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Health News Archive 591 - Weight Loss
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CLA Prevents Weight and Fat Gain

A study published in the March 2007 issue of the International Journal of Obesity suggests that Tonalin® brand conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) has long-term health benefits in preventing weight and fat gain commonly experienced by adults as part of the normal aging process.

“These findings suggest that CLA may serve a critical role in reducing a common weight and fat gain that occurs with age,” said Prof. Dale Schoeller, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, senior author of the study. “For example about 65 percent of the U.S. population are obese or overweight – that’s a dangerous trend on many levels. We need more research like this to help overweight individuals when they are susceptible to weight gain.”

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recognized that “small, often cumulative weight gains contribute to ‘weight creep’ during adulthood.” They designed a study to determine if CLA supplementation would help overweight adults significantly reduce body fat over a six-month period and prevent weight gain during holiday seasons. The study confirmed that taking CLA decreases body fat mass, maintains lean body mass, and aids weight management. The researchers’ findings showed that participants taking Tonalin® CLA safely reduced their body fat mass by 1 kg and their body weight by 0.6 kg. In comparison, those in the placebo group gained 0.7 kg of body fat mass and 1.1 kg of body weight during the winter months that are especially problematic for overweight individuals. These differences between the groups were also statistically significant, and the authors highlight that the reduction in body fat in the group taking CLA was observed despite a decrease in their physical activity during that time. Furthermore, unlike many other studies on body composition, participants in this trial were not restricted by a controlled diet.

Study subjects included 40 healthy, overweight men and women who took 4 grams of Tonalin® CLA or a placebo per day from August 2004 to March 2005. Participants followed “healthy lifestyle” advice and Dr. Schoeller explained that while adults in this trial were only moderately active, CLA supplementation will probably be most effective when taken as part of a daily regimen that includes exercise and a reasonable diet.

Results of this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study corroborate and expand upon earlier findings by Dr. Jean-Michael Gaullier. His long-term studies revealed that CLA reduces body fat mass in overweight but otherwise healthy adults by as much as nine percent, while increasing muscle by 2 percent. CLA also helped participants in his studies to keep off the fat lost during the two-year trial.

According to Doris Bell, Ph.D., research platform manager at Cognis and study manager, the Wisconsin study confirmed again the safety of CLA supplementation. “Besides the routine clinical safety parameters, like lipid profile, insulin and glucose levels, we also included measurements for liver function, cardiovascular function, and markers of inflammation and endothelial function. CLA supplementation over six months did not adversely affect any of these functions.”

The study also showed that one marker called sVCAM - often described as a predictor of atherosclerotic processes - decreased significantly with CLA. “The decrease in soluble adhesion molecule sVCAM can be interpreted as beneficial and confirms other studies which showed that CLA might have anti-atherosclerotic effects, suggesting long-term benefits for cardiovascular health”, Dr. Bell stated.

Cognis Tonalin® CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is derived from natural safflower oil, is stimulant-free, and is the most clinically tested CLA on the market.  CLA is a polyunsaturated, conjugated fatty acid that is a natural part of the human diet, found primarily in meat and dairy products.


Objective: The incidence of obesity and overweight in the US has increased considerably during the past two decades and currently affects 65% of the adult population. Research has indicated that small, yet irreversible, gains during the holiday season contribute to increases in weight during adulthood. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring dietary fatty acid, has been found to reduce weight gain and dramatically decrease fat mass in animals. Although research in humans has shown inconsistent results, most studies have been of insufficient duration or have utilized body composition methods that are less accurate than the currently accepted criterion.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 3.2 g/day CLA for 6 months.

Subjects: Forty healthy, overweight subjects (age: 18–44 years; body mass index: 25–30 kg/m2)

Measurements: Body composition by the four-compartment model, resting metabolic rate (RMR) by indirect calorimetry, self-reported physical activity and dietary intake, and blood chemistries were determined at baseline and after 6 months. Body weight was measured monthly during the pre-holiday season (August–October), holiday season (November–December) and post-holiday season (January–March). Adverse events were assessed monthly.

Results: Compared to CLA, the placebo group showed a greater rate of weight gain during the holiday season (P=0.01). Within the placebo group, holiday weight change was significantly greater compared to the pre-holiday period (August–October) (P=0.03). Six-month change in body composition was improved with CLA compared to placebo (P=0.02), and body fat was significantly reduced within the CLA group (-1.02.2 kg, P=0.05). CLA had no effect on RMR, physical activity or dietary intake. The rate of reported negative emotions decreased significantly with CLA, although there was no difference in any other category of adverse event. In comparison to the placebo, CLA did not affect insulin resistance, blood lipids and markers of liver function or markers of inflammation, with the exception of a significant decrease in a biomarker of endothelial dysfunction.

Conclusion: CLA supplementation among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. Although no adverse effects were seen, additional studies should evaluate the effect of prolonged use of CLA.

Source: A C Watras, A C Buchholz, R N Close, Z Zhang and D A Schoeller; The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain. Int J Obes 31: 481-487;

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