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The Keen, Lean Fat

Focuses on conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid found naturally in minute amounts in beef and dairy fats. Details on the study headed by Michael Pariza of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; How CLA may prevent atherosclerosis, a disease in which cholesterol plaques block the flow of blood.

When you're plotting a strategy to shed pounds, fat often seems like enemy number one. But a new supplement shows that some kinds of blubber can be a dieter's ally.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CIA) is a fatty acid found naturally in minute amounts in beef and dairy fats. Users become slimmer because CIA helps them gain only lean muscle mass, which weighs more than fat but is much more compact-resulting in a thinner frame.

In a study headed by Michael Pariza, Ph.D., director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin Madison, obese men and women taking CIA daily gained more lean body mass than controls -- who primarily gained fat -- and lost more weight overall. CIA not only seemed to replace fat with muscle, but also made subjects feel full, like most fatty foods do. The difference: unlike French fries or Ring Dings, CIA may boost the oxidation of fat in muscles and reduce levels of fat-storing enzymes.

CIA may also prevent atherosclerosis, a disease in which cholesterol plaques block the flow of blood -- and the nutrients it carries -- to the brain. But many researchers, like Pariza, pop the pill simply to slim down. After a year of taking three to four grams a day, he claims, he lost three inches from his waist -- without even trying.