Conjugated linoleic acid and obesity control: efficacy and mechanisms

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Aug;28(8):941-55. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802641.


Obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol and high risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, management of body weight and obesity are increasingly considered as an important approach to maintaining healthy cholesterol profiles and reducing cardiovascular risk. The present review addresses the effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) on fat deposition, body weight and composition, safety, as well as mechanisms involved in animals and humans. Animal studies have shown promising effects of CLA on body weight and fat deposition. The majority of the animal studies have been conducted using CLA mixtures that contained approximately equal amounts of trans-10, cis-12 (t10c12) and cis-9, trans-11 (c9t11) isomers. Results of a few studies in mice fed CLA mixtures with different ratios of c9t11 and t10c12 isomers have indicated that the t10c12 isomer CLA may be the active form of CLA affecting weight gain and fat deposition. Inductions of leptin reduction and insulin resistance are the adverse effects of CLA observed in only mice. In pigs, the effects of CLA on weight gain and fat deposition are inconsistent, and no adverse effects of CLA have been reported. A number of human studies suggest that CLA supplementation has no effect on body weight and insulin sensitivity. Although it is suggested that the t10c12 CLA is the antiadipogenic isomer of CLA in humans, the effects of CLA on fat deposition are marginal and more equivocal as compared to results observed in animal studies. Mechanisms through which CLA reduces body weight and fat deposition remain to be fully understood. Proposed antiobesity mechanisms of CLA include decreased energy/food intake and increased energy expenditure, decreased preadipocyte differentiation and proliferation, decreased lipogenesis, and increased lipolysis and fat oxidation. In summary, CLA reduces weight gain and fat deposition in rodents, while produces less significant and inconsistent effects on body weight and composition in pigs and humans. New studies are required to examine isomer-specific effects and mechanisms of CLA in animals and humans using purified individual CLA isomers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipocytes / pathology
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Energy Intake / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids / metabolism
  • Linoleic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology


  • Linoleic Acids