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CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)

CLA is a collection of fatty acids found in dairy and meat products, which act as a powerful antioxidant.

What are its health benefits?

Literature suggests that CLA can reduce the risk for cardiovascular (heart) disease and help fight inflammation, as well as possibly assist in the management of the following conditions:

CLA supplementation is also used by bodybuilders and athletes for its body-weight management properties, including weight loss and aiding muscle growth.

Do you have a deficiency?

Signs of a deficiency of CLA include:

  • Dry hair
  • Hair loss
  • Slow healing wounds

One reason for a CLA deficiency is the move away from grass-fed animals towards grain and factory-fed animals in modern diets. Grass-fed animals reportedly have up to 500% more CLA in their systems than grain-fed animals. It is therefore better, as far as possible, to eat only free-range products.

Find it in these food sources

CLA is found in the following foods:

  • Beef
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable oils (olive, safflower, and canola)

Kangaroo meat is one of the highest sources of CLA.

It can also be taken as a supplement in a capsule form.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

There is no RDA for CLA and little is known about the proper dosage. Some studies have used 2 to 7g per day as a guideline. However, there is some evidence that using more than 3.4g daily is not likely to provide any benefit.

Possible side effects

When ingested through diet, CLA is unlikely to cause significant side effects. However, supplements may cause side effects, some of which can be serious.
Possible mild side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach discomfort

Severe side effects include:

  • High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), as some forms of CLA may make your body more resistant to insulin
  • High C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein that can be a sign of problems
  • Low HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) levels


If you have a personal or family history of heart disease or diabetes, speak to your doctor or Clicks pharmacist before taking CLA.

Treatment with CLA supplements may negatively affect the function of your blood vessels, which could elevate your risk of heart disease. They may also increase your blood sugar levels, which affects people with diabetes.

As not enough is known about CLA during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is best avoided.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015