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Several people claim that ghee can promote weight loss by burning fat.

Ghee promotes a healthy digestive system and is good for weight loss due to its concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies show helps keep fat cells from getting bigger and stimulates fat burn. The skinny: grass-fed ghee helps burn fat and it is great for cooking because it is a saturated fat.

Ghee with its short chain fatty acids, helps you burn the stubborn fat.

(She makes further claims including that the ghee must come from an Indian cow or a buffalo.)

"Ghee offers the benefits of a high-fat dairy product without the downsides," says Melissa Hartwig, a certified sports nutritionist and best-selling author of It Starts With Food. Among the pros: aided digestion, detoxification, and weight loss. "It's not a hippie, far-out-there thing," Hartwig adds. "It's taking a healthy food and making it better."

Does ghee help burn body fat?

  • I've edited out "stubborn fat" from the questions because it is non-notable (just one random nutritionist, from the looks) and ill-defined (what is "stubborn fat" from a scientific perspective?). – Oddthinking May 23 '15 at 22:05
  • @Oddthinking I think that it should remain as it was before I am not much interested in knowing whether GHee promotes weight loss , but more interested to know whether it burns the fat as claimed. Weight loss might happen owing to other factors like satiety value of Ghee. And claims can be unscientific which can be concluded only after the question is answered. – skept101 May 24 '15 at 2:36
  • Put on hold while we resolve if there is a meaningful and notable claim to resolve here. What is stubborn fat, and does more than one person believe ghee helps with it? – Oddthinking May 24 '15 at 6:21
  • How do you interpret a statement like "this food helps burn fat", if not as a statement that it promotes weight loss? What would you measure to determine if a food helped "burn fat" or not? As far as I can tell, this is one of those claims (like "aids digestion", "eliminates toxins") that is so vague as to be untestable and unfalsifiable. – Nate Eldredge May 24 '15 at 7:08
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    @Skept101: We still aren't clear about the claim you want to tackle. The new reference doesn't include the "stubborn fat" claim, and I am still not sure how an experimenter would measure "stubborn fat". Your weight-loss versus fat-burning distinction is very subtle. I imagine most people would interpret "weight-loss" as lowering your fat levels rather than lowering your muscle levels. – Oddthinking May 24 '15 at 18:02
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The short version is that it might have an effect, but there is no evidence to date.

I was surprised to find that there are actually quite a few scientific studies on this subject. There's an even larger literature on the effects in animals than in humans.

A good survey paper on the area (which may be paywalled) is found here. The crux of it is that the best designed studies to date do not find any significant difference in fatty mass changes between those who take quite large doses of CLA (roughly equal to eating 250ml of ghee a day, if my understanding of ghee's CLA composition is correct), and those who just eat an olive oil capsule instead. This holds across many populations. Experienced weightlifters, novice weightlifters, and overweight or obese persons. The only human studies reporting significant effects tracked changes over a quite short period of time, or else had systematic problems.

An example of a study that has some problems can be found here.

The study above shows a decrease in fatty mass for overweight and obese individuals who consumed concentrated CLA (roughly equal to the amount found in about a half a litre of Ghee, from what I can ascertain) in daily doses, versus those who consumed an equal amount of olive oil (the control).

The improvement is statistically significant, but extremely small. Over 12 weeks, the average subject on olive oil gained about 1.5kg (~3lb) of fat, while those taking CLA lost a small amount of fat instead, but also gained about 1.5kg of lean mass.

Even if the study did control properly for exercise, they found no benefit beyond a dose of about 3.5 grams/day of CLA. A weighloss supplement that cuts ~1/4 pound per week from an overweight person is not particularly impressive. The person could just as easily drink one less glass of soda (or milk!) per day to lose at the same rate.

However, the study included sending an offer of training from a local gym to all participants. Those in the higher CLA dosage groups were found to have engaged in an average of 1 more hour of "heavy training" per week by the end of the study than at the start. Over a 12 week period, that could easily be enough to result in a recomposition of just 2kg or so (i.e. trading 2kg of fat for muscle), especially in novices engaged in something like resistance training. The changes in BMI between the groups were not significant at the end of the study, suggesting that all participants gained the same weight, just some of them put it on as muscle.

So, to sum up, there do not seem to be any reputable studies showing a benefit in body fat loss from consuming CLA. There seems to be a lot of interest in it because it is present in certain health foods (like Ghee) though.

As an aside, I'm personally very sceptical of claims that any food (especially what is essentially liquefied fat!) will magically cause weightloss or fat loss. Losing weight isn't complicated. To get rid of a few pounds of "stubborn" fat, eat fewer calories than you burn (your TDEE) and exercise more for a few weeks. As a general rule, all the rest of it is noise or tiny effects not worth worrying about. Remember: if there was a miracle cure for weightloss, everyone would be thin already. Companies would be lining up to sell it.

  • The amount of ghee recommended is usually not more then 30gm – skept101 May 28 '15 at 7:33
  • How can you extrapolate studies for CLA to ghee – skept101 May 28 '15 at 7:38
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    The quotes in your question specifically referenced CLA as the ingredient in Ghee responsible for its supposed properties. After looking more carefully, it seems Ghee actually has more like 15% CLA than the 2% figure I'd found for dairy in general, so your 30gm figure is about right. – John Doucette May 28 '15 at 13:23

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