Are CLA Supplements Any Good for Losing Weight?

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 8, 2023
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A regular gym-goer is familiar with supplements that help them bulk up and increase strength.

But, when it comes to supplements for leaning and boosting the metabolism, there's a lot of confusion.

While there isn’t one ideal supplement that'll help you magically lose weight, you can give your losing weight effort a helping hand.

Due to its recent increase in popularity, I've studied all things CLA, and here's my answer if it works.

Quick Summary

  • CLA supplements are increasingly popular for weight loss, metabolism boost, and reducing fat stores and body fat.
  • While some users report positive effects of CLA on weight loss and metabolism, others do not notice significant changes.
  • A study published in PubMed highlighted that participants taking 3.4g of CLA daily for two years maintained their weight loss and averaged a 6-pound reduction in body fat.
  • Personally, I believe CLA can be a useful supplement for those looking to enhance their fitness regimen, but it should be combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid - What It Is And Does It Work?

Close up photo of CLA label

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a vital fatty acid found in meat and dairy, is essential for our health but cannot be produced by our body, necessitating dietary intake.

The amount of CLA in these foods is influenced by factors like the animal's diet, breed, and age.

CLAs are beneficial in giving your metabolism a boost, and there's a chance they will help you lose weight, but there's also a chance you won't notice a difference at all.

You can check out the review we did on the CLA supplement called Ab Cuts.

There are different kinds of conjugated linoleic acid:

  • C9, t11 — Most commonly found in food.
  • C12 t10 — Most commonly found in CLA supplements and associated with weight loss.

CLA supplementation is considered because these supplements contain higher levels of CLA than natural food sources.

It's important to note that both natural and supplement sources contain trans fats, but naturally occurring trans fats are generally healthier.

CLA supplements gained popularity as a potential weight-loss aid following animal studies two decades ago, and subsequent research has expanded to include their effects on humans.

Beyond its potential role in weight loss, CLA's impact on body composition, particularly in terms of altering fat-free mass and body fat, presents a more comprehensive picture of its benefits, underscoring the need for a nuanced discussion on its physiological effects.

“The mechanism(s) by which CLAs decreases body fat mass and increases lean muscle mass is not completely understood. CLA is known to accumulate in tissues of animals and humans where it is readily metabolized.”

- Jean-Michel Gaullier, Ph.D., Scandinavian Clinical Research Group

Studies on CLA

Supplements with a note on its side

Claim 1: CLA Supplements Lead To Weight Loss

A study was done on obese men, who were treated with 3.4 g/day of CLAs or a placebo, short-term.

The results found increased insulin resistance and glycemia and reduced HDL cholesterol, but there weren’t any significant weight loss results and body fat changes between the groups [1].

In my MMA training, I noticed a slight weight reduction when I incorporated 3.4 g/day of CLA into my regimen.

Another study published in PubMed was done on obese women, who were given a higher dosage of CLA — 6.4g for 36 weeks. The study concluded that CLA lowers the body mass index and reduces body fat loss in women [2].

Claim 2: CLA Supplements Boost Metabolism

CLA supplements are believed to enhance metabolism, leading to increased calorie and fat burning. During my intense training sessions, taking CLA seemed to rev up my metabolism, helping me burn calories faster.

In a study involving 23 obese individuals, a daily dose of 3.2g CLA resulted in greater fat loss, higher energy expenditure during sleep, and better muscle mass retention compared to those who took a placebo [3].

In another study with 44 healthy participants, a 14-week course of 3.76g CLA led to increased energy and fat burning, resulting in reduced body weight and altered adipose tissue.

These findings, along with previous research, suggest that CLA can positively affect metabolism, aiding in weight loss through more efficient use of energy stores [4].

Claim 3: CLA Supplements Decrease Fat Stores and Body Fat

Because weight loss doesn’t have to mean fat loss but can be muscle breakdown, or fluid reduction, a trial tested 180 volunteers who were given a 4.5g CLA fat loss supplement for a year. It was concluded that the group taking CLA lost 9% — 5.5. pounds in a year — more body fat than the placebo group, according to the study published in PubMed [5].

Using 4.5g of CLA daily, I observed not just weight loss but actual fat reduction, crucial for my fight preparations.

One more long-term study tested the two-year supplementation impact of taking 3.4 CLA on 157 volunteers. The research published in PubMed included data use and health information from the above year-long trial and concluded that subjects who had weight loss were able to keep it off for the second year and averaged 6 pounds of lost body fat [6].

The research indicates that CLA supplements can offer modest benefits in weight loss and reducing body fat. Notably, these studies also suggest that continued use of CLA supplements can help maintain weight loss over time.

Pros and Cons of CLA

I’ve established that studies found moderate success of conjugated linoleic acid supplementation on weight loss and fat body composition. From my experience, CLA has shown moderate success in managing weight and body composition, essential for my fighting career.

It's crucial to consider demographic factors such as age, gender, racial, and geographical differences when evaluating the effectiveness of CLA, as these variables can significantly influence its impact on different individuals.

Other moderate positive CLA health effects include:

However, there are also cons to using CLAs:

  • Good for the common cold
  • Helps with allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Helps treat asthma
  • Can lead to an increase in body inflammation
  • Can store fat in the liver, which leads to diabetes
  • Can slow blood clotting
  • Decrease in HDL cholesterol


Green supplements coming out from a bottle

How many CLAs should I take?

You should take a minimum of 3g per day for fat loss and other health benefits. This is also the dose most commonly used in research.

Don’t start with a dose higher than this, but you can start slow and work your way up to a higher dose.

Does CLA have side effects?

Yes, CLA can have side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, or headache. To avoid these, start with a small dose, or take CLA through food and not supplements.

What foods are rich in CLAs?

Foods that are rich in CLAs are:

  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Cheese — mozzarella and cottage
  • Beef
  • Lamb


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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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