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Conjugated Linoleic Acid May be Helpful in the Management of Type 2

BACKGROUND: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) refers to a family of naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats found primarily in beef, lamb, and dairy products. CLA is also sold as a dietary supplement. Intriguing animal and human research suggests that CLA may play a beneficial role in maintaining normal blood sugar levels and decreasing body fat.

RESEARCH: In a double-blind study, 21 adult subjects with type 2 diabetes were randomized to receive either a placebo (safflower oil) or mixed CLA isomers (6.0 g CLA) daily for eight weeks. The subjects were asked to not change their diets or activity habits during the study. In addition to body weight, blood levels of CLA, glucose and leptin (a hormone influencing appetite) were measured throughout the study. (Editor's note: Isomers are molecules that contain the same atoms but in a slightly different arrangement.)

RESULTS: The researchers reported three benefits associated with CLA supplementation. First, 81 percent of the subjects (9 of 11) taking CLA benefited from decreases in fasting blood sugar, compared with only 20 percent (2 of 10) of those taking placebos. Second, higher CLA blood levels were associated with body weight loss. Third, higher CLA levels were associated with lower blood levels of leptin, which may have an effect on appetite. These changes were most closely associated with one particular isomer of CLA, t10c12-CLA.

IMPLICATIONS: The positive effects observed in this study may partially explain why certain foods (e.g., dairy) have been associated with reduced body fat and improved blood sugar regulation. The researchers concluded that future studies are needed to further determine how CLA or various CLA isomers may affect glucose and lipid metabolism as well as insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Belury MA, Mahon A, Banni S. "The conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) isomer,t10c12-CLA, is inversely associated with changes in body weight and serum leptin in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus," Journal of Nutrition,2003;133:257S-260S.

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