Metabolically distinct weight loss by 10,12 CLA and caloric restriction highlight the importance of subcutaneous white adipose tissue for glucose homeostasis in mice

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 28;12(2):e0172912. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172912. eCollection 2017.


Background: Widely used as a weight loss supplement, trans-10,cis-12 conjugated linoleic acid (10,12 CLA) promotes fat loss in obese mice and humans, but has also been associated with insulin resistance.

Objective: We therefore sought to directly compare weight loss by 10,12 CLA versus caloric restriction (CR, 15-25%), an acceptable healthy method of weight loss, to determine how 10,12 CLA-mediated weight loss fails to improve glucose metabolism.

Methods: Obese mice with characteristics of human metabolic syndrome were either supplemented with 10,12 CLA or subjected to CR to promote weight loss. Metabolic endpoints such as energy expenditure, glucose and insulin tolerance testing, and trunk fat distribution were measured.

Results: By design, 10,12 CLA and CR caused equivalent weight loss, with greater fat loss by 10,12 CLA accompanied by increased energy expenditure, reduced respiratory quotient, increased fat oxidation, accumulation of alternatively activated macrophages, and browning of subcutaneous white adipose tissue (WAT). Moreover, 10,12 CLA-supplemented mice better defended their body temperature against a cold challenge. However, 10,12 CLA concurrently induced the detrimental loss of subcutaneous WAT without reducing visceral WAT, promoted reduced plasma and WAT adipokine levels, worsened hepatic steatosis, and failed to improve glucose metabolism. Obese mice undergoing CR were protected from subcutaneous-specific fat loss, had improved hepatic steatosis, and subsequently showed the expected improvements in WAT adipokines, glucose metabolism and WAT inflammation.

Conclusions: These results suggest that 10,12 CLA mediates the preferential loss of subcutaneous fat that likely contributes to hepatic steatosis and maintained insulin resistance, despite significant weight loss and WAT browning in mice. Collectively, we have shown that weight loss due to 10,12 CLA supplementation or CR results in dramatically different metabolic phenotypes, with the latter promoting a healthier form of weight loss.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, White / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue, White / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Obese
  • Subcutaneous Fat / drug effects
  • Subcutaneous Fat / metabolism*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects
  • Weight Loss / physiology


  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated
  • Glucose