What Are the Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid?

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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2020
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Conjugated linoleic acid is an essential nutrient that cannot be produced by the human body. It forms in the digestive system of ruminants, which are cud-chewing animals such as cows, goats, and sheep that have stomachs divided into specialized sections to allow the assimilation of nutrients that would otherwise be impossible to digest. Commonly known as CLA, conjugated linoleic acid is considered a “good fat” believed to have many health benefits. It is a popular supplement for weight loss and is reported to benefit the immune and cardiovascular systems. Studies suggest that it is a possible treatment for cancer as well.

This important fatty acid was discovered in the 1970s, when it was isolated from grilled hamburger. Since then, it has been determined that beef contains the highest amount of CLA among the meats most commonly eaten in developed countries like the United States. Meat from free-range, grass-fed cattle contains much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid than the meat of livestock raised on grain. People can obtain this important nutrient by eating meat and dairy products, or they can take supplements found at health food stores and on the Internet.


Conjugated linoleic acid can inhibit weight gain by preventing the enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase from storing new fat cells in the body. This essential fatty acid also has a thermogenic effect, which speeds up the metabolism. When combined with exercise and a healthy eating plan, conjugated linoleic acid causes the body to burn off fat and increase lean muscle mass. This action has made conjugated linoleic acid a popular supplement with body builders and people who want to lose weight.

Animal and human studies have been conducted to explore the benefits of CLA. These have shown that increasing the amount of conjugated linoleic acid in one’s diet may offer other benefits, including the ability to prevent different kinds of cancer, such as lung, skin, breast, colorectal, and stomach cancer. Conjugated linoleic acid has also been demonstrated to improve the health of the cardiovascular system by lowering the triglyceride and cholesterol levels that have been associated with clogged arteries and heart attacks. It has also shown promise in the treatment of inflammation and osteoporosis.

Some people may experience side effects, including diarrhea and slight nausea, when taking CLA supplements. If this happens, it is recommended that the CLA be taken with food. The amount of CLA that appears to offer the most benefits is estimated to be approximately 3 grams per day taken for at least 8 weeks.


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