Slim Down for Summer Series
CLA, Your Secret Weapon for Fighting Fat
As summer grows closer, many of my patients ask for dietary guidance to help shed excess winter weight. While there is no "magic bullet" for weight loss, some very simple dietary and supplement changes can make a tremendous impact in not only the way you look, but also the way you feel. When searching for motivation to implement these changes, recall the Brain-Beauty Connection and know that the same foods and supplements, which will help you slim down will also elevate your energy levels and keep your skin glowing.
Check Your Dairy
Try switching to dairy products made from animals that eat only grass—their natural diet. Grass fed cattle and cows produce beef and milk (respectively) that is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Why Grass Fed Matters
Historically, cattle and cows lived a 'pastoral' life—enjoying seasonal varieties of wild grasses with plenty of room to roam freely. It was only after World War II that the large-scale movement of cattle and cows to corn-based diets in feedlots was implemented. Some serious environmental and health effects have come as a consequence from these changes, and it may be no coincidence that it was during this post-war era that we began to see the rise of obesity rates, which continue to this day.
Hello Corn, Goodbye CLA (the "Fat Burner")
CLA is a fatty acid that is found in many of the foods we eat. However, with the dietary change from grass to grain, levels of CLA dramatically decreased in meat and dairy products. When CLA is present, it is found in the fatty portion of milk. Drinking skim milk prevents us from receiving the benefits of CLA. However since CLA levels are now so low in animal products, the question of skim vs. full fat milk may matter less than we even think. Unless you're eating meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, avoid full-fat dairy products and choose low-fat options and selecting only the leanest cuts of meats. Whenever possible, try to prioritize purchasing organic, free-range meat, poultry and wild fish.
Conjugated linoleic acid has powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory activity. In fact, CLA's antioxidant powers have been rated as 3 times greater than those of vitamin E.
CLA is also a powerful aid in the prevention and treatment of obesity.
CLA is also a powerful aid in the prevention and treatment of obesity. Red meat and dairy products make up a large part of the Western diet and it is my belief that the presence of CLA in both helped prevent obesity and weight gain prior to the switch to a grain-based diet. With the motives of saving money (corn is really inexpensive) at the expense of health, we are now paying the price in excess poundage. Corn is used because, as mentioned, it is cheap - but also because it will quickly fatten animals. We know it is true because our foods and beverages contain huge amounts of high fructose corn syrup and the meat, dairy products and poultry we eat are from corn-fed animals. And we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. You don’t need a degree in biochemistry to connect the dots.
Hello CLA, Goodbye Fat
In spite of this seemingly dire news, there is hope. We can take supplemental CLA, which helps to support body fat loss, especially in the area of the abdomen. There are several mechanisms by which CLA's activity helps support healthy fat metabolism:
- CLA actually concentrates in the cell membrane, stabilizing it and thus preventing the breakdown of arachidonic acid into a pro-inflammatory prostaglandin. It helps the insulin receptors remain intact, which increases insulin sensitivity, which will then decrease blood sugar and circulating insulin levels.
- Remarkably, studies show that CLA also helps block the absorption of fat and sugar into fat cells (adipocytes). It even induces a reduction in the actual size of the fat cells (one reason people gain weight as they age is that their fat cells literally become fatter).
- Although one study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that Conjugated Linoleic Acid supplementation for 1 year does not prevent weight or body fat regain, another relatively recent and large-scale study published in the same journal showed that taking 3.4 grams (three point four) of CLA a day for two years led to a small but significant decrease in body fat in overweight people. Interestingly, CLA appears to have no effect on the body fat of people who are not overweight. It appears to have the most effect on women with a BMI of 25 to 30.
In addition to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitizing actions of CLA, many studies show that CLA helps prevent muscle loss and weakness associated with aging and disease. This is one of the reasons CLA has long been a favorite supplement of athletes and body builders. What could be more exciting or encouraging than a supplement that shrinks body fat while increasing and preserving lean muscle mass?
As always, consult with your primary physician before starting any new diet, exercise or supplement regimen. Please be especially careful and do not attempt without medical supervision if you are pregnant, nursing, have diabetes or any health problem.