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Not every fat is harmful to the body. In fact, any form of fat if taken in moderation does not pose any risk to your health. Conjugated linoleic acid alias CLA is one of the beneficial fats.  It is commonly found in meat and dairy products and is believed to help weight loss and boost immunity.

What is CLA?

CLA is the acronym for “Conjugated Linoleic Acid”. The word “conjugated” reflects the positions of double bonds in linoleic acid, which is the most common polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid. CLA is basically a healthy trans-fat which, unlike industrially produced trans-fats, does not have any potential risks.

Sources of CLA

Natural sources

Foods sourced from grass-fed animals or ruminants are a natural source of conjugated linoleic acid. Meat and dairy products provide ample amounts of CLA. The amount of CLA in food depends greatly on farming techniques. Studies have shown that the CLA content of the meat and milk from grass-fed cows multiplies three to five folds than amounts of CLA in grain-fed sources.

It is observed that the milk and meat are sourced from animals that are fed on plant-based sources of linoleic acid e.g. sunflower, or soybeans. Recent studies also show that fatty acid content of grass fed animals is also better than that pf grain fed animals.


Conjugated linoleic acid is also available in concentrated form to be taken as a dietary supplement. The supplements are produced by modifying the linoleic acid in vegetable oils. This causes disturbance in the contents of different forms of CLA and some forms present in supplements are found scarcely in nature. Due to this reason, the CLA supplement is known to provide lesser benefits than naturally found CLA. Hence, CLA from natural sources is more recommendable.

Benefits of CLA

  • Weight loss: Several studies have proven that conjugated linolenic acids aid in weight loss. It promotes fat burning and insulin sensitivity which helps to increase lean mass and prevent fat deposition in the body. The CLA is known to increase the feeling of satiety and decrease hunger as well, which can lead to more healthy diet patterns. CLA along with a balanced diet and adequate physical activity shows the best results in weight loss.
  • Boosts immunity: In the post covid era everybody has been concerned about boosting immunity. The conjugated linolenic acid is also known to enhance immunity and prevent several infections. It is known to prevent the production of immunosuppressants including leukotrienes and prostaglandins as well as decrease inflammation.
  • Fights cancer: It is observed in controlled studies carried out on mice and later in women who had been taking more CLA-containing dairy products had lower risks of cancers. The former study had shown that conjugated linolenic acid significantly reduced the growth of tumors.
  • Promotes heart health: Fat deposition in arteries leads to atherosclerosis which is the most common cardiovascular disease affecting a whole lot of people. CLA has also been observed to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. It could be because of its fat-burning benefits. But, more research is required to support the benefits of CLA in this matter.
  • Controls diabetes and obesity: Scientists have observed lower fasting blood glucose, better glucose tolerance, and improved glycolipid metabolism in controlled trials in mice. Most of the studies in humans have also supported the benefit of CLA in controlling Diabetes type II. It enhances insulin sensitivity and thus promotes glycogenesis in the body leading to lower blood sugar and increased lean mass.

Side Effects of CLA

  • In some people mild diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, backache, and bloating may occur.
  • Fatty liver disease due to fat accumulation in the liver as a result of more than recommended intake.
  • It prevents blood clotting and thus may enhance the action of blood thinners like aspirin and warfarin causing easy bruising and bleeding.


CLA is an essential fatty acid found in grass-fed ruminant milk, meat, and meat products. It is known to have many health benefits and reduces metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity. In addition to that, it also promotes immunity, reduces inflammation, and reduces the risk and growth of several cancers. Mild side effects may also appear in people taking CLA supplements.

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