The Benefits of CLA

POSTED BY Dr Emma Kirke, Date :

My family appear to be victims of cancer infused genetics. As far back as my father’s great-grandfather, death from cancer is prevalent and regular. My father and his mother have active cancer, of particular interest to myself is the location of the active sites in the breast area. I have been aware of dietary assistance with stomach cancers but I began to research how I may be able to reduce the statistics favourably for me against the female cancers and in particular, breast cancer.

(As some of you may know due to my vigilance I was diagnosed with breast cancer very early and made a decision to have a double mastectomy to both treat and perform a prophylactic surgery. My surgeon was convinced that my diet and supplementation had contained the cancer within my breast.)

My research directed me to a product called Conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. I had heard of this in relation to training and the maintenance of lean muscle and the possible reduction in overall weight and body fat percentage. However, how effective this product is is as yet to be determined. CLA is naturally occurring in dairy products and ruminant meats grass-fed cattle containing up to 4 times as much CLA as their counterparts. This small change in how we feed the cattle we consume can drastically affect the bioavailability of CLA in our diets. CLA is a mixture of different types of isomers of linoleic acid, primary position and geometric isomers. It is chemically related to linoleic acid, but it seems to have opposing effects in certain areas. In particular linoleic acid appears to promote tumour growth, whereas CLA seems to be an inhibitor of tumour development.

It is a product that I have discovered many have heard of but know very little about. Athletes and bodybuilders in particular are aware of its usage and where to locate prevalent sources. It is unique in that it is present in animal and dairy sources, and its anti-cancer efficacy is expressed at concentrations close to human consumption levels.

In basic terms, CLA is an altered form of omega 6 fatty acid which we all know is important for human health and is derived from the foods we eat as opposed to being made in the body. There is an increase in Paleo dieters and those that restrict intake of dairy. If you are vegan you will not be taking in any of the main natural food sources for CLA so a supplement may be advisable irrespective of the possible anti-cancer benefits. We are aware of its possible anti-oxidant and anti-catabolic potency, but is it also an effective anti-carcinogenic?

Here are some of the most known postulations of CLA supplementation...

- Increased metabolic rate (positive benefits for athletes trying to lose weight and maintain lean muscle mass changing overall body composition.)

- Possible enhanced muscle growth, which in turn burns calories and potentially increases metabolic rate and fat burn.

- Lowering of cholesterol and triglycerides.

- Lowers insulin resistance, which assists adults and type 2 late-onset diabetes making it easier to control the blood sugars and their weight.

- It has been postulated that it can help reduce food-induced allergic reactions since food allergies can play a part in difficulties with weight loss this can be useful.

- Immune system enhancement in modern society is paramount to fight off superbugs and CLA is reportedly a supplement to assist with this. You can see why it is, therefore, a popular supplement of choice for athletes and should possibly be a consideration in most of our daily routines.

It was in the fitness section of the population that notable reductions in the prevalence of cancer, in particular, breast cancer were observed. Even in higher risk groups with a strong family history, there was a notable reduction in incidence. Taking this supplement to lose weight & increase lean muscle mass, may have inadvertently reduced their risk of enduring the breast cancer disease.

Of course, I am not suggesting that this is a sure-fire preventative measure, and you should regularly check your breasts and be vigilant even if you are taking preventative measures. If you feel you are in an at-risk category or indeed just wish to take precautionary action there are a lot of other foods and supplements that can be taken and used daily. Spirulina and chlorella on a daily basis in very high doses (which is perfectly safe as it is a food and not a drug) have been documented in possibly helping to prevent breast cancer tumour growth. Using foods to support and your bodies defence could be a benefit for anyone suffering from any type of cancer or long-term illness.

It is hypothesised with observations that patients who are undergoing chemotherapy may have a greater long-term lifespan if they take chlorella supplements before the chemotherapy compared with those that take no supplements.

In research, there were some reported side effects from CLA usage. Some participants taking extremely high doses complained of the difficulty in 12 tablets daily, and some reported feelings of nausea, in another unofficial human test there were reports of some GI upsets.

The animal trials noted no discernable effects that were negative, and there were far more positive side effects. There have been no drug interactions reported either.

In conclusion, it appears CLA is a significant anti-oxidant but also appears to help prevent other mechanisms of disease action.

I wouldn’t like to suggest that you attempt to increase your dietary consumption of CLA sources, as the theory suggests a person would have to consume 3g’s of CLA (3 Genetic capsules a day) for a beneficial amount, which in turn means that you would have to consume 500g of fat, which is more than 4,500 fat calories each day from eating CLA rich foods. Hence we have substantial reasoning to take CLA in supplement form.

It is best when choosing your supplement to get one the same or as close to the naturally occurring CLA isomer as you can. c9 and t11 are the ones you need to be looking for. While t10 and c12 may exert a more potent fat reducing effect, there are too many questions over the possible health risks associated with these isomers, and not enough significant research.

Ensure you are buying good quality CLA, I personally only recommend Genetic Supplements.

Please contact me if you want to ask any questions, or need any additional information on


Cannella C and Giusti AM (2000) Conjugated linoleic acid: a natural anti-carcinogenic substance from animal food.

Stanley, J & Hunter, K (2001) The Wonder Nutrient. Chemistry and Industry.

Kritchevsky D, Czarnecki SK. Conjugated Linoleic Acid in health and disease.

Thompson H, Zhu Z, Banni S, et al. Morphological and biochemical status of the mammary gland as influenced by conjugated linoleic acid: implication for a reduction in mammary cancer risk.

Dr Emma Kirke