Conjugated Linoleic Acid

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Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) occurs naturally in many foods, particularly in beef, turkey and some dairy products. It is a form of the essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid. It has been shown to be an anti-carcinogen, to reduce adverse catabolic effects of immune stimulation, to enhance growth, to improve blood lipid profiles (Belury & Vanden 1997) and to act as an antioxidant. It has also been indicated that CLA may enhance fat loss and increase lean body mass (Pariza, et al 1996; Chin, et al 1994). It has therefore been postulated that CLA is a growth factor in some animal species and maybe humans.

It is not truly known how CLA works but there are theories. It may have positive effects on certain chemicals in the immune system, like cytokines and prostaglandins. Muscle growth and fat loss cannot be optimised when these two chemicals are not in line.

Another theory is that CLA may be involved in the way nutrients are used by the body, by altering nutrient flow through cell membranes.

CLA is being marketed as a fat burner and muscle-tone enhancer supplement to athletes, bodybuilders and everyone. Bare in mind that most of the studies have been performed on animals, so are really only weak evidence when applying the data to humans. More research is also needed to elucidate what dose is optimal, somewhere between two and six grams a day. Like creatine, it is impossible to obtain enough in order to give a desired result from foods alone.

CLA needs far more well designed research in order to get my 'seal of approval', and I wouldn't recommend its use yet. But I keep an open mind to it, and you may wish to give it a try. I'd be interested to know what you think.

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