Can CLA Safflower Oil Supplements Help You Lose Weight?

cla safflower oil weight loss

You’ve seen a lot of bizarre supplements stocking the shelves of your local vitamin store—all of them claiming to “burn fat fast.” But seriously, WTF are CLA safflower oil supplements?

Give it a quick Google and you’ll find blogs that tout these pills as a “weight-loss aid” that “helps improve metabolism.” Vague much?

Here’s what you need to know about CLA safflower oil for weight loss.

What is CLA safflower oil anyway?

So, CLA stands for conjugated linoleic acid—a fat high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (a.k.a. the good kinds). CLA is typically found in foods like dairy and beef, according to the National Institutes of Health, but it can also be found in small amounts in vegetable oils. Safflower oil is a vegetable oil—it’s produced by the seeds of a safflower plant (which, tbh, looks kind of like a dandelion)

It’s that conjugated linoleic acid that carries the alleged weight-loss benefits in CLA safflower oil supplements.

Well, can CLA safflower oil help you lose weight?

Basically, the weight-loss benefits of CLA are up in the air still–research has mainly been in animals or very small study groups.

One 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that CLA supplements could increase fat oxidation and energy burn during sleep. Another 2007 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that it could help reduce body fat and stave off holiday weight gain.

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Sounds promising, but there’s a catch: Both studies involved less than 50 subjects, and study authors agreed that more need to be done to evaluate CLA’s effects on weight loss.

A 2015 clinical review in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism went a step further, saying that “CLA is not eliciting significantly promising and consistent health effects so as to uphold it as neither a functional nor a medical food,” per the study authors.

So, that means I shouldn’t use CLA safflower oil for weight loss?

Basically? Nah.

First and foremost, the research isn’t there to suggest that CLA safflower oil supplements do anything for weight loss.

Plus, safflower oil only contains a small amount of CLA—about 0.7 milligrams of CLA per gram of fat, according to research from the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. That means safflower oil supplements in pill form must be chemically altered to increase the amount of CLA—which makes it slightly different than the good-for-you CLA found naturally in foods.

But there’s another thing: weight-loss supplements in general are usually neither effective nor healthy.

“I’m not a fan of any supplements that promote weight loss because dropping pounds is more about the foods you eat and the exercise you do than the pills or powers that you pop,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., Read It Before You Eat It. “These things are ridiculous.”

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Your best bet? “There is nothing that can substitute for a healthy lifestyle, which includes a plant-based diet—full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and (mostly) plant proteins,” says Taub-Dix, who also highlights the importance of exercise and good sleep.

“There is only one way to achieve health and vitality,” says Taub-Dix. “And that is through a healthy eating and exercise plan.”

The bottom line: Once again, there is no magic pill for weight loss—including CLA safflower oil.

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