Conjugated Linoleic Acid - What Is It?

You may have heard about Conjugated Linoleic Acid, but did you know that it has a variety of amazing benefits for the human body. CLA is a type of trans fat that is crucial for a variety of functions in your body. However, you might be rather surprised to learn that a trans fat can be beneficial to your health. The majority of information available regarding trans fats seems to indicate that it can have a variety of concerning effects on the body. Fortunately, the trans fats in CLA have a variety of key benefits. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at this type of fatty acid, where it comes from and some of the benefits associated with the use of this fatty acid.

The Scientific Explanation Behind Conjugated Linoleic Acid

There has been significant research put into this nutrient. Experts in the field have found that CLA forms a group of isomers, which are compounds that share a nearly identical molecular formula. The difference is that each of these isomers has atoms that are arranged differently, which gives each one a unique property. This particular family of isomers consists out of 28 different isomers. However, you will most commonly hear of cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis 12.

Bottom Line:
This nutrient consists of a group of 28 isomers that share a highly similar molecular formula. However, there are a few differences between them that give each a unique characteristic. The most commonly discussed of these isomers are cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10, cis 12.

How Your Body Gets CLA

When you eat foods that are rich in fatty acids your body will extract CLA from the linoleic acid and the alpha-linolenic acid present in the fatty acids. However, your body only has a limited ability to do so. This process occurs in your digestive system where healthy bacteria use a process of bioconversion to extract this particular type of fatty acid. However, if your digestive system does not function at an optimum level your body will not be able to engage in this bioconversion process.

Bottom Line:
Your body extracts CLA from linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. Microflora in your intestinal tract uses the process of bioconversion to extract this fatty acid from other fatty acids. However, if you suffer from any conditions that affect your digestive system your body will be unable to extract CLA.

Where Is CLA Found?

Photo of Sheep and Cows

When cows, sheep, or goats consume food it travels through four different compartments in their stomachs. Animals who have four stomach compartments are known as ruminant animals and their meat is one of the best natural sources of Conjugated Linoleic Acid. The first stomach compartment is known as the rumen or the paunch. When food enters the rumen it goes through a process of fermentation before it is digested. During the fermentation process bacteria in the rumens will convert linoleic acids into stearic acid. Stearic acid is commonly referred to as saturated fat. As the bacteria convert the linoleic acid into stearic acid they also produce conjugated linoleic acid.

While the CLA moves through the rest of the animal's digestive system it is also converted into saturated fats. However, a small percentage of these beneficial fatty acids will be stored in the animal's meat. These fatty acids are most often stored in the vestigial fat between the muscle fibers. Another small percentage will be excreted through the milk of these ruminant animals.

Bottom Line:
Animals like cows, sheep, and goats have four stomach compartments and are known as ruminant animals. The food that these animals eat move to a stomach compartment known as the rumens where it ferments. Then as the animal converts the linoleic acid into stearic acid some of the beneficial fatty acids are stored in the fat between the animal's muscles. Some of this fatty acid is also excreted in these animals' milk.

What Are The Best Sources Of CLA?

As we mentioned, CLA is present in the meat of all ruminant animals. However, some kinds of meat contain more of the essential fatty acids than other kinds of meat. Scientific research seems to indicate that ruminant animals who are fed a diet that consists predominantly of grass will contain a significantly higher percentage of fatty acids. They also believe that beef contains a significantly higher percentage of these fatty acids than other kinds of meat. Additionally, these foods are also excellent sources of CLA:

Glass of Milk
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Goat
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
Bottom Line:
This fatty acid is present in the meat and milk of all ruminant animals. However, grass-fed beef will have the highest percentage of these fatty acids. You can also include more beef, lamb, milk and butter into your diet to ensure you get an adequate amount of this fatty acid in your diet.

The Facts About Conjugated Linoleic Acid Supplements

  • Individuals who follow a strict vegan diet will often be deficient in this fatty acid because they do not consume any meat, milk, butter or eggs. If you adhere to a vegan lifestyle you will need to take a supplement.
  • The isomer cis-9, trans-11 is commonly found in food sources. However, trans-10, cis 12 is not found as commonly. This means that it is very important to include a supplement into your life to ensure that you get all of the nutrients you need.
  • You should be rather careful when choosing a supplement because a wide variety of supplements that contain this fatty acid are produced from harmful vegetable oils. We would recommend that you choose a supplement derived from safflower oil. Safflower oil is one of the best plant sources of these fatty acids. Additionally, it is not harmful to your health.
  • The best dosage for this supplement if you plan on using it to supplement your weight loss is between 1.8 mg to 7 mg taken daily. However, you should keep in mind that the research indicates that a dosage of over 3.4 mg will not provide any additional benefits. It could even be quite harmful.
  • If you decide to use this fatty acid to support your blood pressure and keep it low the experts advise that you take approximately 4.5 mg a day. However, we would recommend that you consult your family health care practitioner before taking any new supplements.
  • A CLA safflower oil supplement can be given to children to help them lose weight under very specific circumstances recommended by a pediatrician. If you plan on supporting your child's weight loss with this type of fatty acid, you should give them 3 mg a day for seven months or until they have reached their goal weight.
Bottom Line:
Many people will benefit from taking a supplement. However, individuals who follow a vegan lifestyle will be at increased risk of being deficient in this fatty acid. The recommended dosage for this supplement varies depending on how you choose to use it. Adults who are looking to lose weight, should take a maximum of 3.4 mg daily, while children should take 3 mg a day for seven months. For regulating blood pressure, it is recommended to take 4.5mg a day.

The Benefits Of Conjugated Linoleic Acid

It Could Help You Lose Weight

woman stretching sitting on bed inside bedroom

The research seems to indicate that the use of this fatty acid is highly beneficial for individuals who want to lose weight. This fatty acid helps you lose weight because it improves your body's ability to use the energy from the food you consume. Additionally, this fatty acid helps your body to store energy as brown fat. Your body naturally produces two types of fat. Brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is often viewed as a good type of fat. This is because brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, is a vital part of thermogenesis where your body produces heat to burn calories. When this fatty acid is used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise it can be very effective for weight loss.

It Helps To Regulate Your Blood Sugar

Consuming CLA makes your risk of developing diabetes decrease dramatically. This is because Conjugated Linoleic Acid helps your body to process insulin more effectively. Additionally, foods that are rich in this fatty acid like meat and dairy, (such as milk and cheese) are good for keeping your blood sugar stable. Making sure you consume a good amount of CLA, restricting your sugar intake and eating a diet that is low carb will help to keep your blood sugar under control.

It Boosts Your Immune System

Individuals who use a supplement that contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid often report that they notice a significant difference in their immune systems. The research shows that when you use this fatty acid your immune system will become more responsive and will target specific bacteria and infection more effectively.


According to extensive research completed around the benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid, it could potentially help your body fight off the cells that cause cancer. CLA has been proven to be effective for reducing your risk of developing breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, skin and stomach cancer. Although no one is entirely sure why this fatty acid is so effective for reducing your risk of developing cancer there are a few theories that could explain it. Conjugated Linoleic Acid is rather effective at killing off free radicals from the environment that harm the body. Additionally, when you consume this fatty acid it sends messages to the cells in your body to kill off the dangerous precancerous cells.

It Lowers Your Risk Of Developing Heart Disease

When you consume foods that contain CLA you could significantly reduce the risk of your developing heart disease later on in your life. This may be because Conjugated Linoleic Acid helps to lower the amount of harmful cholesterol that is present in your blood.

aerial view photography of person holding arm while pressing blood pressure machine

Lowers Your Blood Pressure 

One of the greatest benefits of CLA is that it could reduce your blood pressure. A recent research study conducted on animals found that the use of Conjugated Linoleic Acid made a significant difference in the blood pressures of these animals as opposed to the animals who received a placebo.

It Could Reduce Your Allergies

Another impressive benefit associated with the use of this fatty acid is that it could reduce your allergies. Individuals who use this kind of supplement found that they had significantly fewer allergy symptoms when they use a supplement like this. Additionally, the use of this fatty acid has been associated with an improvement in the symptoms of asthma.

Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis

This fatty acid is very effective for reducing inflammation in the human body. Therefore, use of a supplement like this will help to alleviate the symptoms of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition that causes swelling and inflammation in the joints of the people who suffer from this condition.

Bottom Line:
There are a wide variety of benefits associated with the use of this fatty acid. The primary benefit associated with the use of this fatty acid is that it helps you burn fat. This is because it boosts your metabolism and supports your body to produce more beneficial brown fat. This fatty acid also helps your blood sugars to remain stable, additionally, foods that are rich in CLA keep your blood sugars stable. Other benefits associated with the use of this fatty acid include lowering your risk of developing cancer or heart diseases. This is due to the fact that it supports your body to be able to rid itself from harmful toxins. Additionally, the research seems to indicate that this fatty acid can help your blood pressure to become stable. Finally, this fatty acid could help to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well as allergies and asthma.

Our Take Away On Conjugated Linoleic Acid

As research continues to develop on Conjugated Linoleic Acid, it is fascinating to discover how a fatty acid can contribute to the health of our bodies.

Researched and written by experts, brought to you by our team at Mommy Authority.

Born and raised in NYC, Chloe grew up running around the reservoir in Central Park and dreaming about attending NYU. She finally realized her dream and received her Masters in Biology. Currently married to her childhood sweetheart and mom to three spirited children, she works as a genetic counselor and is living the life she always wanted to.