CLA: The Udderly Healthy Trans Fat

CLA: The Udderly Healthy Trans Fat post image

We have all heard how unhealthy trans-fats are for us. Synthetically produced tran-fats can be found as partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil as well as margarine. These fake fats are found in many commercial products from salad dressings to baked goods. For thirty years nutritionists have been saying that trans-fats are bad and recently the conventional medical community has finally agreed. So much so, that certain municipalities (like New York City) are actually banning them from use in restaurants. Surprisingly, there is one naturally occurring trans-fat that is tremendously healthy for us called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).

Synthetic trans-fats are major contributors to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Many of the studies implicating saturated fats were incorrectly executed because they lumped tran-fats and saturated fats together. In the 1970’s the eminent lipid scientist, Dr. Mary Enig put her career on the line by trying to correct the error. In their article “The Oiling Of American”, Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig explain the massive takeover by the vegetable oil industry.

Unfortunately, the health of the American people has suffered greatly since the vegetable oil industry won out. Consequently we have spent the last forty years being misinformed about hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and refined vegetable and seed oils. They are not good for us — in fact, they are terribly detrimental to health. What is healthy are natural fats like butter, tallow and lard from grassfed animals.

However, there is one trans-fat that is, in fact, good for us. It is found in the meat and dairy fat of grassfed animals. It is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Cows on pasture have 3-5 times more CLA than grain fattened animals. The bacteria in the stomachs of herbivores (cows) convert the linoleic acid to conjugated linoleic acid. Technically, this is both a trans-fatty and a cis-fatty acid. This unique chemical composition gives it the health benefits.

And the health benefits are many. Numerous studies have indicated that CLA is an anti-cancer agent that fights a wide variety of tumors, including bladder, brain, skin, breast, colon and prostate. It appears that CLA blocks initiation, promotion and metastasis — three of the four stages of cancer. Additionally, CLA has been found to lower LDL levels, and prevent bone loss. CLA has also been found to attenuate allergic dermatitis in mice.

Not surprisingly, the breast milk of mothers who consume foods high in CLA, is also high in CLA, providing tremendous nutrition for the baby. CLA should be obtained through naturally produced foods, such as grassfed meat and dairy as indicated above. It may also be obtained through eating grassfed butter or butter oil. Grassfed butter is especially high in CLA during the spring and fall when pasture grass is rapidly growing. This butter is also full of vitamin K2 which was first identified as Activator X by Dr. Weston Price. That will be the topic for another post.

Supplement companies have jumped on the research showing CLA helps in weight loss and muscle preservation. I do not recommend taking any CLA supplements as they are synthetic and the doses are much higher than you would get by eating food with CLA in it. Additionally, these higher doses may cause side effects and/or interactions with medications. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  True weight loss comes from making a lifestyle change that supports proper nutrition.

Eating ethically and humanely raised animals for food is satisfying physically, emotionally and spiritually. In the face of rhetoric from all corners, the USDA, American Heart, etc., it is clear that animals raised on pasture offer us nutrient dense foods that are unsurpassed.  I encourage you to try grassfed beef — it is delicious and full of health promoting CLA!

Where to buy fantastic grassfed beef

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This post is linked to: What’s on the Menu, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Foodie Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Tip Day Carnival, Simple Lives Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday, Frugal Follies, Pennywise Platter, Food Trip Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Foodie Friday, Sugar-Free Sunday, Melt in Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Mangia Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Tuesday at the Table, Traditional Tuesday Blog Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Delectable Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods


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  • Rex May 10, 2011, 10:47 pm

    The Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and Omega-3 increases gradually as cows are turned to the pasture and decreases when cows are fed grain diet.
    See interesting research:

    Grass Fed Butter Oil is the best.

    • Jill May 11, 2011, 12:26 pm

      Hi Rex,
      Thanks for the interesting link. Clearly, the amount of any nutrient in an animal depends upon what food they are eating.

  • Danielle @ Analytical Mom May 11, 2011, 10:44 am

    Fantastic post, as always! I didn’t realize CLA was a healthy trans fat, although I had heard that there was a little bit of trans fat in beef. Is it the only naturally-occurring trans fat? Also, I’m curious… how do chickens absorb vitamin D through all their feathers? I thought that getting vitamin D from the sun was hard enough for humans (and that’s why we should eat foods that contain it like cod liver oil), and we have way more exposed skin than a chicken. How does that work? I figure if anyone knows, it would be you!

    • Jill May 11, 2011, 12:29 pm

      Hi Danielle,
      Thanks so much for your confidence! I do think the heat and sun rays can penetrate feathers and fur for that matter. However, not having raised any chickens myself, I can only speculate…

      I do believe that the CLA is the only naturally occurring trans-fat.

  • Barbara Goodman May 11, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Thanks for info. Besides grass fed cattle & butter, lard, what foods have CLA?

    • Jill May 11, 2011, 1:26 pm

      Hi Barbara,
      CLA is made in the stomach of ruminants –so any animal that eats grasses and has more than one stomach! A ruminant digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the first stomach, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, now known as cud, and chewing it again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called “ruminating”. There are about 150 species, but for eating purposes, it would be goats, cattle sheep. It is also in the dairy (milk) products of these animals as long as they are eating grass.

      • barbara goodman May 11, 2011, 6:54 pm

        Ok thanks for the details on this.

  • Cathy May 11, 2011, 4:25 pm

    I love the liverwurst and summer sausage from US Wellness Meats the best. Then, I’m getting my organ meats and CLA. They are such strong supporters of the Weston A. Price Foundation too, sponsors at our conference for 5+ years now, so I like to give them my non-local farmer business. I don’t know La Cense, are they nitrate free?

    • Jill May 11, 2011, 7:34 pm

      Hi Cathy,
      Nitrates would be in franks and sausages. I did notice some celery juice in the franks — that is used instead of nitrates. But all the other cuts are pure, unadulterated grassfed. The difference here is that La Cense is a ranch that raises the cattle, packages it and sells it. US Wellness is a distributor with lot of ranches supplying the beef. While I have been using US Wellness too, I am open to giving La Cense a try — after all, a little competition is a good thing and their black angus steaks look very good!

  • Jo at Jo's Health Corner May 11, 2011, 7:55 pm

    Thanks for a great post! It is indeed very interesting information. I will share this on facebook.

    • Jill May 11, 2011, 9:16 pm

      Hi Jo,
      Thanks for sharing!

  • Miz Helen May 13, 2011, 4:37 pm

    Hi Jill,
    We are so fortunate to have just purchased a grass fed beef from our friend. We just picked it up from the Butcher Shop a couple of weeks ago. It is so good. Thank you for your post, great information! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you next week!

  • Jill May 13, 2011, 5:33 pm

    Hi Miz Helen,
    You are very welcome. Enjoy your beef!

  • Mare @ just-making-noise May 19, 2011, 12:35 am

    Hello Jill! Great post and thanks for linking up at Simple Lives Thursday… Have a great week!

    • Jill May 19, 2011, 7:22 am

      Hi Mare,
      Thanks for your comments!

  • Rex June 13, 2011, 6:43 pm
    • Jill June 13, 2011, 8:32 pm

      Hi Rex,
      Thanks for your comments! I was really astonished when I read their notes about “empty calories”. That really convinced me that we are dealing with people who are either completely bought (which I think is correct) or people who do not have a brain in their head.