In many of my other posts, I have addressed the importance of fats in the diet...especially when it comes to children. If you want to learn more about Kids and Fats, (Click Here for Article)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a really cool chemical found in the fat of dairy...it has to be full fat, none of this lowfat, 2%, skim nonsense. If you make one change today for the health of your children, switch them to full fat dairy! For more on Full Fat Dairy, and why it is better, (Click Here for Article)
What is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid is a FAT! It is an isomer (modification) of Linoleic Acid, an Omega 6 Fatty Acid (not all Omega 6 is bad).
In is found, primarily, in the meat and milk of ruminant animals (cattle). The amount of CLA found in these products increases with the amount of grass and pasture the animals consume. So, this means that in the conventional vs. pasture raised meat debate (really no debate), pasture raised wins again with higher amounts of CLA.
The purpose of CLA in dairy products is the signal the growth of muscle in developing young. In regards to our children, CLA stimulates the use of the sugars, proteins and fats in dairy and meat to grow muscle, not fat, in our children.
How does CLA Work
Conjugated Linoleic Acid stimulates the breakdown of fat into fatty acids which can be used as energy for the cells. It also as the ability to prevent the storage of the sugars found in dairy as fat cells in the body.
Many people, especially athletes, have began supplementing with CLA for fat loss...the conversion of their own fat cells for energy for weight loss. The research on this is not conclusive. More likely CLA works within the food it is found it, and works on the sugars and fats present in the meal to convert energy and stimulate muscle growth.
Other Effects of CLA
The fat burning, muscle building action of CLA has gained the most notoriety, and the most research attention (who doesn't want a magic pill to burn fat and gain muscle), but there are several other positive effects of CLA in the body.
CLA has been shown to work as an antioxidant, especially in cases of cancer. It's ability to lower Arachidonic Acid production, Regulate Estrogen, and Modify Eicosanoid Production, are possible mechanisms to this effect. It was most effective on estrogen cancers, such as breast cancer.
Some studies have also shown a positive correlation between increased CLA and lowering of negative lipid profiles (lowering of Triglycerides, and increasing HDL).
Why Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid Important?
Do we need CLA to survive and grow...no. The question here is more, what happens when we remove it from the foods it should be found in...if that makes sense.
It is a fat, and it is found in the fat of cattle and the fat of dairy. When we remove it, ie...skim milk, the way we digest and process the food changes.
I am a big fan of natural food...meaning leave it in its natural form and stop trying overthink it. Diary has fat, and it should have fat. When you mess with it, and remove the fat, you mess with the way the food should be consumed, thus you miss important nutrition. By removing the fat from dairy, you are removing CLA. Without the CLA the body processed the sugars in the dairy differently. Instead of being told to use the sugar as fuel, it is then stored in the body as body fat. With CLA, the body is not only told to use the sugar as fuel, but also fats, and also to specifically use them to build healthy muscles...not body fat.
Remember, though, that the amount of CLA in the meat and dairy, is found in better and higher quantities in grass fed, pasture raised cattle. Again, this is the natural diet of cattle. When you feed them processed grains, and meal, you get a different nutritional composition of your meat and dairy, and not for the better.
Breakfast of Champions: