Three out of every five Americans are overweight. For many, sticking to a diet and exercise plan is a losing battle. But CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports there could be help in a bottle: conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA.
Studies on animals have shown it reduces body fat mass and now, two clinical trials on humans show this natural derivative of sunflower oil, which costs about $40 dollars a month could help you melt your holiday flab to get your cuts and curves back.
Dr. Louis Aronne, an obesity specialist, who's not part of the study, expresses cautious optimism for CLA which is thought to block fat cells from expanding.
"It seems like it may help people maintain their lost weight," he says. "It may prevent weight gain or it may cause a change in body composition."
In one study of overweight Scandinavians who were placed on a diet, those taking CLA lost an average of six more pounds of body fat than those not taking CLA .
Another American study, to be published soon, also shows CLA can alter body composition.
The study found about one-third of those taking CLA and dieting not only lost weight but gained muscle, which speeds up metabolism and burns calories. They also had improved blood pressure and lower levels of bad cholesterol.
Even though CLA has no known side effects, Dr. Aronne cautions these are small studies.
"You shouldn't just rush out and assume this thing is safe because 200 people didn't have side effects," he warns. "It's just not the case. It's got to be studied before we can say it's safe."
Research shows CLA will help you lose fat not necessarily weight.
However, because some people may gain muscle, CLA could help you keep weight off because muscle burns more calories than fat.
If you don't feel comfortable buying CLA just yet, Dr. Aronne says there are other steps you can take to control weight.
Limit your intake of sugar and starch early in the day, which has been shown to curb your appetite.
Increase your calcium intake. Take a 500 mg. a day supplement, which may make you feel less hungry.
If it's safe do so, supercharge your workouts. Increasing the intensity will push your body to burn more calories.
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