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Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid Safe?

Because many people may be concerned about the safety of conjugated linoleic acid, it is important to understand the precautions and warnings of the product. For example, you should let your healthcare provider know if you have diabetes, heart disease, or any allergies before using conjugated linoleic acid. Precautions and warnings with conjugated linoleic acid also extend to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There are also some safety precautions you can follow when looking to buy the supplements.

Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid Safe?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fat that is found in dairy and some meat products. It can also be man-made and is currently a popular supplement for weight loss, bodybuilding, and other objectives. You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking conjugated linoleic acid if you have:
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Safety Precautions and Warnings With Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of conjugated linoleic acid include the following:
  • Some forms (known as "isomers") of conjugated linoleic acid may increase blood sugar levels, which may cause problems for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, check with your healthcare provider before taking a conjugated linoleic acid supplement. There is some evidence that the man-made form of conjugated linoleic acid (found in most supplements) contains more of the isomers of conjugated linoleic acid that are responsible for this negative effect, compared to naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid.
  • Some forms of conjugated linoleic acid may increase the level of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein in the blood. This may be particularly undesirable for people who have heart disease (or are at risk for heart disease).
  • It is not known if conjugated linoleic acid interacts with medications (see Drug Interactions With Conjugated Linoleic Acid for more information).
  • It is not known if conjugated linoleic acid is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (see CLA and Pregnancy and CLA and Breastfeeding).
  • If you decide to use supplements, what you see on the label may not reflect what is in the bottle. For example, some herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals or prescription drugs, and some have been found to have much more or much less of the featured ingredient than their label states.
Therefore, make sure the manufacturer of your conjugated linoleic acid is a trusted and reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are most reputable.
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