The benefits of unsaturated fatty acids in your diet are well documented. Now research is looking into the effects of incorporating one of these healthy fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), into animal and human diets. CLA is present in dairy products and meat from ruminants and in very low amounts in our bodies.
According to researchers from the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology (CSCB), CLA “seems to protect cells programmed to become diabetic against development of diabetes, and it also prevents disease processes that lead to atherosclerosis, chronic inflammation and colon cancer.”
Classified as a nutraceutical or nutritional supplement, CLA is thought to change the balance between fat cells and muscle cells in the body, says CSCB. "The problem is that commercially available supplements contain two forms of the compound, known as isomers," explains Dr. Paul Evans, a CSCB researcher. "Isomers are molecules that have the same molecular formula but the atoms are arranged differently in space. In the case of CLA one isomer known as cis-9-trans-11 CLA has beneficial effects, but the other form, trans-10-cis-12 CLA, can be detrimental and could induce a diabetic state." Dr Evans and his group have discovered a way to selectively synthesize the beneficial cis-9-trans-11 CLA in large quantities.
The new synthetic methods have enabled the preparation of quantities of these biologically important fatty acids. "This…paves the way for developing a pure nutraceutical which could be incorporated into our diet to help protect us against heart disease and diabetes," concludes Dr Evans.
Source: Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology