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The product: SunPower CLA, $19.99 for 60 softgel capsules. Dose is one per meal for weight loss.
Key ingredients: Conjugated linoleic acid, naturally found in meat and dairy products.
The company's claim: It will help you lose weight. May also prevent cancer, but most of research in humans thus far has concentrated on CLA as a diet drug.
How it works: Discovered in 1987, CLA may boost the body's ability to break down fat, by regulating enzymes that play a key role in fat metabolism. CLA may also spur the conversion of fat into muscle.
Pros: Several placebo-controlled studies involving fewer than 100 participants have found that CLA leads to a small weight loss and reduces the ratio of fat-to-muscle in the body, making this a darling of weight lifters.
Cons: One Norwegian study noted that some of the participants had digestive side effects. With so little research on CLA, its possible as-yet-unknown side effects could result from long-term use.
Bottom line: The staunchest CLA fans promote it as part of a weight-loss regimen that includes diet and exercise. Until more research is done on the long-term safety, its most prudent to stick with diet and exercise - a tried and true way of shedding pounds - rather than embracing the latest quick fix.
(Shari Rudavsky writes for The Miami Herald. If there's a supplement or health claim you want to know more about, Write to The Health Page, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.)
(c) 2003, The Miami Herald. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.