Tonalin CLA is a diet supplement that claims it can help you burn fat and gain lean muscle, just by simply taking their supplement twice daily.
Tonalin is a brand name of CLA made by Germany-based BASF Corporation, a long-time leader in chemical products across a wide variety of industries. Started in 1865, they established a US presence in 1986. Currently they are not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and have a B-minus rating. Their US headquarters is located in Florham Park, New Jersey. Tonalin CLA is manufactured by BASF and then sold to supplement distributors for packaging and marketing under individual brands.
CLA stands for “Conjugated Linoleic Acid” and its main purpose is to reduce body fat. Safflower oil is the sole component of Tonalin’s formula, and it has been said to naturally burn fat.
Various brands on Amazon.com offer 1000-1300 mg softgels or capsules in varying size bottles, but the price per pill ranges between 11 and 40 cents. The recommended dosage for Tonalin CLA is 3000 mg per day, taken at any point.
Tonalin CLA Claims
There are some claims on the BASF website to educate the customer about what Tonalin actually is. The language is reader-friendly and informative, not buzzword-y.
Tonalin® is a high-quality CLA that is unique, safe and stimulant free. Sustainably sourced from natural safflower, Tonalin® CLA is a nutritional ingredient that helps to improve body composition by helping your body burn fat while preventing fat cells from refilling and storing in your body. Tonalin® can also help block the enzymes that cells use to absorb unused fat, diverting it to your muscle cells to help promote growth.
Tonalin® works in four ways: 1: Decreases number and size of adipocytes (fat cells), lowering your body fat mass. 2: Decreases the activity of LPL enzymes which help to store triglycerides (fats) in adipocytes (fat cells). 3: Increases apoptosis, the rate at which fat cells disintegrate, thus reducing the number of existing fat cells in your body. 4: Increases activity of the enzyme CPT (carnitine palmitoyltransferase), so fat is burned up faster, leaving less of it in your body.
While Tonalin® is made to help you burn unwanted fat and build and maintain lean muscle mass, there have been no clinical studies on its effect during pregnancy and lactation. If you are pregnant, plan to be or are lactating, please consult your healthcare professional before taking this or any other dietary supplement.
Tonalin CLA Ingredients
NOTE: Because Tonalin is a BASF brand name which is then purchased and marketed by several supplement companies, we’ll present three different commercial brands ingredient lists:
Country Life: Conjugated Linoleic Acid Complex (1 g) (from safflower seed oil), 1000 mg, providing Conjugated Linoleic Acid 780 mg. Other Ingredients: Gelatin, glycerin, purified water, caramel color (capsule shell). 100 bovine gelatin.
The Science Behind Tonalin CLA
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements, only drugs. As such, supplement labels are prohibited from claiming any research-proven medical or health benefit—this is the function of a drug, in the FDA’s view.
So let’s look at the science we do know about CLA as a supplement.
The Mayo Clinic states that CLA has a “possible modest benefit” (emphasis added) as a weight loss supplement, but also cautions some side effects: “Upset stomach, nausea, constipation, loose stools; may decrease good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol.”
From a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research:
… This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 20 healthy humans of normal body weight and less than 25…, who did standardized physical exercise in a gym for 90 min three times weekly. Participants took either placebo (hydrogel) or CLA 1.8 mg…for 12 weeks. Body fat…was significantly reduced in the CLA group during the study, but not in the placebo group. No effects on body weight were observed. Tolerability was good and similar in the two groups. Compliance, as judged by the number of returned capsules, was more than 80% of the recommended dose for all participants. Thus CLA reduces body fat but not body weight in healthy exercising humans of normal body weight. (emphasis added)
Another study in Norway focused on overweight but otherwise healthy individuals:
After 12 in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of … (CLA) supplementation (2 groups received CLA as part of a triglyceride or as the free fatty acid, and 1 group received olive oil as placebo), 134 of the 157 participants who concluded the study were included in an open study for another 12 . … All subjects were supplemented with 3.4g CLA/d… and increased in all groups. There was no change in fasting blood glucose. … Plasma total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were reduced, whereas HDL cholesterol and triglycerides were unchanged. … Body weight and were reduced in the subjects administered the placebo during the initial 12 study… No fat or body weight changes occurred in the 2 groups given CLA during the initial 12 . … In conclusion, this study shows that CLA supplementation for 24 in healthy, overweight adults was well tolerated. It confirms also that CLA decreases in overweight humans, and may help maintain initial reductions in and weight in the long term. (definitions and emphasis added)
Other studies are quoted on fitness websites. CLA has been said to work better for individuals who are obese and live a sedentary lifestyle. According to Examine.com,
CLA has been investigated to be a fat burner and health promoting agent due to its effect on a molecular signaling receptor … which is related to fat burning, … and glucose/lipid metabolism. However, human studies on CLA are very unreliable and the overall effects seen with CLA are not overly potent as well as sometimes contradicting. CLA … usage as a supplement for personal goals is quite lacklustre.
LiveStrong.com explains the scientific breakdown of CLA in the body like this: “CLA increases the activity of … an enzyme that transports fat into the mitochondria of your cells, where it’s burned as fuel.”
As with most supplements, there are risks associated with taking it and side effects to be aware of. WebMD offers a concise list and reminds you to tell your health care provider about all substances you’re taking, including natural ones.
- CLA supplements may cause upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.
- CLA supplements may worsen insulin resistance, or how your body absorbs sugar, in people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Given the lack of evidence about its safety, doctors don’t recommend CLA for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may cause dangerous effects on the liver, such as “fatty liver.” It may lower HDL, or good cholesterol. Some research has also documented an increase in inflammation with the use of CLA supplements.
- If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using CLA supplements. They may interact with drugs for schizophrenia and other mental disorders as well as with blood thinners or antihypertensives (high blood pressure medication).
Word On The Street About Tonalin CLA
There are many different reviews for Tonalin CLA and its effectiveness for weight loss. The supplement was “recommended” on The Dr. Oz Show, which led to a sales spike. For the record, Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon (heart/lungs), not a nutritionist or food scientist, and while he is a well-known researcher in the specific field of cardiovascular medicine, he does have a record of promoting a great deal of pseudo-science.
“Nanc” said of the Spring Valley brand (2013, 1-star), “I bought this after it was recommended on the Dr Oz show. Not the brand just the supplement. I took the whole bottle and did not see any benefit. Dissappointed.”
“Jerry Brown” really summed it up nicely on a review of the MetRX brand: (2015, 5-star)
I’ve been cycling CLA for about two years. First of all, you need to know that you have to use it for AT LEAST 90 days before judging it. Because of the way CLA causes subcutaneous fat loss, it’s a slow process. Taking it for a week or a month doesn’t give it long enough to work. After my first 90 day cycle, I had excellent separation in my front/lateral/rear delts, and my quads had good definition. After three 90 day cycles (1 year with 4 week breaks between cycles), I had excellent inner pec definition with great serratus muscle separation.
CLA won’t get rid of visceral fat and is not a “fat burner”. It fools your body into decreasing fat beneath the skin which lets muscle definition show through. If you’re working out, this will help with definition and sculpting. If you just want to lose belly or butt fat, this is not the supplement for you.
Other people who invested in the CLA supplement felt like it did help their waistline, but they had to continue taking it for results to show up. This product does not work quickly, so it can be disheartening to some folks who want quick results. While some thought the product didn’t accomplish anything, others liked the fact that it did not come with any side effects.
Every supplement affects every individual differently. Gender, age, sometimes race, pre-existing medical conditions, and individual body chemistry—as unique as a fingerprint—can affect how a supplement works on you. Only you and your doctor can figure out how it works for you, so always be forthcoming and transparent with your doctor about side effects you experience, as well as if the substance doesn’t seem to be doing anything for you.
The Bottom Line: Is Tonalin CLA Worth a Try?
Insufficient Data.While there don’t seem to be a lot of adverse side effects (though there can be some), Tonalin CLA isn’t a miracle. There’s just not enough data to rule this weight loss supplement as a complete cure for stubborn fat, nor can it be ruled out altogether for weight loss. Many folks who have tried Tonalin CLA are sedentary individuals who are looking for a natural weight loss solution with minimal side effects, which is what Tonalin CLA can provide. The reviews on the products in general were not terrible—but not strong, either, making it pretty middle of the road.