CLA: What is it? How does it work? Uses, Efficacy, Side Effects, Safety, Precautions and Dosage

Dairy products and beef are the primary dietary sources of conjugated linoleic acid.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) refers to a combination of linoleic fatty acid chemicals.

Conjugated linoleic acid is used to:

  • Cancer.
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • The obesity.
  • Chronic diseases cause weight loss.
  • Bodybuilding.
  • Allergic reactions to food.

An average diet requires a supply of 15 to 174 mg of conjugated linoleic acid daily.

How does it work?

Conjugated linoleic acid reduces body fat deposits, thereby improving immune function.

Uses and efficacy of CLA

CLA is effective for several types of conditions:

High blood pressure

Taking conjugated linoleic acid with ramipril appears to lower blood pressure more than ramipril alone in people with uncontrolled high blood pressure.



Taking CLA by mouth daily can help decrease body fat in adults, but it does not appear to reduce body weight or body mass index for most people.

This acid can reduce hunger pangs, but it is unclear if this leads to reduced caloric intake.

Taking it does not appear to prevent weight gain in previously obese people who lost some weight.

On the other hand, adding CLA to fatty foods doesn’t promote weight loss. However, adding it to milk can help decrease body fat in obese adults.

In children, taking three grams of CLA a day appears to help reduce body fat.

While CLA can help reduce body weight, some research shows that taking it may increase risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

However, it is unclear whether supplements containing different conjugated linoleic acid carry the same risk.

On the other hand, people tend to misuse CLA for conditions where its effectiveness has not been proven, such as:

  • Common cold: Research suggests that taking conjugated linoleic acid does not prevent or reduce symptoms of the common cold.
  • Diabetes: Taking conjugated linoleic acid does not improve blood sugar levels before or after meals or insulin in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • High cholesterol: Drinking milk that contains CLA does not appear to improve cholesterol or triglyceride levels in people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels.

Recent research has found evidence that CLA may work moderately to:


Taking conjugated linoleic acid for 12 weeks appears to improve well-being in people with allergies to birch. However, it does not appear to enhance general allergy symptoms.


Taking conjugated linoleic acid for 12 weeks appears to improve airway sensitivity and the ability to exercise in people with asthma.

However, it does not appear to reduce the need for inhalers or improve lung capacity.

Breast cancer

Research on the effects of conjugated linoleic acid in preventing breast cancer is conflicting.

Some preliminary research suggests that higher CLA intake from food, especially cheese, appears to be related to a lower risk of developing it.

However, other research suggests that increased intake of conjugated linoleic acid is not related to a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Additionally, some research suggests that higher consumption of conjugated linoleic acid could be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Colon and rectal cancer

Some research suggests that a diet rich in conjugated linoleic acid may be linked to a lower risk of colon and rectal cancer in women.

However, it is not known whether taking conjugated linoleic acid supplements provides the same benefit.


Research on the effects of conjugated linoleic acid on improving strength is conflicting.

Some research shows that taking CLA, alone or in conjunction with creatine and whey protein, helps increase strength and improve lean tissue mass in training people.

This appears to help strengthen the body and provide added resistance.

However, other research shows that conjugated linoleic acid does not improve strength or body composition when used with strength training.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Early research suggests that taking conjugated linoleic acid, alone or with vitamin E, reduces morning pain and stiffness.

It also reduces swelling markers compared to pretreatment in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

CLA Side Effects and Safety

Conjugated linoleic acid has safer effects when taken orally in amounts found in food.

However, it decreases its levels of effectiveness when taken in medicinal amounts (amounts more significant than those found in food).

Consuming it in large quantities can cause side effects such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.

Special precautions and warnings


Conjugated linoleic acid is safest for children when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts for up to 7 months.

There is not enough evidence to know if long-term use is safe, so exceeding the established consumption period is not recommended.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

There is not enough evidence to know if conjugated linoleic acid is safe in medicinal treatments during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Therefore, it is recommended to avoid use in pregnant or lactating women and, in this way, not risk the health of the patient or the baby.

Bleeding disorders

Conjugated linoleic acid can slow blood clotting. However, it may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

So its consumption should be avoided if the patient is in this condition.


There is a concern that taking conjugated linoleic acid could make diabetes worse. So diabetic patients should avoid using.

Metabolic syndrome

Research has shown that taking conjugated linoleic acid can increase the risk of diabetes if the patient has metabolic syndrome.

Therefore patients with metabolic syndrome must avoid the use of CLA.


Conjugated linoleic acid can cause additional bleeding during and after surgery. The patient must stop using it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

CLA dosage

The oral dose has been studied in scientific research to avoid unwanted side effects.

In this way, it is established that to reduce body fat in obese patients, a dose of 1.8 to 7 grams per day should be ingested.

However, doses greater than 3-4 grams per day do not offer any additional benefit.