Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Linoleic acid is a naturally occurring polyunsaturated fatty acid of the omega classification (omega is the group of fatty acids that are generally believed to promote good health within the cardiovascular sys-tem). Linoleic acid is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, as expressed by the chemical formula C18H32O2. The chief function of linoleic acid within the body is in the production of prostaglandins, a synthesized form of fatty acids that assist in the contraction of various types of blood vessels. Fatty acids generally, including the omega-3 commonly found in fish products, perform a variety of important functions within the body. In addition to their contribution to the health of human cells, fatty acids assist in the body's ability to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and, when stored within the body's adipose tissues, these fats are an important insulation and reserve energy source.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a natural sub-stance created through the mixture of various linoleic acid isomers (substances that are composed of the same molecules, but in a different arrangement and possessing different properties). The best-known forms of CLA are found in the products of ruminant animals, those than chew and regurgitate their food, such as cows. Fish oils, vegetable oils, and sunflower oils are also common CLA sources.

As CLA plays a role within the body in the regulation of body fat, studies have demonstrated that a balanced diet with CLA-rich foods assists in the manner in which the body will utilize stored fats. So far, there is no research that confirms a definitive cause-and-effect relationship in support of the proposition that increased consumption of CLA will prevent various diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, or arteriosclerosis. However, unlike other supplements touted for their beneficial qualities with respect to these types of illness, the efficacy of fatty acids such as CLA within the body in other respects is proven. CLA is not believed to be toxic in large amounts; the consumption of excessive quantities of CLA might contribute to the production of excess body fats ultimately stored in the adipose tissues, which is where such excess CLA would be stored within the body.

SEE ALSO Body composition and weight control; Dietary supplements; Fat utilization; Weight loss.