Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that has shown promise in reducing the risk of heart disease and weight problems. According to the American Heart Association, polyunsaturated fats are good fats that help reduce harmful cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce a person’s risk for heart disease. CLA has also been found to have cancer-fighting properties. Medical studies have shown that mice fed CLA-rich foods had a greatly reduced risk of developing cancer, according to a study published in the journal "Carcoginesis."
Recommended CLA Intake
Your body cannot produce CLA; it can only be obtained through a healthy diet or by taking CLA supplements. Health and diet experts recommend 1 to 3 g of CLA per day. People who weigh 155 pounds or more should take 3.5 g to receive its full health benefits.
Kangaroo meat has the highest levels of CLA. Studies have revealed that kangaroo meat contains five times more CLA in its fat than any other animal source, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia. Excellent food sources for CLA also include ruminants, or grass-fed animals, like cattle and sheep. Ruminant animals naturally have higher concentration of CLA in their meat and milk because of the bacteria found in their gut that produces CLA during the digestive process. Products made from the meat and milk of these grass fed animals contain concentrated amounts of CLA. Eggs, vegetable oils, poultry, seafood and pork also contain CLA, but in smaller quantities.
Why CLA Is Important
CLAs reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and decrease blood cholesterol levels. People who take CLAs regularly also reduce their risk for developing breast, lung, colorectal, skin and stomach cancers. Combined with exercise and proper diet, CLA may improve your weight loss efforts and lower body fat levels. It might also increases your metabolic rate, helping your body burn fat more easily.
Possible Side Effects
CLA may cause people with serious weight problems to be at increased risk for developing diabetes because high levels of CLA may induce insulin resistance. CLA also interacts with blood cholesterol and may increase the concentration of cholesterol in your liver, which could result in gallstone formation. Carefully monitor your intake of CLA to avoid possible side effects.
- American Heart Association; Getting Health; Fats and Oils; Polyunsaturated Fats Q & A; 2010
- "Carcoginesis"; Anticarcinogens From Fried Ground Beef: Heat-Altered Derivatives of Linoleic Acid; Y.L. Ha, et al.; 1987
- Office of Dietary Supplements; Dietary CLA Intake in Humans; Shelley McGuire, Ph.D., et al.