Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) refers to a group of chemicals that are found in the unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid. CLAs are a family of at least 28 isomers of linoleic acid and as its name suggests, its double bonds are conjugated. CLAs were actually discovered accidentally within beef and researchers then found that when applied to the skin of mice that have been exposed to a strong carcinogen, they would experience 20% fewer tumours. Since then, CLA dietary supplements have been associated with many different health benefits. Not only does it provide support, flexibility and structure to our cell membranes, but it is also best known for its fat-burning abilities and anti-cancer properties.
Where can we find CLA?
Our bodies produce CLA from linoleic acid and it is essential for our overall health. However, we must also obtain it from the foods that we eat or through supplement form. Surprisingly, one of the highest concentrations of CLA can be found in kangaroo meat, which in the UK is quite difficult to get hold of.
Food products from grass-fed animals are great sources of CLA and contain much higher levels than food sources from grain-fed animals. The type of food that the animals eat is crucial for CLA levels, which is mainly due to the omega-3 levels found in grass that is not present in corn. In fact, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals can produce 300-500% more CLA than animals on other diets.
One of the richest CLA sources is beef from grass-fed cows and contains around 4.3mg of CLA for every gram of fat. Again, from grass-fed cows, milk contains high amounts of CLA. It is important to note however that the CLA is actually found in the fat of the milk, so non-fat and low-fat milk will contain smaller amounts of CLA than whole milk. Eggs are another great source of CLA, again from chickens that are grass-fed. The CLA is found in the egg yolk and its levels can even be maintained through the temperatures of frying and cooking. CLA can also be found in CLA dietary supplements.