The Fat That Can Make You Thin
BY: Dr. David G. Williams
The Fat That Can Make You Thin
Every day it seems that more research comes out supporting the idea that many of our current health problems are the a result of extreme dietary changes that have occurred in the last 30 to 40 years. The latest research in this area sheds even more light on why obesity is becoming such a prevalent condition in our society.
In my travels around the world, the one thing that always stands out is just how many more people in the United States seem to be over-weight than in other countries. Obviously, our increased consumption of sugar and greasy, fried, fast foods are contributing factors. However, these habits are fairly prevalent in other countries that have far less of an obesity problem. One part of the equation that we may have overlooked is the dramatic decrease in our consumption of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Until a few years ago, CLA was an unrecognized nutrient. It's so new, very few medical and nutritional texts even mention it. However, CLA is an essential component for good health. CLA is found in beef. lamb. turkey, and some milk products. Ruminants (cud-chewing animals such as cows, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, etc.) have a form of bacteria in their stomachs that converts the fatty acid linoleic acid into conjugated linoleic acid. This same bacteria has been detected in the human intestinal tract, but for some reason our bodies aren't capable of producing significant quantities of CLA. We must get it from our diet.
A couple of decades ago. CLA deficiencies were probably uncommon. But with the relatively recent changes in the way the above foods are being produced and the changes in our dietary preferences, CLA intake has dropped dramatically. As a result, the incidence of obesity and other health problems has steadily increased.
Pass the Steak, Please
No one knows exactly how CLA works. However, we do know that the body must be able to transport dietary fat into cells where it can be converted to energy or used to build muscle tissue. Without adequate amounts of CLA, dietary fat can't be converted or used as energy. Instead, it is simply stored as new fat cells. In other words, without CLA, your body stores fat instead of burning it or converting it to muscle.
If you compare your diet with the diets of past generations, you'll
probably find that you are currently deficient in CLA. The two primary
sources of CLA in the American diet are beef and milk. both of which
have fallen out of favor recently because of their saturated fat
content. To make matters worse, the CLA content of both beef and
milk has been steadily falling for the last 40 years or so.
The percentage of CLA in beef has also been dwindling as a direct
result of cattle being fed prepared feeds in feedlot environments,
rather than being fattened by grazing on natural grass pastures.
Cattle and milk producers discovered that feedlot cattle and cattle
fed prepared feeds gained far more weight much quicker than, or produced
almost twice the amount of milk of, cattle fed
While I was researching the CLA content of various milk products, I couldn't help but think of the early writings of nutritional pioneer Dr. Weston Price. Among other things, Dr. Price studied the diets of primitive peoples around the world and their propensity to develop various diseases. Based on his research. he found that butter was an extremely important and beneficial food for many of these groups, particularly for their children and expectant mothers. The greatest value was placed on the rich, dark yellow butter produced by cows on spring pastureland. He attributed many of its beneficial properties to the fat-soluble vitamins it contains, particularly vitamin A. But based on this new research, I can't help but wonder if the higher CLA content of spring butter might also have been a major factor.
Even to this day, the rich butter produced by pasture-fed cattle in both New Zealand and Australia is far superior to anything I have tasted or used anywhere else in the world. If you're ever lucky enough to find it in your grocery store or local deli, I would urge you to give it a try. Australian milk and milk-products are some of the finest there are. When researching this article, it came as no surprise to me to learn that Australian pasture-feed beef contains as much as four times the CLA of our American beef.
Based on these findings, we face a real dilemma. Even if we increase our intake of milk and beef, we're not likely to get as much CLA as people did just a few years ago. This is particularly true if you drink non-fat or skim varieties of milk, which are essentially devoid of any fat especially CLA.
The Rest of the Story
However, increasing our levels of CLA can have a dramatic impact on our overall health because body fat reduction is only one of CLA's many potential benefits. Here are a few of the important benefits CLA has been shown to provide.
Weight Loss and Reduction of Body Fat. In 1998, researchers in Louisiana found that when CLA was included in the diet of mice, there was a 43 to 88 percent reduction in body fat in just six weeks. Even more encouraging, the area that appeared most sensitive to CLA was the fat in the abdominal region.
CLA triggered the loss of body fat by increasing the metabolic rate,
decreasing the appetite, and causing more body-fat cells to be used
for energy production.
Human studies testing CLA's ability to reduce body fat in obese
individuals have just recently been completed. The results are nothing
short of amazing.
From this latest research, we now know that we shouldn't have to take any more than 3.4 grams a day of CLA to achieve significant reductions in body fat levels. Keep in mind that these reductions were achieved without any changes in diet or exercise. We should see even better results when these areas are addressed. And, as I mentioned earlier, the benefits of increasing CLA levels aren't just limited to reducing body fat levels.
Although most of the published research involving CLA and cancer
has been per-
In mice studies, CLA slowed breast cancer growth and prevented its
metastasis to the lungs and bone marrow. CLA appears to work on several
different fronts when it comes to cancer. It inhibits inflammatory
compounds that trigger tumor growth, it interferes with tumor-growth
factors, and it impedes uncontrolled cell division.
CLA appeared to have a lifelong protective effect when it was given
to mice prior to the introduction of known carcinogens.
Dr. Price was obviously on to something when he discovered the value of giving CLA-rich foods to children. And it should be a necessary supplement for any woman who has a family history of breast cancer.
CLA can play a role in preventing and treating diabetes through
the reduction of
Heart and Artery Disease.
Several animal studies have confirmed that increasing dietary CLA
can lower LDL-cholesterol levels and help prevent clogging of the
arteries. As you may recall.
We're not exactly sure how CLA favorably alters immune function.
However, from the preliminary research, it seems to help by balancing
various compounds in the body. It seems to stimulate the production
of both disease-fighting lymphocytes
Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Bone Formation. Osteoporosis and inflammatory joint problems (arthritis) are becoming major problems throughout the world. Lower CLA levels in the diet could be a contributing factor. CLA inhibits the production of certain inflammatory cytokines that stop the body's production of joint cartilage and lead to joint deterioration. CLA also helps stop the excess production of the prostaglandin PGE2, which has been linked to osteoporosis and arthritis. When researchers fed animals butterfat and CLA supplements, the animals experienced less joint inflammation and an increased rate of new bone formation. The amount of bone formation was directly related to the levels of CLA in the diet.
From all indications thus far, it certainly appears that CLA is one supplement that will be beneficial in helping to reverse osteoporosis. and in reducing the inflammation and cartilage loss associated with rheumatoid arthritis. It will be interesting to see any new research as it becomes available in these areas. From a practical standpoint, however, the overall benefits CLA provides are such that you should consider including CLA in your supplement program now.
Don't Wait for Official Approval Over the next several years, we're
going to be
I urge you not to wait until all the research is in and fats like CLA have the full blessing of the medical establishment. Do yourself a favor and get started on CLA now. It's not an inexpensive supplement, unless you weigh its cost against the price of treating obesity, cancer, heart disease, and the other problems related to CLA -deficiencies. On the other hand, most people would pay ten times the cost of CLA supplements just to lose 20 percent of their body fat.
CLA is very safe and non-toxic. It's possible that you are getting some CLA from your diet, but lamb and turkey are sources, as I've mentioned, but they are becoming less reliable. If you have a safe source of raw milk and cream, that's an especially good source of CLA. Other dairy products, such as cheese, also contain CLA.
In one evaluation of several varieties of cheese, the CLA content varied from 3.59 milligrams to 7.96 milligrams per gram of fat. Blue, Brie, Edam, and Swiss cheeses had the highest CLA content. Cheddar cheese also ranked fairly high, with the sharper cheddar having more CLA than the mild to medium varieties.
The CLA content of fermented dairy products ranged from 3.82 milligrams to 4.66 milligrams per gram of fat. Cultured buttermilk had the highest content. In this same study, the CLA content of regular milk varied from 3.38 milligrams to 6.39 milligrams per gram of fat.
As you can see, it's very difficult to ingest anywhere near 3.4 grams of CLA per day strictly from your diet. I ran across several researchers who are working on ways to increase CLA levels in milk, butter, cheese, and beef through changes in animal diets. One was even trying to see if eggs could become a CLA source by manipulating the diet of chickens. It may be years before any of these products ever come to market, and they may never get there. The best we can do now is to incorporate items like high-quality butter, buttermilk, "real" yogurt, organic beef (if available), and CLA supplements into our diets.
If taking 3.4 grams of CLA per day is cost prohibitive, 2 to 2.4
grams might be enough. A healthy diet that includes moderate amounts
of the foods I've mentioned in this article might give you a gram
of CLA each day. As usual, one of the most basic nutrients is also
one of the most important. Now that you
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