Introduction

Conjugated linoleic acid or CLA is a collective name that has been used to describe positional and geometrical isomers of linoleic acid (18:2n-6) having two conjugated double bonds; some of these are shown in Fig. 12.1. Over the past two decades and especially since the discovery of Ha et al. (1987), who reported that an extract from grilled ground beef later identified as CLA had biological effects, numerous studies have been carried out first on animals and lately in humans demonstrating the possible implications of CLA isomers on health. A large number of studies both in animals and humans have been carried out on mixtures of CLA isomers synthesised by chemical means, others have investigated pure isolated isomers and only very few have studied the natural CLA mixtures. A recently published book gives a summary of the studies carried out up to 2003 (Sebedio et al2003). These studies have shown that CLA could have an effect on the immune system (Cook et al., 2003), on atherosclerosis (Kritchevsky, 2003), on mammary cancer (Banni et al2003), and on body composition (Keim, 2003). This chapter will only deal with the possible effect on CLA isomers on body composition and the data obtained from both animals and humans will be discussed to evaluate the potential utilisation of CLA in body fat reduction and weight control. We will first look at the sources of CLA, then at the actual consumption of CLA by humans, and we will describe the data obtained in both animals and humans. We will then discuss the possibility of incorporating CLA in functional foods.

COOH Linoleicacid

COOH Linoleicacid

COOH

Rumenic acid

COOH

COOH

Fig. 12.1 Structures of some CLA isomers.

COOH

Fig. 12.1 Structures of some CLA isomers.

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