Conjugated linoleic acid, better known as CLA, is a type of trans fatty acid. While CLA is a trans fatty acid, CLA is not considered a “bad” trans fat due to having many health benefits. CLA can be consumed in supplement form or through diet. Meat and dairy products have the highest concentration of conjugated linoleic acid.
1. Decreased Cancer Risk
In recent studies, CLA showed promise in fighting breast, lung and prostate cancers by blocking the three stages or development of cancer cells, which are initiation, promotion and progression. Researchers have found non-human subjects who consumed 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent of CLA, experienced 32 percent to 56 percent reduction in benign and malignant tumors.
2. Improved Immune Function
Some studies have suggested that those taking CLA supplements had reports of fewer colds and flu. CLA improves immune system function by reducing leukotrienes and prostaglandins, which are responsible for immune system suppression. To improve immune function with CLA, it is recommended to take 2g to 4g of CLA daily. Those who suffer from allergies may also benefit from CLA. Conjugated linoleic acid works by triggering a protective immune system mechanism that blocks the release of IgE antibodies, which is a type of immunoglobulin associated with allergies.
3. Body Fat Management
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, CLA increases lean body mass while reducing overall body fat mass. The improved muscle to fat ratio is believed to stem from improved insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity allows fatty acids and glucose to easily move toward muscle cells and away from fat issues, resulting in an increase of total energy in fat and muscle tissue. The increase of total energy in the cells enhances fat metabolism in muscle and fat cells leading to reduced body fat and increased muscle.
4. Diabetes Prevention and Management
Using CLA with a diabetes friendly diet can improve existing diabetes and even prevent adult-onset diabetes. CLA helps those with diabetes by improving the movement of glucose into cells, which assists in lowering insulin levels.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis Management
CLA may help those with rheumatoid arthritis due to CLA’s anti-inflammatory properties. CLA blocks excess production of pro-inflammatory immune agents, such as prostaglandin (PGE2) and cytokines, leading to less joint destruction and inflammation.
6. Heart Disease Prevention
CLA prevents heart disease in two ways—decreasing bad cholesterol and preventing atherosclerosis. Bad cholesterol, better known as LDL, deposits itself in the body’s arteries when there is not enough good (HDL) cholesterol to metabolize and dispose of LDL cholesterol. Excess cholesterol and fatty deposits in the form of plaque build up in the arteries eventually leading to hardening of the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious medical conditions such as a heart attack, embolism and stroke.
CLA prevents atherosclerosis by lowering LDL cholesterol and improving the LDL to HDL ratio, which reduces the production and depositing of plaque into the arteries. Another way CLA prevents atherosclerosis is by improving insulin levels. High insulin levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.