While many hear “butter and beef” and immediately think of heart attacks and weight gain, the truth is that all types of natural fats are healthy and even beneficial when you eat high-quality versions of them and have them in moderation. Conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) is the name given to group of chemicals found in the fatty acid called linoleic acid.
What Is CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)?
Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is a type of polyunsaturated fat, specifically an omega-6 fatty acid. It’s a form of linoleic acid, which is the most common omega-6 fatty acid found in foods. While it is technically CLA is a trans fat, it's very different from the industrial trans fats that harm your health. There are actually 28 different forms of CLA, including 16 naturally occurring CLA isomers that have been identified, but two seem to be the most important. These are called “c9, t11” and “t10, c12.”
According to research, conjugated linoleic acid benefits can include:
helping with weight loss
muscle-building and strength improvements
growth and developmental support
reversing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
reducing food allergies and sensitivities
helping to normalize blood sugar levels
There isn’t an established daily recommended dose of CLA, but studies show that the average daily intake is approximately 152–212 milligrams for non-vegetarian women and men. Because CLA is found in animal products, vegans and vegetarians usually have lower levels.
A few of the major sources of CLA in the diet include full-fat dairy products, beef and grass-fed butter. Although most people think of these foods as “unhealthy” sources of saturated fat, they also provide essential CLA, which is a type of polyunsaturated fat that we must obtain from our diets.
What does CLA do to your body? CLA is known for fighting cancer, blocking weight gain and helping build muscle, and it’s almost exclusively found in high-quality beef and butter from healthy, pasture raised cows or other animals.
The body needs all three types of fats for optimum health because they all have various functions, from pregnancy to digestion to brain function. Not only is it true that eating fat doesn’t make you fat, but certain types of healthy fats are actually some of the best fat-burning foods available. But quality is very important to fats, especially the kinds that come from animal products.