Linoleic acid belongs to the omega family of fatty acids, which perform vital functions in the body and are necessary for optimal health and physical condition. The conjugated form of linoleic acid, also known as CLA, is a combination of the different forms in which linoleic acid occurs in nature. It may be beneficial in numerous health conditions, including heart disease and cancer, and may reduce body fat. Certain foods contain CLA, and it can also be taken as a supplement.
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Loss of Body Fat
CLA appears to be involved in the regulation of fat, or adipose tissue, by the body. Though the precise role it plays is not currently known, according to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, CLA assists in the use of body fat as a source of energy, and studies in which animals were fed diets high in CLA resulted in an increase of energy expenditure and a decrease in body fat levels. In addition, CLA appears to prevent the decrease in metabolic rate usually associated with a decrease in caloric consumption. The benefits of CLA for fat-loss are thus twofold, both assisting in the metabolism of stored body fat for fuel and preventing the metabolism from slowing down while on a diet.
CLA may help protect the body from cancer formation and progression. According to Cornell University and the National Academy of Sciences, "...CLA is the only fatty acid shown unequivocally to inhibit carcinogenesis in experimental animals." CLA is thought to exert this anti-cancer effect by increasing the body's ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D, through regulation of the production and growth of new cells, and through its effects on prostaglandins, which are chemicals that regulate cellular function.
Because CLA facilitates the use of stored fat as energy by the body, it may help prevent and treat certain types of heart disease, such as atherosclerosis. According to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, CLA prevents the deposition of plaque and lipids in arteries, a key factor in the development and progression of heart disease. CLA may also help prevent heart disease by acting as an antioxidant and by lowering blood pressure.