Does CLA burn fat?

What studies (in humans) tell us about CLA

Does it really burn fat?

CLA is one of the best known supplements for fat loss, and over the years, they remain on the shelves, with many people swearing their feet together that it works.

But does it really work?

First of all, CLA is an acronym, which in Portuguese stands for conjugated linoleic acid, and basically, it's a fat you can find in various foods like meat or milk.

After having been shown to be really effective in animals, interest has naturally arisen in its application in humans, and whether or not it would have the same results.

It didn't take long before supplement companies promoted CLA as the wonder supplement that destroys fat and increases muscle mass.

Unfortunately, it's not really like that.

We will investigate only the effects of CLA on weight and fat loss, and find references to all the studies used here at the end of the article.

👍🏼 Works

Chinese population

In 2012, a study was conducted to evaluate the effect of CLA supplementation on weight and fat loss in people of Chinese nationality.

Participants were 63 individuals, with a body mass index between 24 and 35 and were separated into two groups.

One group received 1.7g of CLA mixed with 200ml of milk twice a day, while the other group received vegetable oil in place of CLA also with 200ml of milk twice a day.

The study lasted 12 weeks and none of the participants knew which of the mixtures they were using.

The group that used vegetable oil lost on average 0.07kg of fat, while the group that used CLA lost on average 0.69kg at the end of the 12 weeks.

There were no changes in lean mass.

The results were apparently more positive in women than in men.


2.6% more

After we passed through China, we now go to Sweden, where a study was conducted in 2001 to assess the effectiveness of CLA.

Fifty-three healthy people, both men and women, between 23 and 63 years old were selected and were later separated into two groups.

One group received a supplementation of 4.2g of CLA per day, while the other group received 4.2g of olive oil.

Both groups lost fat.

However, the group that used CLA at the end of the 12-week study lost on average 2.6% more fat than the group that did not use CLA.

CLA in children

In 2010 a group of researchers decided to analyse the effects of CLA on overweight or obese children.

The study lasted approximately 7 months, and 62 children between 6 and 10 years old were selected, overweight or considered obese.

Once again two groups were created, in which one of the groups received 3g of CLA mixed in chocolate milk, and another group received chocolate milk, but without CLA.

None of the children knew which group it was in.

While the group that used only milk increased its body mass index by 1.1%, the group that had the addition of CLA had a lower increase of approximately 0.65%.

It was also observed that the group that used supplementation had an increase in lower fat, especially in the abdominal area.

CLA gymnasia

90 days of CLA in women

For this study, 40 women diagnosed with metabolic syndrome were selected, and during 90 days, two groups were created, in which one received 3g of CLA daily and the other group did not.

In addition, all participants followed a low-calorie diet.

At the end of the study, women who used CLA lost on average 2.3% body fat, while the group that did not supplement, lost on average 1.2%.

The effects at the level of fat loss began earlier in the supplemented group, than in the group without supplementation.

👎🏼 Does Not Work

CLA + Chromium

This study evaluated the results of combining CLA with chromium supplement, also often used for fat loss.

Thirty-five overweight women, about 28 of BMI, and approximately 36 years of age were selected.

The study lasted 12 weeks and in addition to supplementation, these women also followed a low-calorie diet and had to walk at moderate intensity or run slightly for 30 minutes, five times a week.

Two groups were created, in which the only difference was that one of them ingested 400ug of chromium with 1.8g of CLA, and the other ingested only vegetable oil.

Both groups lost weight and fat, but there were no significant differences between them.

fat cla

1 year of CLA

In 2006 they decided to do a longer study, and evaluate the effects of CLA over a period of one year.

Unlike the other studies we have presented so far, this has not focused on fat loss, but rather on another of the purported benefits of this supplement, preventing people who have lost fat from regaining back.

We selected 122 obese individuals with a BMI greater than 28, and to test this hypothesis, these people followed a low-calorie diet with a caloric deficit between 800 and 1000kcal, still without CLA.

After eight weeks, the group was reduced only to participants who lost more than 8% of their initial weight, which decreased the group to 101 people, and ended this phase of fat loss.

These 101 people were then separated into two groups, in which one of them received 3.4g of CLA daily for one year, and the other group 3.4g of olive oil to serve as a comparison.

The caloric restriction at this stage dropped to only 300 kcal, and the final results were not very encouraging.

The group that used CLA increased their weight by an average of 4.8kg at the end of a year, and fat gains were on average 3.5kg.

In the group that was left by olive oil, weight gain was on average 4.5kg and fat increase of 3.8kg.

CLA + Exercise

This study was presented this year, and evaluated the impact of this type of supplementation on fat loss in combination with exercise in women considered obese.

Twenty-eight women were selected, and for 8 weeks, half of them received 3.2g of CLA per day and the other half 4g of olive oil. Both groups followed the same aerobic exercise protocol.

As you would expect, both groups showed positive results.

The group that used CLA lost 1% fat in the trunk, 1% fat in the legs and 1.7% of total fat.

The group that instead of using this supplement received olive oil, lost 0.5% fat in the trunk, 1.6% fat in the legs and 1.3% of total fat.

That is, in total the difference was 0.4% between groups, a non-significant result.

cla exercise

Healthy and active people

To finish, in 2007 a study was presented that analyzed the effects of this supplement on people who exercise and with a body weight considered normal.

For this, 25 men and 37 women who met these requirements were selected and separated into two groups.

One of the groups received 3.9g of CLA and the second group received 3.9g of sunflower oil for 12 weeks.

The conclusion was that this supplement had no significant impact on body composition, appetite or metabolic rhythm.

👉🏼 Conclusion

What conclusion can we draw from here?

Well, there are only eight studies, so you can't draw definitive conclusions, but apparently CLA is far from a consensual supplement like Creatine.

On the one hand it has studies with favorable results, but the numbers do not impress, and apparently the effect is very modest when it works.

On the other hand, there are studies that show that there is not even any benefit in using CLA for the purpose of fat loss, with results similar to those who did not use this type of supplementation.

In practice, it is very difficult to evaluate the efficacy of CLA, since it is usually combined with a low-calorie diet and exercise, which in itself leads to fat loss.

Moreover, unlike most thermogenics, where an immediate response is noted due to the stimulating effect, CLA does not have such an effect.

It doesn't seem like a very promising fat loss supplement, but if you've tried it, tell us your experience in the reviews.


Chinese population

Chen SC, Lin YH, Huang HP, Hsu WL, Houng JY, Huang CK. Effect of conjugatedlinoleic acid supplementation on weight loss and body fat composition in aChinese population. Nutrition. 2012 May;28(5):559-65.

2.6% more

Smedman A, Vessby B. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation inhumans-metabolic effects. Lipids. 2001 Aug;36(8):773-81.

CLA in children

Racine NM, Watras AC, Carrel AL, Allen DB, JJ McVean, Clark RR, O'Brien AR,O'Shea M, Scott CE, Schoeller DA. Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on body fat accretion in overweight or obese children. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010May;91(5):1157-64.

90 days of CLA in women

Oak RF, Uehara SK, Rosa G. Microencapsulated conjugated linoleic acidassociated with hypocaloric diet reduces body fat in sedentary women withmetabolic syndrome. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2012;8:661-7.

CLA + Chromium

Diaz ML, Watkins BA, Li Y, Anderson RA, Campbell WW. Chromium picolinate andconjugated linoleic acid do not synergistically influence diet- andexercise-induced changes in body composition and health indexes in overweightwomen. J Nutr Biochem. 2008 Jan;19(1):61-8.

1 year of CLA

Larsen TM, Toubro S, Gudmundsen O, Astrup A. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y does not prevent weight or body fat regain. Am J ClinNutr. 2006 Mar;83(3):606-12.

CLA + Exercise

Ribeiro AS, Pina FL, Dodero SR, Silva DR, Schoenfeld BJ, Sugihara Júnior P,Fernandes RR, Barbosa DS, Cyrino ES, Tirapegui J. Effect of Conjugated LinoleicAcid Associated With Aerobic Exercise on Body Fat and Lipid Profile in ObeseWomen: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, and Placebo-Controlled Trial. Int J SportNutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Apr;26(2):135-44.

Healthy and active people

Lambert EV, Goedecke JH, Bluett K, Heggie K, Claassen A, Rae DE, West S, DugasJ, Dugas L, Meltzeri S, Charlton K, Mohede I. Conjugated linoleic acid versus high-oleic acid sunflower oil: effects on energy metabolism, glucose tolerance,blood lipids, appetite and body composition in regularly exercising individuals. Br. J Nutr. 2007 May;97(5):1001-11.

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