CLA or conjugated linoleic acid is an interesting fatty acid, marketed as a promising intervention for fat loss, muscle-building, cancer, heart disease, etc. (1)
And while studies aren’t quite conclusive and even mixed on its potential benefits, there’s evidence to suggest it can have a positive effect in several areas where health and body composition are concerned.
This fatty acid is typically found naturally in vegetable oils, but it’s also in meat and dairy (grass-fed) of ruminant animals as well. But there may be good reasons to supplement with it too, especially if you’re looking to add another potentially beneficial supplement to your health stack…
Note: There have been side effects reported from CLA in some users so it’s important to never exceed the recommended dose, and be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
Here are 10 of the best CLA supplements currently available…
Editor’s Pick – NatureWise CLA 1250 Softgels
An extremely popular product, this CLA formula from NatureWise is one of the best available and that’s why it’s among our top picks.
- 1.2g CLA standardized to 80% and derived from non-GMO safflower oil
- Halal gelatin soft gels
Main ingredients: CLA from safflower seed oil
Other ingredients: Softgel capsule (Halal gelatin, glycerin, purified water, carob)
- No artificial ingredients
- Great company values
- Third-party tested
- Some complaints of stomach discomfort
BulkSupplements CLA Caps
BulkSupplements is a first choice for pure, quality products that are lab-tested for purity and potency.
- 1,589mg High-quality CLA oil (derived from safflower oil) per serving (2 capsules)
- Total of 2g fat (1.8g unsaturated and 1.6g polyunsaturated)
- 4IU (13%) Vitamin E which is an important antioxidant, immune booster, and it also helps prevent blood clotting.
Main Ingredients: Conjugated linoleic acid
Other ingredients: Glycerin, gelatin (bovine) capsule
- Quality safflower-derived oil
- No additives or fillers
- Bovine caps (not vegetarian which matters to some people)
- Advertised as 1,000mg which is not reflective of the label.
- A few users complained about the smell.
Max Potency CLA 1250mg Softgels
Sports Research is a family-owned and operated supplement brand that makes awesome, quality products for overall health support and their CLA is one of the best.
- Softgels contain 1,250mg safflower oil and 1,100mg of 95% conjugated linoleic acid (derived from the safflower oil) per serving (1 soft gel).
- Total of 1.5g fat and 12 calories per soft gel.
Makers: Sports Research
Main Ingredients: Safflower oil/ conjugated linoleic acid
Other ingredients: Softgel cap (kosher gelatin, kosher vegetable glycerin, purified water, and natural carob.
- Contains a healthy dose of active CLA (95%)
- Reasonably priced
- No artificial ingredients, filler or preservatives
- Third-party tested
- Some users reported inefficacy
Purity Labs CLA 4500 Softgels
The ingredients are just as top-notch as the packaging and this family-owned business has made it a mission to provide some of the best quality supplements.
- Contains CLA standardized to 80% from non-GMO safflower oil in 1,500mg softgels.
- No artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers.
- Softgel capsules
Makers: Purity Labs
Main ingredients: Non-GMO safflower oil (80% CLA)
Other ingredients: Softgel capsules (gelatin, glycerin, purified water)
- CLA from non-GMO safflower oil
- Third-party tested
- GMP certified manufacturing
- Complaints of bottle condition/pills stuck together
- Many users had no effects
Horbaach CLA Leanlok (™) 3,000MG
Horaach’s Leanlok CLA formula contains an effective dose of the active ingredient for optimal benefits.
- 3,000mg Leanlok 80% CLA from safflower oil
- Quick-release softgels
- 3g fat and 30 calories per serving
- No artificial flavors or preservatives
Main ingredients: Leanlok (80% CLA from safflower oil)
Other ingredients: Gelatin, vegetable glycerin, and caramel color
- Patented CLA from non-GMO safflower oil
- GMP certified manufacturing
- Complaints of no benefit
RSP CLA Softgels
RSP is committed to producing clean, innovative products that are fully transparent and that work. So, with that being said, we’d expect their CLA to be among the best.
- 1,000mg soft gels contain CLA and safflower oil
- 10 calories per serving
Makers: RSP Nutrition
Main ingredients: CLA and safflower seed oil
Other ingredients: Gelatin, glycerin, purified water, natural color
- Quality ingredients
- Good price
- Tested and GMP certified manufacturing
- Some users less than satisfied w/ efficacy
MRM CLA 1250 Softgels
A high-potency option from a top brand, each serving supplies 1,000mg CLA (80%) from safflower oil.
- 1250mg CLA (1,000mg CLA with minimum 80% standardization)
- 1.5g fat and 12 calories per serving
Main ingredients: CLA (minimum 80%) from safflower oil
Other ingredients: Gelatin, glycerin, black carrot powder, and purified water
- Quality CLA
- Ethically produced
- A little pricier than others
- Few unsatisfactory reviews
Orphic Nutrition All-Natural CLA 2000 Softgels
CLA 2000 from Orphic Nutrition is a USA-made, all-natural product that delivers on quality.
- 1000mg CLA from safflower seed oil
- 150mg oleic acid, 30mg palmitic acid, 30mg stearic acid, and 10mg linoleic acid
Makers: Orphic Nutrition
Main ingredients: CLA from safflower oil
Other ingredients: Gelatin, glycerin and purified water
- Third-party tested
- GMP certified
- No filler or binders
- Few bad user experiences with effectiveness
Barlean’s Tonalin CLA Swirl 1,500MG Liquid (Amplified Absorption)
This is a unique, yet tasty and effective CLA option in liquid form.
- 1,500mg Tonalin CLA per serving
- 2.5g fat and 35 calories per serving
- 4IU Vitamin E per serving
- Delicious smoothie taste and texture
- Apple flavor
- Amplified absorption technology
Main ingredients: Tonalin CLA from safflower oil
Other ingredients: Water, xylitol, glycerin, MCT oil (coconut and/or palm kernel), gum arabic, natural flavors, citric acid, xanthan gum, guar gum, sorbic acid, vitamin E and ascorbyl palmitate
- No artificial flavors or colors
- No sugar (sweetened with xylitol)
- Focus on taste and texture
- Superior absorption
- Some may not like xylitol
- Gums can cause digestive discomfort for some people
MusclePharm Essentials CLA 1000MG Softgels
The last product on our list is from the reputable Muscle Pharm who makes some of the best supplements on the market. And this product definitely stands out with a few additional ingredients added to the formula.
- 1,000mg MusclePharm CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil)
- 1g fat and 10 calories per serving
Makers: MusclePharm Essentials
Main ingredients: MusclePharm CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid, extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil)
Other ingredients: Gelatin, glycerol, and water
- Quality CLA
- Really good price
- Banned substance tested and certified by informed-choice
- Allergen warning
- Some complaints of discomfort
How Did We Rank?
The product selections on our list were based on certain criteria to ensure we recommend only the best quality options currently available on the market.
Here are the main factors we took into consideration…
Each product should contain an effective amount of quality CLA which should be displayed on the bottle. Additional ingredients should be minimal unless it contributes to the quality or effectiveness of the product.
Although, not every product will be exactly the same.
This will depend entirely on the ingredients in the product but we only picked quality options from reputable companies.
Ideally, products are produced and stored in a cGMP facility which ensures quality.
Side effects are sometimes inevitable when it comes to supplementation which doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong with the product as one person may experience a side effect and someone else may not.
However, products should only contain ingredients that are generally considered safe for most people with little chance of causing discomfort or other undesirable effects. User feedback is also sometimes a good way to determine the overall quality of a product.
Who Should Buy This Product?
Only healthy individuals who are looking to possibly benefit from CLA. Most people can safely and effectively take the recommended dose but those with pre-existing medical conditions should only consider taking this product after consulting with a medical professional.
While CLA supplementation may help a little with weight loss, it’d be more beneficial to consume adequate amounts from food and then consider supplementation in addition to sufficient dietary intake.
How Do I Pick a Good CLA Product For Me?
There are options for all budgets and we can only provide information about each one the best we can. But it’s still up to you to do your due diligence to ensure you’re choosing a product that best fits your goals.
Budget is a big consideration for many people but the overall value is also important as well as looking at the user feedback which is a great way to weigh the potential pros and cons.
When CLA was first marketed as a fat loss aid, there was a lot of hope that it would live up to the hype. And although research has shown a reduction in fat mass when supplementing with it, the many studies conducted on this substance are still very mixed.
And in human studies, modest weight loss has been observed.
One 2007 meta-analysis of human studies concluded that 3.2 mg/d of CLA produces modest fat loss. Although this same study also found that the effects were linear for up to 6 months before approaching a plateau around the 2-year mark. (5)
Another study found that CLA supplementation may increase lean body mass in obese individuals. However, this may also come at the cost of increased inflammation in the short term. (6)
This information would suggest that CLA supplementation should not be followed for long periods of time even if it does boost weight loss to a small extent based on the current information we have access to.
But it’s also important to note that taking any supplement will not result in significant weight loss on its own. You still have to engage in physical activity and consume a healthy, low-calorie diet to create an energy deficit for this to occur.
Some substances can help to increase energy expenditure to an extent and possibly even promote satiety, therefore resulting in fewer calories consumed overall. There are no miracle supplements for fat/weight loss.
Learn how to write your own fat loss or hypertrophy program.
Other Potential Health Benefits
An interesting finding is that individuals who consume plenty of CLA from food sources are at lower risk of developing chronic disease in general.
One study concluded that CLA may be associated with insulin (hormone that helps sugar provide energy to cells) regulation so there’s some potential for Type 2 diabetes improvement. (7)
And CLA has also been shown to be potentially effective for breast cancer but there may be a promise for other areas of health such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, inflammation, insulin resistance, and various types of cancer. (8)
However, although studies on CLA have increased, the evidence is too inconclusive to suggest it’s a viable intervention over the long term for many of its proposed uses. (9)
But… it’s also important to note that the different variables which could be considered, should be (e.g. age, gender, race, region, and dosing).
Does CLA Have Potential Side Effects?
Supplemental CLA is typically derived and chemically altered from vegetable oils (typically safflower); which is different from the CLA found in foods.
Therefore, it’s not recommended to take high doses and studies even show that too much supplemental CLA can be dangerous.
And although we previously mentioned that CLA may regulate insulin, excessive amounts are more likely to have the opposite effect, in addition to causing inflammation which is a marker of disease; plus, it can also lower the good cholesterol (HDL). (12, 13)
However, many of the studies that have found these negative effects have been concluded from animal studies that involved high doses. But, evidence exists for the dangers in humans nonetheless.
What’s The Safe Recommended Dosage?
In one study, obese subjects were given CLA at a dose of 6g/d for one year. By the end, no adverse effects were observed. In fact, side effects were less in the CLA group than in the placebo group. (14)
So, while 6g/d is likely a safe dosage, it’s important to keep in mind that the negative effects are dose-dependent which you’d probably imagine. So, up to 7g or so maybe safe but again, we don’t exactly know the effects on long term health at these higher doses.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is CLA?
CLA or conjugated linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that’s naturally occurring in vegetable oils, meat and milk from ruminant animals (e.g. cows, goats, sheep).
It can be obtained naturally from certain foods but supplements are also a viable option in some cases, although not recommended as a replacement for CLA consumed from diet.
What are the benefits of CLA?
Conjugated linoleic acid may help with fat/weight loss although its effects for this purpose are modest according to most studies. It may also be effective alongside therapeutic intervention for certain diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer, etc).
Does CLA have side effects?
Taking more than the recommended dose through supplementation can result in fat accumulation in the liver which can contribute to metabolic disease and even diabetes.
How much CLA should I take for optimal results?
Many studies have used an average of 3-6g per day to determine the safety and efficacy of CLA. And according to research, 6g/d has been shown to be a safe dosage when taken for a year. So, this might be a good upper limit as the potential for side effects is dose-dependent.
Also, there needs to be more long term studies to determine whether it’s safe for periods of longer than a year.
How do I take CLA?
Every product should display instructions on the label but it’s generally recommended to take CLA supplements with food.
How long does it take for CLA to start working?
It’s important to note that natural supplements usually take a week or even longer to start noticing the effects. But according to research, the best weight loss effects when taking CLA are likely to occur in the first 6 months, although very modest.
CLA isn’t a miracle supplement by any means but it may be an effective option for improving certain aspects of health and even body composition, although results are likely modest at best.
We can get it from foods which is always a preferred choice first but supplementation is very convenient and it sometimes offers us a little more in some cases. So, consider one of these quality options and make sure to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle to get the most out of your nutritional supplementation regime.