Volume 11, Issue 61 | July 30, 2014
Is CLA really a healthy fatty acid?
Some years back, I told you about the exciting supplement conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a fatty acid naturally occurring mostly in dairy and meat. Previous reports suggested that it could play a role in weight loss, preventing arterial disease and cancer, and improving insulin resistance. However, most of the work was in rodents. When it comes to humans, not much was known — until now.

New research is confirming a huge difference in the way that rodents and humans respond to CLA. This can be true with any drug or supplement. In the case of CLA, you need to know the latest.

David Dyck, PhD led a team of Canadian researchers. Like me, they were impressed with the reports of CLA in rodents. However, they had become aware of data that suggested people with large amounts of belly fat would see their insulin sensitivity worsen.

So Dr. Dyck and his team provided obese human subjects a typical supplemental dose of CLA (4 grams per day in divided doses) over three months. At the end of the study, all of the individuals showed a worsening of insulin sensitivity, as determined by an oral glucose tolerance test.

In an interview, Dr. Dyck added, "We also took muscle biopsy samples before and after the CLA supplementation. Interestingly, one of the lipids stored in muscle that is thought to disrupt normal insulin signaling, called ceramides, was significantly increased in our subjects after taking CLA." Ceramide is a bad collection of lipids that can accumulate in your cell membranes and cause them to dysfunction.

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I am saddened to bring you this downbeat report on CLA. I was impressed with what I read regarding the animal studies. That's why I wrote about it. I even went to lengths to help a colleague design a "healthier" chocolate treat with cacao and CLA. Indeed, it was tasty and had great texture. However, at that time, and after great financial outlay, we began seeing reports that some forms of CLA might not be as healthy as what was reported in animals. The candy project was held pending better verification.

With this report, we have reputable data that the CLA animal findings don't pan out in humans. CLA, at least in some people, may increase insulin resistance. That's just not a good thing. While it may not do this in everyone, Dr. Dyck's findings and an accompanying interview on his work calls for me to withdraw any recommendations for you to use this supplement. You can be sure that I will always tell you a negative side of a supplement or natural medicine story just as soon as the information crosses my path.

Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 2007;32:372-382 45347 (08/2007).

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