CLA is conjugated linoleic acid and it’s a bit of a magic ingredient as it’s one of the very few healthy trans fats. It’s got a range of health benefits and it’s easy to include in your diet, coming as it does from 100% grass-fed beef and butter produced from cows raised exclusively on grass.
The science stuff
CLA is a polyunsaturated fat that forms in linoleic acid – a fatty acid found in plant oils. In beef cattle, CLA is formed by the bugs in the rumen (first stomach). It’s an omega-6 fatty acid, which might scare you as these compounds are associated with inflammation, but if you’re getting your CLA from natural food sources like grass-fed beef and butter, you’d be hard-pressed to eat enough!
Eaten in the right sorts of amounts, CLA actually acts more as an anti-inflammatory!
What health benefits does CLA carry?
CLA can help with weight loss
A dose 3-4g a day can promote muscle generation and weight loss, according to several human studies. These effects are seen in people of normal, overweight and obese weight ranges. It’s thought that CLA helps to inhibit the genes responsible for fat call production; it also helps your body to produce and use more energy, so you burn off fat faster than you create it. A well-known effect of fat and protein-rich diets is feeling fuller for longer – no snacking on carbs and sweets!
CLA fights inflammation and supports the immune system
As CLA helps to control and reduce inflammation, it offers a helping hand to pretty much every system and organ in the body. It’s especially helpful to the liver, as well as to the immune system, which can end up “firefighting” with constant, low-level inflammatory responses. People with over-sensitive immune systems can develop conditions like asthma, eczema and arthritis, so by calming down these responses, these conditions can be improved.
CLA may help with diabetes and unstable blood sugar
It seems that the higher the concentration of certain types of CLA in fatty tissue, the lower the risk of diabetes. This could be of course, because high levels of CLA are associated with a wholesome diet, but the science bodies are still unpicking these findings. At a very basic level, however, you can be sure that introducing healthier meats and fats into your diet and reducing the number of carbs and processed foods can only be good!
CLA helps to build and maintain strong bones
CLA helps to promote and maintain bone density by stimulating the body to absorb more calcium from food. It also seems to lower the activity of osteoclasts – cells that dissolve bone to release calcium if serum levels are low.
Where do I get this amazing stuff?
Quite simply, in grass-fed beef, butter, milk, veal, lamb, fish and turkey. These meat animals need greens in their diet to produce CLA, so you should always opt for grass-fed meats. Four ounces of grass-fed beef has around 430mg of CLA, while whole milk and free-range eggs are a good source for vegetarians.
How much do I need?
While the human studies worked with doses of 3-4g a day, we don’t know if this amount is necessary “in the wild”. We do know that the usual American amount – between 150mg and 220mg per day isn’t enough to offer any real benefit, so the answer will lie somewhere in between these two figures.