Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA is a free fatty acid belonging to a class known as trans fatty acids. CLA is derived from an essential fatty acid that occurs naturally in the human body and in all pasture fed animals. This essential fatty acid is known as omega 6. Omega 6 has received a lot of attention lately because of its benefits on fat loss and lean muscle gain. CLA also has a number of additional health benefits. The benefits of CLA include boosting immunity, promoting exercise endurance and protecting the heart from the adverse effects of fat accumulation.
Dietary Sources of CLA
It is not essential for our diet to contain CLA but addition of this fat is highly recommended due to the numerous health benefits. In other words CLA is not an essential fatty acid. However, bacteria in your small and large intestines do synthesise certain amounts of CLA from dietary linoleic acid. What this means is that if you eat foods rich in linoleic acid, the amount of CLA produced by your intestinal cells will also increase.
Meat obtained from pastured livestock has high concentrations of CLA. Beef, ground turkey, veal and lamb are all rich in CLA while chicken and pork all contain limited amounts. Dairy products such as butter, ice cream, Swiss and Colby cheeses (richest sources) and yoghurt are also reliable sources of CLA, although they may contain some additional harmful fats.
CLA Diet for Vegetarians
The good news is that this important fatty acid can also be found in vegetable products. Those on a vegan diet or strict vegetarians can get CLA from white button mushrooms as well as pomegranate seed oil. Other great sources include some vegetable oils including but not limited to sunflower oil and safflower oil.
Dietary CLA Supplements
The above mentioned sources of CLA may not provide adequate amounts of this fat to have identifiable health benefits. In these circumstances it is recommended to supplement your diet with additional CLA to receive the maximum benefit from this super fat.
To achieve the health benefits associated with CLA, supplementaion should be in the region of 3-5 grams of CLA on top of your daily diet. If you consider yourself healthy and already have a great diet, then you likely only need a few grams each day of CLA supplementation to really see the benefits in weight loss and muscle gain.