Almost everybody is looking for that magic pill to lose weight.  Some pills and supplements might work, but there is a secret: A source in the pharmaceutical industry says that in recent years the FDA has added a new requirement to weight loss studies that have caused some problems with drug development.  What do you think the new requirement would be? Increase safety standards? Nope. Longer interventions? Nope.

The new requirement they have is that any new weight loss drugs will have to be compared to a diet and exercise control. Before a drug was compared to a control group that got a placebo drug, didn’t need a diet, or exercise. Thus any findings showed the effect of the drug compared to nothing.

Since then, they have found drugs that help people lose weight, but the new control group fails way more.  Shocker – diet, and exercise help you lose weight, better than drugs.  What to do if you hit a weight loss plateau?  What happens if you are dieting and exercising and reach a plateau.  Unless you’re one of those weight-loss-commercial people, you’re probably not going to be running off to your doctor to get a prescription. So what should you do?  There are some supplements that look promising. One, in particular, is CLA.

CLA stands for conjugated linoleic acids. CLAs are a family of fatty acids that are different biochemical arrangements of linoleic acid. Unlike other fatty acids, they have a cis double bond and a trans double bond.  Yes, CLAs are trans fats. CLAs are naturally occurring trans fats that are produced during the digestion of unsaturated fats in cows and sheep.

Different types of CLA are named based on these cis and trans bonds, which appear along an 18 carbon chain.  If you have, c9,t11-CLA, then the cis double bond is at the 9th carbon, and the trans double bond is at the 11th carbon. With t10,c12-CLA the trans double bond is at the 10th carbon and the cis at the 12th.  Now, why should you care about these different versions of CLA? It seems that many different versions are better at helping you lose body fat than others.

Methods

This study was a part of a bigger study, though it looks like this is the first publication of that study.  There were 81 postmenopausal women with a BMI of less than 35, no hypertension, no chronic disease, no regular medication and has been over a year since their last menstruation.  There wasn’t any selection for physical activity, but this study was done in Denmark, and from other studies show that the average Dane is in pretty good shape compared to the rest of the world.

To make sure there were no differences in diet, everybody in the study had to fill out a 3-day food journal, recording everything they ate over those three days.

Blood and adipose tissue

Before and after the olive oil or CLA supplementation, the participants had their blood taken and adipose tissue biopsies were done.  A biopsy is not a very pleasant procedure. Researchers used a 16 or 17 gauge needle to take a fat tissue biopsy from the upper outer quadrant of the buttock – that’s right, they took a fat sample from the butt cheek.

Why should we bother with the blood and fat? The first reason is to see if the participants were taking their supplements; and second, to see what other hormones changed.  If the members were taking their supplements as prescribed, there would be an increase in certain fats. For example, if you take in more c9,t11 CLA, then behold you get more c9,t11 CLA in your blood plasma. Almost the same thing with fat, but the fat usually takes longer for changes to come up in an analysis.

Instead of keeping tabs making sure the participants take their supplements, the scientists will just check their blood, and if there was no change in blood fatty acids, then the participant wasn’t compliant.  The other reason why is to see if the blood sampling turned insulin or glucose levels, which could mean better or worse sugar regulation. If there were improvements in insulin or glucose levels, then the supplementation could help with diabetes.

Adipogenic gene expression

The fat sampling was also done to figure out whether supplementation would change adipogenic gene expression. Adipogenic gene expression means fat gene production which determines how much of the genes responsible for making fat are being made. This can be confusing, it isn’t what genes you have, but how much RNA and subsequently protein you’re making from the genes.  Genes are the design plans for the body, the same way a factory has design ideas for a product.

You have many different genes to build many different proteins, but just having the gene doesn’t mean your cells are making something. Just because you have design plans for building a car doesn’t mean you are producing a car. And just as a car factory decides to make more or fewer blue sedans, your cells choose to make more or fewer glucose transporters (GLUT4).

With Genetics, scientists can look at a few things:

1. Genes – such as what versions do you have compared to the rest of the world? Like if you have blue eyes, you have at least one gene that is different than somebody with brown eyes.

2. Gene expression – are you making the gene product?
For example, almost everybody makes a certain amount of melanin (the stuff that pigments your skin). If you’re particularly pale, you aren’t making very much, but you still have the gene for melanin. If you go to some place warm and sunny and start tanning, then you start making more melanin, and voila, you get darker.

So with genes you either have them, or you don’t, but gene expression is variable. Sometimes you make a lot of a gene product, and sometimes you make none of the gene product.