Body Balance: CLA supplement aids diabetes, weight loss

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition confirms that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has a place in treating obesity, and may have benefits for diabetics. CLA refers to a group of naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats found primarily in beef, lamb and dairy products. CLA is also sold as a dietary supplement in health and nutrition stores.

In this double-blind study, 21 adults with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo (safflower oil) or a CLA supplement daily for eight weeks. The subjects were asked to not change their diets or activity habits during the study. Body weight, blood levels of CLA, glucose and leptin (a hormone influencing appetite) were measured by researchers throughout the study.

The researchers reported three health benefits associated with CLA supplementation. First, 81% of those in the CLA group benefited from decreases in fasting blood sugar, compared with only 20% of those taking placebos. Second, higher CLA blood levels were associated with body weight loss. Third, higher CLA levels were also associated with lower blood levels of leptin, which is known to be an appetite suppressant.

The researchers report that the outcome of the study may partially explain why certain foods have been associated with reduced body fat and improved blood sugar regulation. They suggest future studies to further determine how CLA may affect diabetics. Future studies may also clarify CLA’s role in weight loss.

Journal of Nutrition,2003;133:257S-260S