Weight loss by “extreme” dieting is generally associated with negative effects on bone mass because your body does not acquire the necessary nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. But, dietary supplementation with Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is reported to have the opposite effect. Research shows CLA lowers body fat mass and improves bone density simultaneously; thus, CLA is an excellent natural osteoporosis treatment option for people who have low bone density and need to lose weight.
What is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)?
CLA is a healthy, “good” fat abundant in dairy products; but its highest concentration is found in red meat. The human body does not produce this fatty acid on its own, so it must be provided via food or supplements. But don’t fool yourself into thinking the average steak can bring about these impressive benefits. Purely grass-fed animals have 5 times more CLA in their milk and meat compared to grain-fed cattle. (Yet another reason to go organic!)
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Possibly the best way to get pasture-fed beef at the best price is through local ranchers in your area. The Eat Wild website is an excellent resource giving direct links to local farms and ranches that sell all-natural, grass-fed products.
The flavor, look, smell, and texture of grass-fed beef differs slightly from grain-fed beef. And, it will require some special cooking techniques to be able to enjoy it to the max.
What are the benefits of CLA?
- CLA decreases body fat and increases muscle mass. What’s most impressive about CLA as a weight loss supplement is that it works even if you don’t change your eating habits (although we don’t recommend an unhealthy diet!). When following a weight loss program, keep in mind that the number on the scale is not what’s most important. Rather, you should focus on improving your body mass index (BMI), or decreasing the percentage of total body fat. CLA works by converting fat to muscle. Therefore, while the pounds may not drop as fast as you prefer, your body will have a leaner, slimmer and more toned, defined look with regular use of CLA.
- CLA lowers cancer risk. Studies suggest that CLA inhibits a variety of cancers including colon and skin cancer. But, the most promising research has demonstrated CLA’s ability to fight breast cancer. In lab studies, CLA has been shown to be cytotoxic to human breast cancer cells, meaning it actually “kills” the cancer.[3-4] What is particularly encouraging here is that while the vast majority of anti-carcinogenic substances comes from plants, CLA is abundantly available from animal sources, including beef. Finally! Some relief for the carnivores in the group!
- CLA reduces atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cholesterol and inflammation. Thus, consuming CLA decreases the risk for heart attack and stroke.[5-6]
- CLA stabilizes blood sugar levels. Several studies have demonstrated that CLA can improve insulin action and enhance glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes.[5-7]
CLA for Bone Health: Inflammatory Joint Disease, Osteoarthritis and a Natural Osteoporosis Treatment in One
Aside from the aforementioned CLA benefits, research has also confirmed that CLA improves bone density and enhances calcium absorption, making it a highly effective natural osteoporosis treatment for both men and women.[8-10] The concluding statement by the University of Massachusetts researchers in this 2013 study has profound implications indeed: “The data suggest that CLA, along with dietary calcium, has great potential to be used to prevent bone loss and weight gain associated with menopause.”
But, the bone health benefits extend beyond natural osteoporosis treatment: CLA also reduces inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and inflammatory joint disease.
How to Take CLA as a Natural Osteoporosis Treatment and Safe Weight Loss Supplement:
If you are eating a healthy diet of grass-fed meat and dairy, you’ll receive about 100 to 175 mg of CLA daily, which is an adequate amount for maintaining good health. But, many individuals are trying to reduce their red meat intake as well as avoiding dairy altogether. Therefore, to achieve the therapeutic benefits for bone health and body fat loss, you’ll need to supplement your healthy diet with CLA capsules:
- As a natural osteoporosis treatment, a safe weight loss supplement, or to achieve any of the other CLA benefits (noted above), researchers recommend consumption between one to 3.4 grams of CLA daily.
- Most CLA supplements are sold in 1,000 mg capsules so you’ll need to take at least one capsule daily and as many as 3 per day if you desire to lose body fat.
- CLA can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach so be sure to take your CLA with meals.
- Do not take more than 1,000 mg of CLA at one time. When taking 3,000 mg total per day, take your CLA in divided doses – 1,000 mg (one capsule) at each meal.
 J Am Coll Nutr August 2000 vol. 19 no. 4 472S-477S.
 J Am Coll Nutr June 2005 vol. 24 no. 3 177-181.
 J Am Coll Nutr August 2000 vol. 19 no. 4 478S-486S.
Originally published in 2013, this blog has been updated.