Send to

Choose Destination
Prog Lipid Res. 2004 Nov;43(6):553-87.

Conjugated linoleic acids: are they beneficial or detrimental to health?

Author information

School of Life Sciences, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen AB 25 1GH, UK.


Conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) comprise a family of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid (18:2n-6; LA) that are formed by biohydrogenation and oxidation processes in nature. The major dietary sources of these unusual fatty acids are foods derived from ruminant animals, in particular dairy products. The main form of CLA, cis-9, trans-11-18:2, can be produced directly by bacterial hydrogenation in the rumen or by delta-9 desaturation of the co-product vaccenic acid (trans-11-18:1) in most mammalian tissues including man. The second most abundant isomer of CLA is the trans-10, cis-12-18:2 form. Initially identified in grilled beef as a potential anti-carcinogen a surprising number of health benefits have subsequently been attributed to CLA mixtures and more recently to the main individual isoforms. It is also clear from recent studies that the two main isoforms can have different effects on metabolism and cell functions and can act through different cell signalling pathways. The majority of studies on body compositional effects (i.e. fat loss, lean gain), on cancer and cardiovascular disease attenuation, on insulin sensitivity and diabetes and on immune function have been conducted with a variety of animal models. Observations clearly emphasise that differences exist between mammalian species in their response to CLAs with mice being the most sensitive. Recent studies indicate that some but not all of the effects observed in animals also pertain to human volunteers. Reports of detrimental effects of CLA intake appear to be largely in mice and due mainly to the trans-10, cis-12 isomer. Suggestions of possible deleterious effects in man due to an increase in oxidative lipid products (isoprostanes) with trans-10, cis-12 CLA ingestion require substantiation. Unresponsiveness to antioxidants of these non-enzymatic oxidation products casts some doubt on their physiological relevance. Recent reports, albeit in the minority, that CLAs, particularly the trans-10, cis-12 isomer, can elicit pro-carcinogenic effects in animal models of colon and prostate cancer and can increase prostaglandin production in cells also warrant further investigation and critical evaluation in relation to the many published anti-cancer and anti-prostaglandin effects of CLAs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center