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CLA Features

CLA Questions and Answers

What do we know about CLA health benefits?

CLA research is in early stages, but there is growing evidence this natural fat is a significant health promoter. Research is showing considerable potential for human health benefits related to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and bone density.

What has been the major progress to date?

The most advanced and most dramatic findings are in cancer. Studies with all major animal models of cancer have confirmed dietary CLA inhibits the growth and formation of cancer, and research is advancing to studies with human tissue.

How was CLA discovered?

The biological activity of CLA was first discovered in the late 1970s by researchers investigating the carcinogenic properties of grilled hamburger. They found that there were anti-carcinogenic properties as well. They isolated the component responsible for this effect and identified it as CLA.

What is Canada's role?

Canadian researchers have been very active in studying the health benefits, the impact on animals and the methods of increasing CLA in both dairy and beef products. They are part of a now rapidly growing international base of CLA research and development.

Part of Canada's effort is the CLA Network. The CLA Network is a collaborative team from academia, industry and government, including representatives from many areas of expertise such as research, food industry, health and communications. For more information on the CLA Network, contact network manager Vince Ohama: or (403) 340-5545.

What's the difference between natural and synthetic CLA?

Synthetic forms of CLA have been developed for both commercial supplements and research purposes, but many leading scientists believe the CLA found naturally in beef and dairy products may offer the best avenue for developing CLA health potential.

Many synthetic CLA products do not contain the specific isomers linked to health benefits and are therefore of questionable value. Also, there is some preliminary evidence that the synthetic form may be detrimental among subgroups of people at risk of diabetes or heart disease.

Studies to date have found no major negative implications for consumption of the natural CLA already found in dairy and beef products. Also, these products are known to contain the specific CLA isomers - CLA 9,11 and CLA 10,12 - which have been linked to health benefits.

How much CLA is enough?

No one knows for certain. If we consider only CLA from natural sources, short-term animal studies suggest an equivalent daily intake of CLA 9,11 of about 1.5g. However, we know that CLA 9,11 is metabolized in the body and can be stored.

Future studies will determine how much individuals who regularly consume CLA-rich dairy and meat really need to ensure protection against cancer.

Is CLA a trans fat?

Although CLA is technically classified as a trans fat, it is essentially a good trans fat different from industrially processed trans fat. CLA is different because it is formed naturally in dairy and beef and does not share the harmful properties made through the hydrogenation of vegetable oils. Rather, this natural trans fat may be health promoting with an important role to play in the human body.

In fact, in recognition of CLA's potential health benefits, Health Canada did not include CLA as part of the total trans fat value in the new nutrition label.

Article Links:

  1. Research round-up: The rising health potential of CLA
  2. Key messages
  3. CLA Q and A
  4. Key references

For more information on the CLA Network, visit or email:

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