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Conjugated Linoleic Acid Side Effects

Conjugated linoleic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in dairy and certain meat products. In these forms, it does not usually cause significant side effects. However, it may cause problems (such as diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn) when taken as a supplement. There are also some potentially serious side effects of conjugated linoleic acid that should be reported to a healthcare provider, such as signs of an allergic reaction.

Does Conjugated Linoleic Acid Cause Side Effects?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid that is found in dairy products and certain meats. When obtained through the diet, CLA is unlikely to cause significant side effects. However, supplements may cause problems, some of which may be serious.
There are different forms (known as isomers) of conjugated linoleic acid, and manufactured versions usually have more of the isomer that seems to be responsible for some of the negative effects of the product, compared to naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid found in dairy and meat.
(This article covers most, but not all, conjugated linoleic acid side effects. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Serious Side Effects of Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Some conjugated linoleic acid side effects are potentially serious and should be reported to your healthcare provider. These may indicate that you should stop taking the supplement. Such reactions include but are not limited to:
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), 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
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, including:
    • Unexplained rash
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Unexplained swelling
    • Wheezing
    • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
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