Could These Fat Melters Work for You?

By Eva Selhub, MD Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Clinical Associate in Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital Author of The Love Response and Your Brain on Nature

Could These Fat Melters Work for You?

Think of fat melting this way: When you put fat in a frying pan and turn on the fire, what happens? The fat heats up and melts.

This process happens in the body when fat is broken down or lipolysis occurs (lipo = fat; lysis = break down), and energy is made to create heat, or thermogenesis (thermo = heat;  genesis = creating).

That’s how exercise works to melt fat: Exercise expends energy, which creates heat. Nature, in its brilliance, has also provided us with many foods, fruits and vegetables that can help break down fat, instead of storing it, and thus melt fat. These natural ways have been shown to be safe and sometimes work without you having to move – though I do not advocate not moving!    

Fat Melter #1: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid, found in beef and dairy products. It’s also known as the “good” trans fat. The human body does not make CLA and we need to rely on other sources to get it. Unfortunately, the modern diet, due to processed food intake and changes in farming, has much lower amounts of CLA content.

How does it work?

Despite all the positive research on the benefits of CLA, researchers are still unclear about the precise mechanisms of action. We do believe that it lowers the melting point for fat burning. It appears that CLA blocks fat cells from growing bigger or swelling by influencing enzymes that afect fat growth. CLA also seems to increase the speed of fat burning.

What kind of results should I expect?

Recent human studies have shown that taking CLA, at least 3.4 grams a day, led to a significant decrease in body fat mass and the diameter of the abdomen in obese subjects, but not body weight.

What does this mean? Remember, when you are exercising and weight lifting, you may not actually lose weight, but you will lose inches and increase lean body mass. For instance, if you lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 4 pounds of muscle, the end result is only a loss of 1 pound. 

How long does it take to see results?

Most of the studies lasted a minimum of 12 weeks. It appears that a CLA supplement is safe to take for 24 months, though there did not seem to be additional benefits after 12 months.

What are good sources of CLA?

Research has shown the best source of CLA comes from fresh grass! And therefore from grass-fed beef. You can also find high levels of CLA in eggs and safflower oil. 

Studies suggest you can take 3 grams/day of CLA in three divided doses with meals for the fat-melting effect in its supplement form. As safflower has a higher content, you want to make sure your supplement uses safflower, not sunflower oil.   

One caveat is that if you have diabetes, make sure you check with your doctor as we are not sure what sort of effects CLA has on insulin sensitivity and resistance.

Fat Melter #2: Calcium Pyruvate

Our body naturally makes pyruvate when sugar is broken down to produce energy, a process called glycolosis.

How does it work?

Pyruvate seems to work by increasing your body’s use of fat as an energy source. Normally, your body first breaks down sugar, then protein and fat is saved until the end. Pyruvate appears to divert fat to be broken down sooner. The result is that the resting metabolic rate is raised, meaning you could feasibly be melting fat while watching TV if you have ingested the right amount of pyruvate. 

What kind of results can I expect?

Studies have shown a significant drop in weight, body fat and fat mass with pyruvate supplementation versus placebo, even in as short as 3 weeks; however, in that study, the dose was quite high, at 30grams/day, a dose that is often associated with gastrointestinal upset. The good news is that other studies have also shown that same effect can be achieved over 6 weeks with a smaller dose.

What are good sources of pyruvate?

You can get pyruvate from cheese, red apples, red wine or red grapes and yellow onions. Though for weight loss, you might need to eat too many apples and have an undesired effect. Studies suggest that for fat loss, you may benefit from taking a supplement, about 6 grams/day before meals. The studies have only lasted 6 weeks, so there is no long-term data for supplementation. I would try it for 1 to 2 months to kickstart your metabolism, and use diet and exercise for maintenance and improved results, letting those lifestyle modifications take over after those 1-2 months are up.

Fat Melter #3: Medium Chain Triglycerides

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fat chains that are medium sized, versus the fats that make up 98% of our diet, which are long chain triglycerides (LCTs). You can find MCTs in coconut oil, for instance.


How does it work?

MCTs are digested differently than LCTs and much more easily. They are broken down right away, going straight from the stomach to the liver and burned for fuel and energy. The molecules are smaller and need less energy and fewer enzymes to be broken down. In contrast, LCTs are so big that the enzymes from the pancreas have to break them down, and then they have to travel through the lymphatic system throughout the body, depositing fat in all those unwanted areas.

What kind of results can I expect?

Promising studies have shown that MCTs help speed metabolism and also help induce weight loss.  

What are good sources of medium chain triglycerides?

The main form of MCTs in food is in coconut, especially coconut oil. Another source is palm kernel oil (not palm oil). For babies, it’s found in human milk. You can also take a supplement of MCT oil.

I suggest switching over to coconut oil for most or some of your cooking, and all your baking. You can sauté with coconut oil a few times a week.

Here is a fantastic recipe for carbohydrate- and dairy-free protein bars, that is loaded with antioxidants and MCTs. You can use any variety of nuts and dried fruit as long as there is no sugar or peanuts.

Dr. Eva’s Protein Bars



1 cup almond flour
1 cup almonds

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 dried cranberries

1/4 dried blueberries

1/4 cup figs or dates
3 tbsp agave syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup almond butter
1/5 cup coconut shredded
1 egg
2 tsp cinnamon


Combine all ingredients and stir together. The mixture should be clumpy and stick together. Grab a handful of the mixture and mold into bar form. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in oven at 350°F for 11 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

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Is This the Key to Ultimate Hydration?

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Presented by USANA.