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Food Supplement Helps Dieters Reach Goal and Keep Weight Off, Studies Show

(Canadian Presse - August 21, 2000)

TORONTO (CP) - If you haven't started hearing the buzz about CLA, you will soon. Research into conjugated linoleic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid taken as a food supplement, points to wide potential health benefits. In animal testing it has been shown to stave off cancer, help control asthma and diabetes, reduce hardening of the arteries and enhance immune function.

But studies presented Sunday at a conference in Washington focused on the subject that's going to put CLA on the map for the general public - especially those concerned about their weight. Results of the first human studies on CLA show that it may help overweight adults lose weight and fat - two separate matters - and help keep weight off once they've stopped dieting.

Two studies - one done in the United States, the other in Norway - also showed there were no serious side-effects from taking CLA. In another Norwegian study, people who took CLA lost weight without changing their diets.

All three are being presented this week to the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The U.S. study was led by Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The University of Wisconsin holds the patent for CLA, which is made from sunflower oil. Pariza has no financial interest in the patent. Pariza followed the progress of 80 overweight people over a six-month period. Some were given CLA while others were given a placebo. Participants didn't know which they received.

All participants dieted and exercised and most lost weight. But many regained at least some of the weight when they stopped dieting. Subjects not taking CLA put weight back on in the typical human pattern - about 75 per cent fat to 25 per cent muscle. Those on CLA who put weight back on had a markedly different fat-muscle ratio, essentially 50-50.

"That difference is very significant," Pariza said in an interview. "That's more like when you exercise."

"That leads us to the conclusion that CLA can be used to control weight gain rather than as a slimming aid per se."

One of the Norwegian studies followed 60 overweight people who were not allowed to diet. Those who took CLA rather than a placebo experienced what the researchers called a statistically significant weight loss - the equivalent of a 160 pound person losing two or three pounds over 12 weeks.

"That doesn't sound like a lot but it is statistically significant," Ola Gudmundsen, one of the lead investigators, said in a statement. Pariza, who has been researching the potential uses of CLA for decades, doesn't want to see the supplement touted as a miracle drug when it comes to weight loss.

"I think it's something that can help. But certainly there are no miracles," he insisted, saying he's not ready to see CLA turned into "an infomercial."

"I think we've got to be careful about how we present it. It's still a work in progress. But what we're learning is certainly becoming more and more promising all the time in terms of human health."

Pariza said CLA works on fat cells, preventing them from doing what they are programmed to do - amass fat.

"It doesn't make a big fat cell get little. What it rather does is keep a little fat cell from getting big."

Regardless of whether it helps people actually lose weight, CLA could have a role to play in dieting, Pariza's study suggests.

Participants in his study were monitored carefully for possible adverse side-effects of CLA. They were quizzed regularly on their mood, how their digestive systems were working, on their sleep patterns and other general health issues.

The research team was surprised to find that those who were receiving CLA reported feeling markedly better than those receiving the placebo. Pariza called the magnitude of the differences "extremely significant."

"Basically it was associated with reducing the stress of a weight-loss diet," he said.

"So our conclusion from all of this is that CLA can be helpful to people while they were on diets because it makes it easier for them to do the diet."

"And once they've achieved the weight they want to be it can help them keep from getting into the yo-yo thing and gaining it all back." Pariza cautioned that consumers should be careful about buying CLA, saying many products that purport to contain it are not of a high quality.

"The last thing they should do is go on the Internet and start buying CLA, unless they see a branded name," he added. He said acceptable brands include Tonalin and Clarinol.

"Because God only knows what you're getting on the Internet these days."



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