What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

One of the most widely publicized health tips is that trans fats are terrible for your body. However, were you aware that certain types of trans fats can have amazing benefits for your health? Conjugated Linoleic Acids are one of those types of trans fats that are great for you. This trans fat occurs naturally in a variety of meats and dairy and can be the key to solving a wide variety of your health woes. In this article, we will take a look at this secret weapon for recovering your health, the benefits associated with it and the best ways to include this nutrient into your daily life.

What Is The Science Behind Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

This nutrient is classified as a family of isomers (1). Isomers are compounds that share a similar molecular formula. However, their atoms are arranged differently, therefore, they have different properties. The experts have found that there are at least 28 different isomers of this nutrient. The most common isomers are cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis 12. Most humans with healthy digestive systems will have a limited ability to get this essential trans fat from linoleic acid as well as from alpha-linolenic acid. Your digestive system will extract this nutrient by engaging in the process of bioconversion from gut microflora like bifidobacteria (2). Sadly, individuals who suffer from conditions like celiac disease, gut dysbiosis or a variety of other digestive conditions will not be able to produce any types of trans fats in their guts.

This trans fat is part of a family of 28 different types of isomers. The most common are cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis 12. Your body can produce this trans fat through a process of bioconversion. However, if you suffer from any digestive conditions your body will not be able to produce any of these trans fats.

Where Does It Come From?

Photo of Goat and Sheep

When discussing this fatty acid, it is crucial to understand where it comes from. CLA is produced in the digestive systems of ruminant animals (3). Ruminant animals, like cows, sheep, and goats, are animals that have a digestive system completely different to our own. Instead of one stomach compartment, these animals have four. They get all of the nutrients they need from plant materials that ferment in one of their stomach compartments before it is digested. These ruminant animals eat plant-based foods which then moves to their rumens or paunch. Once the plant material is in the rumens, specialized bacteria convert linoleic acid, which is a type of Omega-6 fatty acid, into stearic acid, commonly known as saturated fat. During this process, these animals also produce conjugated linoleic acid. These trans fats are then processed further in the animal's digestive tract until they become saturated fats. However, not all of these trans fats are converted. Instead, the animal's body stores these fats in its flesh and milk. Commonly, these trans fats are distributed to the fat that is present between the animal's muscle fibers. When we eat this meat or drink the milk, our bodies then absorb this wonderful type of trans fat.

This trans fat is a by-product from the digestion of linoleic acid into stearic acid in the digestive systems of ruminant animals. When they convert these trans fats into saturated fats some of the excess trans fats are stored in the fat cells between the muscle fibers or in their milk.

What Is It Used For?

This fatty acid provides a wide variety of benefits for your body. Some of the uses of this fatty acid include:

1. Weight Loss

person standing on white digital bathroom scale

Numerous studies have found that CLA is effective for weight loss and the burning of fat in your body. This fatty acid helps your body to burn fat because it helps your body to metabolize energy effectively. This way, your body uses all of the energy you consume instead of storing it as fat elsewhere in your body. Additionally, this helps your body through the process of adipogenesis, where your body processes energy into different types of tissue. Adipose tissue is classified as either brown or white fat. Brown fat helps your body to regulate energy levels as well as blood glucose levels. When you consume CLA your body will store energy in brown fat instead of white fat.

A certain study has found that individuals who take 1,800mg of this trans fat on a daily basis will lose more body weight than a similar group of individuals who only took a placebo (4). However, it is important to note that the individuals who participated in this study used this trans fat in conjunction with an exercise plan.

2. Regulating Blood Sugar

The consumption of this fatty acid could help your body to regulate insulin more effectively. When your body processes insulin efficiently, it significantly reduces your risk of developing illnesses like diabetes. Consuming the recommended daily dosage of this nutrient as well as eating a balanced low-carb diet, your body will become more proficient at metabolizing insulin. This means that you will have more energy and fewer episodes of hypoglycemia (5).

3. Fighting Cancer

This fatty acid has been shown to have several anticarcinogenic properties. The experts believe that this fatty acid plays a role in the death of colorectal cancer cells. Additionally, certain research studies have found that it could have a defensive reaction against the cells that have been linked with breast and prostate cancer. Although there is no definitive answer as to why this nutrient is so effective against cancer, many researchers believe there are a few factors that make it particularly effective at destroying cancer cells. This fatty acid helps to activate your body's proliferator-activated receptor gammas (6). Additionally, this trans fat helps to enhance the activity of caspase-3 in the mucous of the colon. Also, it could inhibit tumor invasion by causing matrix metalloproteinase-9 to not function. In addition to being effective for reducing the risk of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, it is also effective for reducing the risk of developing lung, skin and stomach cancer.

4. Heart Disease

Senior Woman Holding Her Hand

Some research studies have found that individuals with higher tissue levels of this fatty acid have some degree of protection against cardiovascular disease and heart attacks (7).

5. Improving Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

This trans fat has also been proven to lower inflammation in your body. This means that it will be effective for reducing the symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis (8).

This fatty acid is beneficial for a wide variety of purposes in the human body. Using a supplement that contains this fatty acid could help you lose weight. This is because it supports the human metabolism. Additionally, it could help to maintain the insulin levels in your blood, keeping them regulated. In turn, it will reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Another key benefit associated with the use of this trans fat is that it helps to kill off certain precancerous cells, reducing your risk of developing cancer later on in your life. Finally, this fatty acid has also been linked with the reduction of symptoms of certain health conditions. This includes heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dietary Sources Of Conjugated Linoleic Acid

As we have stated before, this fatty acid is produced naturally in the digestive system of ruminant animals and is present in their meat and milk. However, there is a large difference in the amount of the fatty acid present in the animal depending on their diet. Animals who are fed a diet that consists mainly of grains will contain significantly less of this trans fat than animals who are fed a fresh diet of grass. Additionally, beef contains a significantly higher percentage of this ingredient than meat from other ruminant animals.

This fatty acid is found in the milk and meat of ruminant animals. However, grain-fed animals contain a significantly smaller amount of this type of trans fat than grass-fed animals. Additionally, beef contains more of this type of fatty acid than other types of meat and dairy.

Should You Take A Supplement?

Once you become aware of the benefits that using this fatty acid can have on your body you may be wondering how you can get more of it in your diet. Fortunately, there are a variety of methods you can choose from to give your body all the CLA it needs. The best way to get your nutrients will always be through your diet. Although food sources are a great way to get cis-9, trans-11, you will rarely find trans-10, cis 12 in food sources. So, this means you will have to supplement for this isomer. However, you should be rather careful when choosing a CLA supplement to include in your daily routine. Most supplements contain linoleic acid that has been derived from unhealthy vegetable oils. Take care to choose a supplement that has been derived from animal products instead.

You can provide your body with the required amount of this fatty acid through your diet or by the foods you eat. Both methods have benefits, however, it always better to get your nutrients through your diet. If you do choose to use a supplement you should look for one that has not been derived from vegetable oils.

Recommended Dosage For Supplements

Photo of Holding CLA Pill

If you decide to include a supplement into your daily routine, you should take a few precautions to make sure that you use the supplement responsibly. Most supplements that contain this fatty acid are available in the form of tablets or capsules. If you intend on including this trans fat into your life to help you maintain your weight, it is advised for you to take a dosage of 1.8mg to 7mg. However, most of the research seems to indicate that a dosage of more than 3.4mg will not provide your body with any additional benefits. If you use this fatty acid to help with your blood pressure, you should aim to consume at least 4.5mg daily in addition to any medication you have been prescribed. This fatty acid can also be used to help children to lose and maintain a healthy weight (9). If you want to give your child a supplement, you can let them take approximately 3mg daily for seven months.

A healthy adult should take between 1.8mg and 7mg of a supplement containing this type of fatty acid if they want to lose weight. On the other hand, if you want to help your child lose weight, you should give them 3mg a day for seven months. For the maintenance of a healthy blood pressure level, you should take 4.5 mg along with your usual medication.

Side Effects Of Taking This Kind Of Supplement

Although the majority of evidence seems to indicate that there are no risks associated with using a supplement that contains these types of fatty acids, some people may experience side effects. Certain people could potentially be sensitive to these types of supplements. Typical side effects include diarrhea, stomach cramps, unexplained fatigue, and nausea. Additionally, individuals who are scheduled to have a major surgery or who suffer from poor liver function should steer clear of this fatty acid (10). Conjugated linoleic acid causes the rate of your blood ability to clot to slow down significantly. Additionally, it could cause excessive bleeding and bruising, which is potentially very dangerous. If you are at all concerned about these side effects you should avoid taking any kinds of supplements that contain this kind of fatty acid. Eating a balanced diet that includes grass-fed meat and dairy products like milk and butter should provide your body with ample amounts of this beneficial nutrient.

The experts believe that there are few side effects associated with this fatty acid. However, individuals who are sensitive to it could experience an upset stomach, fatigue, and nausea. Additionally, it can have an impact on your blood's ability to clot and may cause you to bleed more. Therefore, it should be avoided by individuals who are scheduled for surgery and who suffer from poor liver functioning.
Brought to you by our expert team at Authority Health.

Juno received an MSc in Dietetics from Robert Gordon University in Scotland and is registered with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). As someone who has learned the value of healthy eating later in life, her passion is teaching younger children about the value of eating well. She offers hands-on, instructional classes to both children and adults to prepare healthy meals. In addition, she consults with local institutions and schools to promote healthy eating and advice on healthy meal preparation.

She has traveled the globe and been privileged to experience a wealth of cuisines, the Mediterranean diet being her favored (and healthiest) option. Juno loves creating in the kitchen and that is where she comes alive. According to Juno, “Food is medicine” and thinks that the adage of “we are what eat” should be the mantra we all should live by. Her big dream one day is to pen a cookbook with recipes from her travels but, for now, she is happy writing on her health and wellness blog.

She is married with 3 beautiful children, 2 Airedale Terriers, 4 cats and a guinea pig. She lives in the countryside of Southern England and loves nothing more than walking on the coast on a blustery day to blow away the cobwebs!