It is widely known that not all fats are equal. Some of them simply provide energy and some boost our health with their powerful benefits. Fats are broadly categorised into two categories — saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats comparatively favour our health more in comparison to saturated fats. Linoleic acid (LA) is one such omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in meat and dairy products. But when some rearrangement is done in its double bond then LA becomes a conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
CLA is widely used as a supplement for weight management. But CLA supplement should be chosen wisely because most of the supplements do not contain CLA from its natural source. Instead, they are an industrialised form of vegetable oils. Therefore, CLA supplements might not pose the same health benefits as exerted by natural sources.
Let’s understand how CLA functions in our body. It is a naturally occurring trans fat but not as harmful as the one’s present in packaged and junk foods. CLA aids in boosting metabolic rate and helps our body to efficiently convert food into energy. Several studies have been conducted to see the effect of CLA on fat loss but only some observed a significant reduction in the total body fat percentage and some haven’t observed any major difference. It is believed that CLA is effective in the breakdown of fatty acids of stored fat in adipose cells and skeletal muscles. CLA has been linked in lowering the levels of leptin hormone, which regulates fat levels in our body. CLA has also been studied for improving exercise performance. Though it showed some evidence in improving the exercise results there were no ergogenic benefits regarding fatigue, reduced catabolism, muscular endurance and power. Elevated plasma cholesterol levels are primarily responsible for cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis and heart strokes. CLA has been shown to improve blood lipid profile by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and improving HDL or good cholesterol levels. Therefore, it might be beneficial for people with heart disorders. A few studies have also examined the relationship between CLA and reduced cancer risk. CLA intake of 60,708 women between the age of 40-76 year was considered. It was observed that the risk of developing colorectal cancer among women who consumed four or more servings of dairy foods like milk, cheese, butter, cream, etc., was reduced to half. CLA benefits in managing blood glucose levels and reducing inflammation.
To conclude, we can say that the potential benefits of CLA on human health still needs more conclusive studies. It is recommended that CLA should not be consumed in excess because it might lead to deposition of fats in the liver, hence resulting in fatty liver. People who consume anti-coagulants for medical issues should refrain from using CLA supplements. Moreover, when omega 6 fatty acids are present in excess in our body, they might give rise to inflammatory markers. The safety and efficacy of CLA supplements are still unanswered scientifically. Hence, there is a need for more precise and well-designed long-term studies with regular monitoring of diet and physical activity, to analyse the effectiveness of conjugated linoleic acid on human health.
- Whigham, L. D., Watras, A. C., Schoeller, D. A.(2007).Efficacy of conjugated linoleic acid for reducing fat mass: a meta-analysis in humans, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5),1203–1211
- Moloney, F., Yeow, T.P., Mullen, A., Nolan, J.J., Roche HM (2004) Am J Clin Nutr. Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation, insulin sensitivity, and lipoprotein metabolism in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.80(4),887-95.
- Benjamin, Prof. S., Prakasan, P., Sreedharan, S., Wright, A-D. G., Spener, F. (2015). Pros and cons of CLA consumption: An insight from clinical evidences. Nutrition and metabolism. 12. 10.1186/1743-7075-12-4.