Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a slightly altered form of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid. CLA is found mainly in dairy products and also in beef and poultry, eggs, and corn oil. Bacteria that live in the intestine of humans can produce CLA from linoleic acid, but supplementation of a rich source of linoleic acid did not produce increases in blood levels of CLA in one human study.15 CLA is available as a supplement.

Linoleic acid (LA) is a naturally occurring fatty acid found predominantly in beef and dairy products. LA is one of the two essential fatty acids (the other is linolenic acid). Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid, meaning that it is unsaturated, with a double bond occurring at the sixth carbon atom from the omega end of the molecule. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an isomer of LA - which refers to a slight rearrangement of the molecular structure (conjugation) - resulting in a fatty acid with altered chemical functions. The rearrangement in this case is a conjugated double bond occurring at carbons 10 and 12 or at carbons 9 and 11. Linoleic acid is found in the diet in vegetable oils, whereas the conjugated variety, CLA, is found primarily in meat and dairy products. The form of CLA found most commonly in dietary supplements is manufactured from vegetable oils such as sunflower oil or safflower oil. One of the leading brands of CLA (TonalinTM), and the one on which the majority of studies has been conducted, is derived from safflower oil.

The anti-tumor/anti-cancer properties attributed to CLA may be due to an antioxidant effect or to an undefined interaction between CLA and various carcinogens. CLA is also theorized to modulate the production of prostaglandins, which are derived from fatty acid molecules and have been linked to an elevated synthesis of growth hormone. Increased growth hormone levels are viewed as beneficial to both athletes and dieters as a way to promote enhanced muscle growth, strength and fat loss. Some prostaglandins may also increase blood circulation to the muscles and adipose tissue - an effect that has been suggested to improve muscle function and fat mobilization. Perhaps the more tantalizing effects of CLA when it comes to supplements, however, are those reported for the induction of weight loss, body fat loss and increased caloric expenditure.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplementation was also shown to improve the lean mass to body fat ratio, decreasing fat deposition, especially on the abdomen, and enhancing muscle growth. To achieve this, Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) reduces body fat is by enhancing insulin sensitivity so that fatty acids and glucose can pass through muscle cell membranes and away from fat tissue. This results in an improved muscle to fat ratio. Compelling evidence indicates that Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can promote youthful metabolic function and reduce body fat. The unique mechanisms by which this fatty acid protects against disease makes it an important addition to any supplement program.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) benefits includes inhibition of cancerous tumors growth, enhancement of immunity, discouraging accumulation of cholesterol in the blood and replacement of fat with muscle.