Differences between Safflower Oil and Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Safflower oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) are popular options in burning fat and reducing obesity.

Safflower. Image Credit: High Mountain / Shutterstock
Safflower. Image Credit: High Mountain / Shutterstock

A number of empirical studies have shown that both these substances are effective in facilitating weight loss. There is, however, ongoing debate with regards to the superiority of each substance. Alongside this issue is the misconception that safflower oil and CLA are actually the same substances, despite several differences existing between the two.

Composition and Properties

Safflower is an oilseed crop that is generally used for oil production. It is prominent in Asia, South America, and North America, but is popular in many other areas of the world for its numerous applications. Safflower oil is a polyunsaturated edible oil derived from the safflower plant and contains mild to moderated comedogenicity. The oil itself is composed of linoleic acid triglycerides and oleic acids, both of which could be utilized in the natural reduction of body fat.

On the other hand, CLA is derived from linoleic acid. CLA is a fatty acid supplement that is composed of cis-9, trans-11, trans-10 and cis-12. The formulation of CLA is facilitated during the initial biohydrogenation of the linoleic acid through the bacterium Butyrivibrio fibrisolvens. Unlike safflower oil, CLA is found in meat and dairy products, particularly in grass-fed animals, and is thought to have fat burning properties.

Target Areas

Safflower oil has been empiricallyproven to reduce fat, making it a natural oil of choice among consumers. Empirical studies on the effects of safflower oil on fat reduction concluded that the oil specifically targets abdominal fat and certain areas of the body, but not the total body mass as a whole. Subsequent research found that safflower oil supplements do not affect body mass index (BMI) or total adipose mass, but rather influence trunk adipose mass (reduction) and lean mass (increase).

Meanwhile, the effects of CLA have initially been tested on animals, discovering that the acid could reduce total body mass relative to CLA dosage. Over the years, researchers sought to examine whether similar effects could be found when applied to human subjects. For instance, research was conducted which included one control group (receiving 9 grams of olive oil as a placebo supplement) and an experimental group (receiving 1.7 to 6.8 grams of CLA) for a period of 12 weeks.

Results of the study showed that participants from the experimental group received a significantly higher reduction in body mass in comparison to the placebo group. It was also discovered that varying dosages could affect body mass reduction. .CLA dosages greater than 3.4 grams per day rated as the minimum requirement to significantly reduce body fat within a 12-week period. Despite these results, no significant changes were recorded in terms of lean body mass and blood lipids between the control and experimental groups. Another study found similar results, with BMI found to be reduced as a total effect of CLA.

These findings suggest that safflower oil and CLA target different areas of the body in terms of weight reduction. Some studies have tried to integrate both substances into a singular application and found that such pairing may help reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus, especially amongst pregnant women.

Other Effects on Health

Both safflower oil and CLA were empirically found to benefit the human body in other aspects apart from body mass or body fat reduction. However, like their differing benefits on fat reduction, safflower oil and CLA also target different physiological and medical concerns.

Safflower oil is thought to be an effective tropical treatment in treating skin infections or skin concerns involving fatty acid shortage. Apart from this, bone related disorders, atherosclerosis, and menopause could also be regulated by safflower oil. At present, researchers recognize that the full potential of safflower oil as a medical treatment is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, more research is being done at present to further specify its medical and healing properties.

Contemporary experimental models of CLA applications have postulated its effectivity as a means of treating cardiometabolic diseases and even possibly cancer. Empirical findings have concluded that CLA has the capacity to modulate immune function, resynthesize glycogen, and facilitate bone mineralization. These effects applied in other relevant medical research could pave the way for more directive treatment practices for various cardiometabolic and lifestyle diseases.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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