Are CLA supplements healthy?


CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is the “good” trans fat found naturally in meat and dairy, especially from animals fed pasture. In the stomachs of ruminants such as cows, sheep or goats, millions and millions of bacteria help the animal digest its food. They also help convert dietary linoleic fatty acids into saturated fatty acids fatty acids. Well, this conversion takes several steps, and one of the steps is the creation of CLA, some of which are never completely achieved. saturated and instead appears in the body and fat of the animal’s milk.

Twenty-eight different CLA isomers, or structural arrangements of molecules, appear in CLA-rich animal fat. It is very complex and quite different from the trans fats created by the partial hydrogenation of vegetables olis. These lab-created trans fats have definite negative metabolic and health effects, while the panoply of several CLA isomers from grass-fed dairy and meat appears to be beneficial.

What about CLA supplements? Is synthetic CLA as good for you as natural CLA?

What is a CLA supplement?

Conjugated linoleic acid production is a booming industry with many players. You have the guys creating things on a large scale, getting their hands dirty in the lab, converting the linoleic acid derived from safflower or sunflower oil in various CLA isomers. Then there are the unconditional ones, those ruminant stomachs full of microscopic bacteria workshops that run out as they convert unsaturated fats into saturated fats and make several CLA isomers in the process. An isomer called cis-9, trans-11 (or c9, t11) is the primary. CLA with a trans-10 and cis-12 isomer is also evident, but in very small amounts. Same type of molecules – different arrangement. In fact, CLA c9, t11 accounts for between 80 and 95% of CLA in ruminant and dairy fats, and t10, c12 make up most of the rest. Supplement manufacturers have the luxury of focusing on other isomers, of course, so they usually produce CLA supplements that contain equal amounts of c9, t11, and t10, c12.

Are CLA supplements healthy?

At first glance, they appear effective in isolated in vitro studies and can help people lose body fat.

  • T10, c12 can inhibit the growth of human colon cancer cells in vitro (with c9, t11 has no effect).
  • In another in vitro study, this time the connective tissues isolated from human body fat, t10, c12 inhibited lipogenesis or (somewhat analogous to) body fat creation, whereas c9, t11 did not.
  • He was also promising as a promoter of lean mass versus fat mass in humans.

However, although the t10, c12 isomer seems to be better for burning body fat, it has a cost. In a totally amazing twist, the results change when you start feeding living organisms and pay attention to the total effects (beyond “is it 2% more fat loss?”). Let’s take a look at some examples.

In summary, while t10 and c12 supplementation may decrease fat mass, it may also increase LDL, reduce HDL, and generally worsen fat mass. cholesterol profile as well as increase insulin resistance, blood glucose levels and insulin. C9, t11, on the other hand, appears to improve lipid metabolism in general.

Are you noticing a pattern? Over and over again, individual CLA isomers appear to be protective or beneficial in isolated studies, usually in vitro, but when you actually feed an animal or human with a CLA supplement with the same proportions of isomers, the benefits disappear or they are offset by a negative. effects. You may burn some body fat, but you will also become insulin resistant. You can maintain your baby’s weight, but your breast milk will contain less fat as a result. I am a great supporter of it supplementation, But in my opinion, CLA supplementation is simply not worth it.

The right CLA supplement that uses the right isomers in fat proportions from grass-fed ruminants might be helpful, but after a brief look at the best CLA supplement results on Amazon, I couldn’t tell you which one fits that. description. They can exist. Heck, they probably exist, but it’s not obvious. I think it will serve you better simply by eating animal products fed with grass: butter, cheese and meat with intact fat.

In fact, we have good evidence that these “CLA supplements” are the healthiest available and give real benefits.

  • In one study, “naturally enhanced” sheep cheese with CLA improved lipid markers and reduced levels of anandamide, an endocannabinoid that increases appetite and food intake, in patients with high cholesterol. Imagine this: giving high-fat cheese to people with high cholesterol and seeing how their numbers improve. Amazing (and totally amazing if you know what that is). Of course, “naturally improved” means that the sheep ate grass and converted the fatty acids into CLA.
  • In another, Roman pecorino cheese (a patented Italian cheese that can only come from pasture-fed sheep) “naturally rich in c9, t11 conjugated linoleic acid” improved the markers of atherosclerosis in those who ate it. CLA-rich sheep cheese actually reduced the risk of heart attack.

As is often the case, food is the best way to get your nutrients. Supplements have a place, but only if they emulate the natural form. Supplements with new forms of nutrients should be viewed with suspicion and confirmed with research.


About the author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, the godfather of Primal’s food and lifestyle movement, and the New York News best selling author of The Keto Diet Reset. His latest book is Keto for life, where he discusses how to combine the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of many other books, among them The primary plan, who was credited with driving the growth of the primal / paleo movement in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal well-being, Mark went throw Primary Kitchen, a real food company that creates kitchen staples compatible with Primal / paleo, keto and Whole30.

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