What Is CLA?

CLABy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a natural, beneficial, and essential trans fatty acid.  Linoleic acid is required for the health and formation of cell membranes and the production of prostaglandins, which play a role in many bodily functions.  CLA is a saturated fat, not to be confused with artificial trans-fat made from hydrogenated plant oils.  CLA is found in meat and dairy products derived from ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats.  Unlike humans, ruminant animals have a unique digestive system, including four stomach compartments, that enables them to digest grasses and coarse vegetation that humans cannot digest.  This process allows the conversion of these plants into high quality protein in the form of meat, eggs and whole milk dairy products, providing benefits to those who consume these products.   

As a result of commercially raised cattle, which have been shifted from a natural diet of pasture vegetation, grass, and fresh air to a mostly grain and corn diet and confined feedlots, healthy saturated fats from animal products have been greatly reduced in the American diet.  Research suggests that grass-fed beef is healthier, has less cholesterol, and contains more nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.  A 4-ounce serving of grass-fed beef contains approximately 500-800 milligrams of CLA, which is two to three times greater than the amount found in conventionally raised beef. 

Health benefits of CLA include:

Fighting fat with fat.  When consumed in the  diet or in supplement form, CLA has been shown in numerous studies to reduce overall body fat and increase lean muscle mass, especially in those who exercise regularly.  Related to the omega-6 fatty acids, CLA helps increase basal metabolic rates, aiding the conversion of food into energy and helping the body to burn stored fat, particularly abdominal fat.  Although there may not be significant weight reduction, the loss of fat is compensated, to a significant degree, by muscle gain. 

Protecting the heart.  CLA helps to lower LDL cholesterol and improve the ratio of LDL to HDL.   By reducing blood lipids,  less plaque may form on artery walls aiding blood flow and lessening stroke risk.  CLA has been shown to decrease blood pressure and to fight inflammation, further reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease

Boosting bone density.  Researchers from The University of Connecticut have shown that postmenopausal women who consume dietary CLA have greater bone mineral density.  Bone health improved throughout the body especially in the spine, hips, and forearms. 

Supporting immune function.  Continuing studies indicate that CLA shows promise in supporting immune function and treating immune imbalances that can lead to inflammatory disorders.  CLA may also have potential to normalize elevated glucose blood levels and reduce excessive insulin levels.

CLA by Ortho MolecularEach softgel contains 780 mg of CLA from safflower seed oil.  CLA naturally amps up fat metabolism in the body and aids in metabolizing existing fat deposits in combination with moderate exercise.

CLA Trim 1000 by NuMedicaThis patented form of CLA is derived from pure non-gmo safflower oil to support healthy body composition and aid in body fat reduction.  Provides 800 mg of CLA per softgel.

Tonalin-CLA by DaVinci Laboratories of Vermont –  Tonalin brand CLA boosts metabolism and improves the breakdown of fats in muscle cells for energy.  Helps to shrink existing fat cells and prevent new fats cells from forming.  Each softgel yields 800 mg of CLA from safflower oil.

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