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Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) for Weight Loss

Update on Scientific Claims


Updated December 03, 2003

by Mary J. Shomon

July 6, 2001 -- Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) an effective fat-fighter, as has been reported in some venues? Some scientists have looked at the available research, and found that there may be more validity to evidence that CLA may in fact help the body to deposit less fat and build more muscle.

We reported on CLA extensively here at the Thyroid site earlier this year, when many some patients -- myself included -- found that it could of help in reducing fat pockets -- particularly abdominal fat.

For some of the coverage, read: In my own case, I found that CLA worked very well for the first two months in terms of spot reducing some areas of fat -- in particular, my abdomen and face. But after a few months, its effects seemed to stall out on me, and other patients have reported a similar slow-down. Some folks had continued success, and a small but definite percentage of people felt that the CLA had the opposite effect on them, and was actually making them feel more bloated and possibly causing weight gain.

Interestingly, some new scientific analysis says that the research behind the health claims that CLA may help the body deposit less fat and develop more muscle has improved in its scientific quality. This is according to BioValidity, an independent organization that reviews and grades current research studies associated with nutritional health claims.

BioValidity has upgraded the research ratings associated with CLA weight and metabolism claims in its BioNutritional Encyclopedia (BNE). The benefit claim that CLA "may help the body to deposit less fat, and to develop more muscle" has been upgraded from a "Minimal"
science rating to a "Limited" rating by the BNE Advisory Board.

CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in animal and dairy fats such as beef, dairy products, poultry, eggs and corn oil. The human intestine produces CLA naturally from linoleic acid. Recent studies have been conducted on attaining a higher CLA content in daily food intake because of possible health benefits.

The BNE research team found nine published scientific studies associated with this health claim, seven of which were "pro," supporting the health claim, and two of which were "con."

In addition to the weight/metabolism health claim, the BNE team also reviewed CLA research related to inhibiting tumor formation ("Limited" science rating) maintaining healthy blood vessels ("Limited" science), and normalizing metabolism of glucose ("Minimal" science).

Consumers should be aware that while a limited level of research exists that supports these health claims, there is not the full body of scientific evidence that would warrant a "Strongest" or "Substantial" science rating, according to David Hamlin, President and CEO of BioValidity, Inc.

A "Limited" rating is generally assigned when clinical or scientific evidence is suggestive, but not definitive. "Minimal" ratings are assigned when research may be found in mainstream scientific journals, but are at a very preliminary stage and do not conclusively demonstrate a health-related value.

The BNE is a comprehensive online source of nutritional information, health concerns and research, with information under review from over 55,000 journal studies. Nutrition, health concerns, and body systems are the three topics researched by the BNE. Over 800 benefit statements of more than 250 nutritional supplements are included.

The changes to CLA are part of a constant renewal of information in the BNE, said Dr. Hamlin.

"The changes to our Conjugated Linoleic Acid ratings and the addition of new substances represent the BNE's ongoing commitment in keeping our clients informed and up-to-date on emerging nutrition issues," said Dr.Hamlin. "Our clients include Fortune 500 corporate clients in food production and nutraceutical industries, as well as individual health care practitioners ... all of whom want to know what these substances are and what health claims have been associated with them. The BNE is a watchdog to the nutrition market. Through access to the BNE's `Learn More' and `Benefits' sections customers can become scientifically informed on nutrition issues such as CLA."

The health claims in the BNE are judged by a peer-review rating system. Claims with the "Strongest science" research are differentiated from those with little or no scientific basis by means of a sliding scale. Pro, con, and inconclusive articles are applied to the benefit statements.

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