What is CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)?
CLA is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in meat and dairy products, more specifically it is found in the meat from ruminant animals (e.g. animals such as cows and lamb that absorb nutrients in a specialised stomach by fermenting plant-based food, such as grass).
CLA is a family of 28 different isomers of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is the shortest chain omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (meaning they have more than one double bond in their backbone).
An isomer is a group of molecules with the same chemical formula (same number and type of atoms) but arranged into a different structure. In essence, CLA is a group of different variations of linoleic acid.
How does it work?
The documented benefit of CLA in reducing body fat is explained by two main theories:
- The first is the reduction of lipid uptake into adipocytes (fat cells) by inhibition of a specific enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. This mechanism is facilitated predominantly by the t10 isomer of CLA
- The second mechanism considered is the proposed benefit of CLA in reducing the accumulation of triacylglycerol in fat cells. Triacylglycerol is a blood lipid which enables transfer of glucose and fat from the liver.
In animal model studies on mice, CLA was found to reduce accumulation of triacylglycerol in fat cells. This benefit was also seen in cultures of human cells with the t10 isomer.
A separate study demonstrated that fat loss in rats fed a CLA supplement is due to a reduction in the size of fat cells by 15 to 29% compared to controls.
These results indicate the CLA can reduce both synthesis and storage of fat cells, as such reducing levels of body fat in both animal and human laboratory models.