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Harvesting the health promise of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Harvesting the human health promise of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

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What is CLA?

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a fatty acid already found naturally in all dairy and beef products. Preliminary research indicates it may have considerable benefits for human health, including the prevention and reduction of several chronic diseases.

Links to health benefits

More research is needed to confirm specific CLA health benefits for humans. However, early studies based largely on animal models indicate that CLA may help fight or prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease. CLA may also help battle obesity and improve bone density.

Ongoing research aims to further confirm and understand these benefits.

Part of dairy and beef

CLA is formed naturally in ruminant animals when linoleic acid from digested plant material is converted into CLA through activity by microorganisms in the rumen and in the mammary gland.

Studies have confirmed that dairy and beef products already contain natural CLA, and these natural levels may be increased substantially through simple livestock production approaches such as dietary strategies.

Agriculture's opportunity

Progress in understanding CLA can help strengthen the health image of dairy and beef products. This can both increase demand for existing products and create opportunities to introduce new health-oriented products with enhanced CLA. All of this can support the bottom line of livestock producers and their industry.

Research has uncovered ways to boost CLA while supporting better production efficiency, fat deposition and animal health, which could result in huge cost savings for the dairy and beef industries.

Beneficial component

Although CLA is scientifically classified as a "trans fat" it is widely recognized by scientists and health professionals as a healthy type of fatty acid. It does not share the potentially harmful properties associated with industrially processed trans fat.

In recognition of this, Health Canada did not include CLA as part of the total trans fat value in the new nutrition label.

Natural advantage

Man-made synthetic forms of CLA are also available but many leading scientists believe the CLA found naturally in beef and dairy products may offer the best avenue for developing CLA health potential.

Though there are many different types of CLA, the types most closely tied to health benefits are those found in dairy and beef products. These products also contain vaccenic acid. This CLA "precursor" can be converted into CLA once inside the human body.

Learn more

A key player in CLA progress is the CLA Network. Founded in Canada in 2001, this network of researchers, food industry representatives, health professionals and communicators is devoted to "Harvesting the health promise of CLA." Learn more about CLA and the CLA Network at

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