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SUPPLEMENTS

Fatty acids touted as weight-loss tool and cancer fighter

August 04, 2003|Elena Conis

Conjugated linoleic acid is a bundle of polyunsaturated fatty acids being billed as a weight-loss tool. The substance is found naturally in small amounts in some plants, dairy products and meat -- especially cheese and beef -- and is now included in some diet shakes and nutrition bars.

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Uses: Manufacturers say CLA reduces body fat and increases lean muscle mass -- when used in conjunction with a regular exercise program and nutritious diet -- because it reduces the amount of fat that fat cells can hold. Some claim that the compound may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease and help control diabetes.

Dose: For weight loss, 3 grams a day, taken in separate doses with meals. The supplement can be taken in capsule form or in a drink or diet bar.

Precautions: Meats and dairy products have several milligrams of CLA per gram of fat but very little is known about the long-term safety of taking CLA in doses larger than those normally found in a healthful diet.

Research: Most of the evidence on CLA's effectiveness comes from laboratory and animal studies, which suggest that the compound may reduce

body fat by diminishing fat-cell capacity and could possibly help prevent cancer and diabetes. There's a lack of evidence on the compound's effectiveness in humans, though some recent studies failed to show that CLA protects against breast cancer.

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Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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