA reduced body fat and preserved muscle tissue in overweight or obese people who did not change their diet. According to the research project manager, individuals in the CLA group lost six pounds of body fat more, on average, than those in the placebo group.

CLA reduces body fat by increasing base line metabolic rate, it helps the body convert food more efficiently into energy. It doesn’t decrease body weight but as Professor Pariza told the American Chemical Society, “it keeps a little fat cell from getting bigger.” This alters the body’s fat-to-muscle ratio.

In one study, Pariza found that those who stopped dieting and did not take CLA eventually put weight back on in a typical manner – about 75 percent fat to 25 percent muscle. Participants who stopped dieting, but kept taking CLA, gained weight, but at a 50-50 fat-to-muscle ratio.

A bottle od Extreme Nutrition CLA capsules

CLA’s supposed benefits extend well beyond a more slender waist line. Further studies suggest that in addition to increasing muscle strength and exercise endurance, CLA can have an impact on specific diseases and ailments. Dr. Delbert Dorscheid, a cancer and asthma researcher in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Chicago, reviewed more than 200 published research and clinical trials on CLA’s health benefits. Among the findings was that women with increased levels of CLA in their body have lower breast cancer rates, similar findings were reported for colon and prostate cancer. And the health benefits don’t stop there: CLA has been linked to improved immune system function, as well as a decrease in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even allergies.

Pariza is careful to point out that CLA research is still in its infancy stage. “Some of these findings are better documented than others,” he says. “CLA has a potent inhibitory effect on body fat accumulation, but its effects on muscle are not conclusive. In animal models CLA reduces some but not all forms of cancer; dietary CLA is particularly effective in inhibiting breast cancer in rodents. However, some things, such as how it affects diabetes, have not yet been proven.”

Now, will help you? It might, if you know how to use it. Most of the studies concluded that a person needs 3.4 grams of CLA (3,400 mg) daily to receive its benefits. (The amounts used in many of the studies were two to three times higher, but the treatment period was only 12 weeks.) Where you get those 3.4 grams is a matter for debate, according to Peter W. Parodi, a food scientist with the Dairy Research and Development Corporation in Australia, of all the CLA found in food, “milk fat is the richest source of CLA.” But in low fat obsessed world the consumption of dairy products and red meat has dropped dramatically resulting in the dietary consumption of CLA having dropped as much as 80 percent in the last two decades!

In light of all the above, supplements appear to be the healthiest way to get CLA into your diet because they are manufactured to contain a specific balance of biologically active CLA isomers (chemical compounds). In foods where CLA occurs naturally, like beef and dairy, the CLA is associated with the fat. To get sufficient CLA you would have to eat a lot of fat which none of us really want to do.

Doug Black,

Extreme Nutrition Ltd.


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