Conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) refer to a group of chemicals found in the fatty acid linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, also known as omega-6 fatty acid. The word “conjugated” is a term meaning that at least one pair of double bonds is separated by one single bond. Linoleic acid is found in meat and dairy products. There are various uses of conjugated linoleic acid by the body, which have only been recognized for the last 20 or so years. Learn more about the functions of conjugated linoleic acid, its beneficial properties, and possible side effects right here in this article.
Function in the Body
Conjugated linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, meaning we must get it through the diet because the body cannot make it. That said, the importance of getting it in the diet is extremely high, and it’s a good thing that dietary sources are easy to find. Omega-6 fatty acids, much like omega-3 fatty acids, play an important role in normal growth and development, stimulate hair and skin growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid
The following are the benefits that come from consuming conjugated linoleic acid.
An antioxidant is a substance that neutralizes damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable, unbonded molecules that essentially get loose in the body. They are desperately looking for an electron to bond with so they can be stabilized; unfortunately, that electron would have to come from an already bonded electron that shouldn’t become unbonded. Once the attacked molecule becomes unstable, it is like a chain reaction. Free radicals can damage these cells and cause cancer and disease. They arise from many different things: as a by-product of the body’s metabolism, from environmental pollutants, and even from the foods we eat and the drinks we drink. You can’t really escape them. Antioxidants are responsible for making sure that no significant damage is done on the body due to the free radicals. All in all, antioxidants reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and help fight inflammation, among other things.
In lab rats, conjugated linoleic acid was shown to reduce the impact of cancer; because of this, CLA is known to have anticancer properties.
Body weight management
Conjugated linoleic acid is also known for its body weight management effects. Mainly, it helps reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass. There have been many studies on this benefit, and not all of them are absolutely conclusive, but it is safe to say that conjugated linoleic acid can have even a minimal positive effect on body weight. Most of the fat lost is from around the abdominal area. Conjugated linoleic acid should not be used as a sole dietary aid, but it can help along with a good diet and 30 minutes of daily exercise.
Side Effects of Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not such a good thing anymore. This is often the case with conjugated linoleic acid. Since there are so many popular sources of linoleic acid, sometimes people get too much of it, and not enough alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid); this tends to have a negative effect. It is important to get a good balance of the two. In overweight people, too much CLA may promote insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Also, too much of the fatty acid can lead to high levels of oxidative stress. Just remember that as long as you consume it in the recommended dosage, you will probably be fine.
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