2021's 10 Best
The world knows CLA for its fat-burning capabilities. What many don’t realize is that it’s capable of improving other aspects of your life than just body composition.
CLA is an acronym for Conjugated Linoleic Acid. It is considered to be an omega-6 fatty acid (omega-6). Most associate omega-6 fatty acids with bad health, and this is because they’re often found in overly-processed and high-fat foods. Americans especially are known for having too much omega-6 in their systems, and it leads to many negative health impacts.
The difference between CLA and other omega-6 fatty acids, though, is that CLA is polyunsaturated. This means the molecular chain contains a double bond, which changes the way it interacts in your body. It acts more like an omega-3, which is known to be good for you, rather than a typical omega-6.
Because people have so many omega-6 fatty acids in their system, the idea of taking more seems to contradict their goal of improving health. But unlike other omega-6s, there’s not a hard line on how much CLA you can take before it’s bad for you. And you can actually take CLA to reduce the negative impacts of other omega-6s.
CLA is typically found in beef and sheep products, which includes both meat and dairy. You’ll have the best luck finding it in products labelled “grass-fed” or that are “whole fat” and “organic”. This is because the processing is different both inside the animal and just prior to being ready to sell.
That being said, there are many people who fail to get enough CLA in their diets naturally. Whether this is because they’re vegetarian or because they have poor eating habits, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is finding a supplement that is cruelty free and that has a solid base in CLA (meaning, there’s not a ton of additives). That way, you can see the best results and feel great about them. Jump to our list of amazing CLA Supplements
Let’s look at the benefits of CLA, the best way to get these benefits, and how much CLA you should take daily to feel your best.
What Are the Benefits of CLA Pills?
CLA is one of the top-most dietician-recommended weight-loss supplements available. But aside from weight loss, CLA has many other benefits. This includes improvements in insulin disorders, inflammation, and immune responses within your body.
One note here: there are benefits of CLA that aren’t fully proven or supported by the FDA or any other clinical entity. While there are studies being currently conducted, CLA is a relatively new supplement. It still has a ways to go before being considered a cure for any issue. It works best, though, when paired with proper lifestyle changes.
Weight loss is the number one reason people take CLA. And this is for a good reason. It is the most highly-studied benefit of CLA, and because it has significant research behind it, many doctors and dieticians feel confident recommending it.
Whether you’re looking to improve your physical appearance or lose fat efficiently, CLA has great properties that can help. And unlike many of its comrades, it doesn’t eat up muscle. In fact, a few studies show that CLA helps to build muscle mass instead.
Bodybuilders use CLA for this exact reason. When they are in a cut before competition and need the added edge of a muscle pump and fat burn, CLA is a great option. It is also recommended for obese people when they are first starting to lose weight. This is because CLA will help prevent muscle burn that can occur during the weight-loss process.
When taking CLA to assist with weight loss, studies have shown that it isn’t always necessary to make complete lifestyle changes to see real results. But when coupled with lifestyle changes that are aimed at improving your overall body composition, such as diets or physical activity, it is especially effective.
CLA works by breaking up the fatty acid bonds that are already packed into your body. By breaking down the bonds, it makes it easier for your body to metabolize fats that you already have.
In a study completed in 2009, researchers discovered that while CLA wasn’t great for losing weight overall, it did give results for lowering overall body fat percentage and increasing muscle mass (when coupled with exercise).
They found that a mixture of the two types of CLA used was the most effective way to reduce body fat, especially around your waist and lower body. CLA was more effective than just diet and exercise alone, which is the real success here. This shows how it can be a great plateau buster or addition to work that’s already being done to give you an edge. Jump to our list of amazing CLA Supplements
The impact CLA has on insulin sensitivity is still being heavily researched. But the idea is that this effect is very similar to how it can affect lipid metabolism. CLA is known to boost glucose metabolism and reduce insulin sensitivity to give you a better response to overall blood sugar in your system.
In a 2002 study, researchers found that in obese patients CLA was able to help reform insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism. CLA was able to moderate blood sugar, which is imperative for managing diabetic conditions and reducing LDL (i.e. bad) cholesterol (2).
Inflammation, immune health, and liver support.
Immune and liver health are heavily associated with inflammation levels within cells. Many times, the search for treatments to some of our most common diseases revolves around the ability to reduce inflammation. In many cases, inflammation is a natural response to pain or infection. It’s your body’s response to negative stimuli. But when inflammation becomes chronic, it can end up causing other health issues and is uncomfortable regardless. Jump to our list of amazing CLA Supplements
CLA is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which has been shown to improve immune responses to stimuli and help your liver handle detoxification better.
In a January 2018 study, researchers looked at the anti-inflammatory effects CLA had on bovine mammary cells.
They concluded that CLA was more effective than the other anti-inflammatory treatments they reviewed. The reason is because CLA triggers a faster cell response to the stimulus. This helps your immune system attack bad cells faster, so the response doesn’t need to be as harsh.
While this was performed on animal cells, this work makes space for more studies (hopefully human) to take place in the future.
You shouldn’t replace prescribed medications with CLA. For mild or budding issues, though, it could be a great natural alternative to currently-overused products. For example, chronic users of acetaminophen (Tylenol) might find CLA to be a great natural solution to joint or muscle inflammation.
Why CLA Works Best!
If you’ve been searching for answers to some of your health problems, you’ve likely run across a million natural cures that all claim to be the best. CLA is one of our personal favorites because its effects are specific. CLA also compares well to other industry favorites like safflower oil, krill oil, and regular diet and exercise.
CLA V. Safflower
Surprisingly, this is an issue surrounded by an insane amount of controversy. In 2013, Dr. Oz (oh, that pesky Dr. Oz…) claimed that safflower oil is superior to, or at least as good as, CLA in reducing overall body fat and improving health. The CLA community was outraged.
Safflower was cited as a great agent for reducing belly fat. This was due to a study which showed that it had impacts on reducing belly fat in subjects without diet or exercise changes. The issue lay in the fact that while there was a definite loss in belly fat, there was no change in overall body fat percentage or BMI in those test subjects.
CLA has been proven to reduce overall body fat, BMI, blood lipid levels, and glucose levels with 3 grams a day or less. Safflower needed 8 grams a day to basically re-adjust where fat sat on subjects’ bodies.
While safflower does have some apparent other side effects, including:
- Heart protection
- Skin and hair care
- Relieving PMS symptoms
Each of these benefits have ongoing studies being completed to prove them.
The only real benefit that safflower has over CLA is for those opposed to using animal products. CLA is made in animal stomachs and is typically made in practices that vegans might not support. Safflower is an alternative for that measure. But when it comes to what will give you the most bang for your buck, CLA will win 4 out of 5 times. Jump to our list of amazing CLA Supplements
CLA V. Omega-3s
This, right here, is your big rivalry. Omega-3s vs. Omega-6s.
In most other circumstances, Omega-3s would beat out Omega-6s with absolutely no issue. Omega-3s are found in fish-type products like fish oil or krill oil. You can also get them naturally through fish, krill, or many underwater creatures.
Omega-6s are usually to blame for obesity, high blood lipid content, and other major health issues. They’re typically an issue to be solved in your system. But in the case of CLA, it is a better choice for weight loss and other health problems associated with it.
The typical solution to decide which you should take is to take both. Having both in regular amounts on a daily basis has the best physical impacts, and they work well to balance each other out.
CLA Supplement V. Diet and Exercise
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get CLA from a natural source rather than from a supplement. How well works for your goals, though, depends on what you are willing to do to get it.
CLA is made in animal stomachs. If you know anything about herbivores, you know that many of them have four stomachs, or really one looooooong stomach with 4 parts. Each contribute to a separate processing of food going in so it can be used appropriately throughout the body.
This process is what contributes to the creation of CLA and can’t be recreated in human stomachs. This makes CLA a form of “essential fatty acid”. Your best bets at getting it are through eating meats and animal-based products.
Which is where many people run into the issue of getting enough of it in a day.
CLA pills are more efficient and have clinical support behind doses. You can’t guarantee that you got 3 g of CLA in that beef flank, but you can guarantee you got enough in the pill or oil you took.
As with all products, you can expect results only when you can ensure you’re getting a specified dose. So CLA pills would win out in this case.
There are side effects, but you need quite a lot of CLA over an extended period of time to see them. Some have noticed reduced liver function, as well as worsening inflammation. Others have noticed a loss in moderation of diabetic conditions. So if you take too much, it can cause the problems that you are trying to solve by taking it. Funny, huh?
How Much CLA Should You Take a Day?
This is one of those products that people who maintain a normal, healthy diet aren’t likely to need. You get CLA naturally in beef and dairy products when eaten in moderation. It’s when you’re cutting drastically (e.g. bodybuilding, weight loss), that you might not have enough.
When taking a CLA supplement, your best bet is to follow the advice of a dietician or the bottle. But always start off taking smaller doses than recommended by any bottle. This gives you a chance to make sure you won’t react badly to it. It will also help you see the changes clearer.
There is another thing to keep in mind that you will see with our top 10 products. You want to make sure the product you buy contains better than 80% CLA in every capsule or serving. This is the best percentage that people have noticed for optimal fat loss. Jump to our list of amazing CLA Supplements
BEST CLA SUPPLEMENTS
Our top 10 list of CLA supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of our top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high-quality CLA supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping. This ensures that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final dose.
- Raff, Tholstrup, Toubro, Bruun, Lund, Straarup, Christensen, Sandberg, Mandrup. Conjugated linoleic acids reduce body fat in healthy postmenopausal women.J Nutr. 2009 Jul;139(7):1347-52. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.104471. Epub 2009 Jun 3
- Risérus, Arner, Brismar, Vessby. Treatment with dietary trans10cis12 conjugated linoleic acid causes isomer-specific insulin resistance in obese men with the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Care. 2002 Sep;25(9):1516-21. Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences/Geriatrics, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
- Dipasquale, Basiricò, Morera, Primi, Tröscher, Bernabucci. Anti-inflammatory effects of conjugated linoleic acid isomers and essential fatty acids in bovine mammary epithelial cells. Animal. 2018 Jan 9:1-7. doi: 10.1017/S1751731117003676. [Epub ahead of print]
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