French food agency casts CLA safety data as “ambiguous” (in animals)

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

French food agency casts CLA safety data as “ambiguous” (in animals)

Related tags: Insulin resistance, European food safety authority

CLA consumption may raise cholesterol and insulin levels, the French food agency has found after assessing recent in vitro and animal studies.

ANSES has said safety data on the ingredient remained “ambiguous”​ and it called on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to conduct a further review in addition to the one it completed in 2010.

In that opinion EFSA concluded that CLA was safe for use in a range of foods in the European Union, but Novel Foods approval has as yet not been forthcoming and so CLA in the EU at least is restricted in its application.

Recent years have seen approvals in China and the US, although Australia recently turned down an application, and the grounds of that rejection were referenced in the ANSES report.

“This assessment revealed that none of these studies reported beneficial effects of mixtures of isomers … on lipid risk factors for cardiovascular disease (LDL-C, HDL-C, triglycerides, LDL-C/HDL-C),”​ the ANSES report states.

“However, adverse or harmful effects were sometimes reported, particularly an elevated LDL-C/HDL-C ratio. As far as insulin resistance is concerned, numerous in vitro and animal studies have shown a harmful effect for [a certain isomer]. However, no studies undertaken in humans are available to assess the relevance of these results for humans.”

The biggest CLA suppliers are BASF and Stepan Lipid Nutriiton. It is best known for its body shaping and weight management potential although EFSA has to date rejected its health claims.

The report continues: The new data do not report any beneficial effects on the analysed parameters, but sometimes report harmful effects with CLA mixtures. If these harmful effects are combined, the risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome could increase.

“[ANSES] therefore considers that, on the basis of the new available data, the risks related to the consumption of CLA mixtures remain ambiguous.”

The report was produced at the behest of the French Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control.

BASF and Stepan Lipid Nutrition were not available for comment at the time of publication.


Despite the scientific concerns, market analyst Euromonitor recently found CLA to be “key”​ in the global weight management market.

In a report it said: “Euromonitor International sees sweeteners, such as stevia, and satiety ingredients, such as CLA as key for the future of weight management, as they enable products to combine health and flavor.”

But it did reference the health claim situation and cautioned: “Two challenges functional ingredients will have to overcome in order to gain mainstream acceptance are proving their safety and recovering from the wild claims used for years by marketers promising miracle results. This second challenge may prove particularly difficult.”

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