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Is Oatly Oat Milk Healthy?

Oatly Cartons

Oatly oat milk is a dairy-free alternative to milk. If you haven’t tried it yourself, maybe you’ve heard someone in line at Starbucks order something like a “matcha latte with oat milk.” It tastes creamier and more milk-like than many other plant-based milk substitutes and has grown like crazy in popularity, but is it healthy? Let’s take a look at the ingredients and nutrition facts:

Oatmilk (water, oats), rapeseed oildipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, sea salt, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), vitamin D2, vitamin A.

Nutrition Facts per 1 cup (240 ml)
Calories – 140
Fat – 7 g
Saturated – .5 g
Trans Fat – 0 g
Cholesterol – 0 mg
Sodium – 100 mg
Potassium – 390 mg
Total Carbohydrate – 16 g
Dietary Fiber – 2 g
Soluble Fiber – 1 g
Sugars – 7 g
Includes 7 g added sugars

Protein – 3 g

One of the first things I notice is that there are 7 grams of added sugar per cup of oat milk, even though there’s no added sweetener in the ingredients list. So where does the sugar come from? The only carbohydrate source is oats, a grain that’s very low in sugar. It turns out the added sugar in Oatly comes from their production process, where added enzymes break down the oat starch into simple sugars, primarily maltose [1]. Maltose has a glycemic index of 105. For context, white flour and doughnuts have a glycemic index of 85 and 75, respectively. The glycemic index is a scale from 0 to 100, meaning that maltose has a literally off-the-charts impact on blood sugar levels. A 12-ounce glass of oat milk (the amount in a medium latte) has about the same blood sugar impact as a 12-ounce can of Coke.

Oatly has about the same blood sugar impact as a Coke and about the same amount of oil per serving as french fries. Oatly’s primary sugar (maltose) has a higher glycemic index than pure glucose [Trish.ioUSDAOatly]

The third ingredient, after water and oats, is rapeseed oil, the slightly less flattering name for canola oil. Usually, rapeseed oil is used in the automotive and chemical industries to make things like engine lubricant and biodiesel, whereas the version used for cooking is known as “canola oil”. Both are extremely processed, inflammatory, and unhealthy oils and can even contain up to 2.03% of trans-fats [3]. Trans-fats have no safe level of consumption and have (finally) been officially banned in the US [4]. Seed oils like rapeseed and canola oil are one of the few foods left that still contain toxic trans-fats [5]. Based on its nutrition information, we can calculate that each 8 oz cup of oat milk (the amount in a small latte) contains about the same amount of oil as a medium serving of french fries. A large latte with oat milk would contain over 10 grams of rapeseed oil, much more oil than in a large fries. Every time you drink a latte with oat milk, you’re getting the toxic and inflammatory equivalent of a medium to large serving of french fries.

After water, oats, and rapeseed oil, the next ingredient is dipotassium phosphate, a food additive in packaged foods originally derived from animal bones and urine. It is now extracted from phosphate rock and put through chemical reactions to make it edible [6]. Other foods that typically contain added phosphates are processed meats, soda and colas, fast food, and frozen chicken nuggets [7]. The FDA, whose policies and guidelines are usually decades behind the science, claim that phosphates are GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but the FDA said the same thing about artificial trans-fats until 2015, when the scientific research had been showing otherwise since at least the 1990s. In the case of phosphates, a 2012 study on their hazardous effects concludes, “In view of the high prevalence of chronic kidney disease and the potential harm caused by phosphate additives to food, the public should be informed that added phosphate is damaging to health” [8]. Chronic kidney disease is now one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US [9].

To more closely resemble the nutrition facts on a carton of regular cow’s milk, Oatly fortifies its drink with added vitamins and minerals. They include added Vitamin D (a very important nutrient), but use the less effective Vitamin D2 in place of Vitamin D3. Your skin produces Vitamin D3 naturally; in contrast, Vitamin D2 is produced by plants and mushrooms exposed to sunlight. Although supplemental Vitamin D3 is nearly twice as effective as Vitamin D2 at raising Vitamin D levels in your blood [1011], Oatly has decided to opt for the less expensive D2, presumably to keep it 100% vegan.

Oatly claim their goal is, “to make it easier for people to upgrade their lives by switching to a more plant-based diet.” While they may have good intentions, little about this oily grain water will upgrade your life.

8 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto

The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low-carb way of eating that has been adopted by many looking to lose weight and improve health.

When following a keto diet, carbs are typically reduced to under 50 grams per day.

This has been shown to lead to weight loss and may improve heart health and blood sugar control as well.

However, to reap the benefits of the keto diet, it must be implemented correctly.

Here are 8 things that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts on a keto diet.

1. You’re Eating Too Many Carbs

Not Losing Weight on Keto

One of the main reasons people don’t lose weight on the ketogenic diet is that they’re consuming too many carbs.

To reach the state of ketosis — a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose — carbohydrate intake must be drastically reduced.

In fact, only around 5% of your total calories should come from carbs.

This is in stark contrast to the standard dietary recommendation that 45–65% of calories come from carbs.

It’s normal to have a bit of difficulty cutting out carbs when first adjusting to the ketogenic diet.

However, to reach and maintain ketosis, carbs must be decreased to the recommended range.

To help reach your intake goals, consider tracking your macronutrients through an app like MyFitnessPal.

This can help you learn how many servings of carbs you’re allowed to have in a day depending on your calorie needs.

SUMMARY

To lose weight on a ketogenic diet, carbs must be decreased to reach the state of ketosis and induce fat burning.

2. You Aren’t Eating Nutritious Foods

No matter what dietary plan follow, the key to healthy weight loss is to consume nutritious, whole foods.

Relying on processed foods can put a dent in your weight loss even if they’re keto-friendly.

Adding in foods like snack bars, keto desserts and other packaged foods between meals can derail your weight loss efforts with the extra calories they provide.

Additionally, eating too many convenience-type foods like hot dogs and fast food when you’re on the run can slow weight loss.

These foods are nutrient-poor, meaning they’re high in calories but low in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

To optimize your nutrient intake while losing weight on the keto diet, stick to unprocessed, whole foods.

For example, full-fat dairy products, eggs, fish, pastured meats, poultry and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil are all great choices.

Be sure to add non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms to dishes to add nutrients and fiber.

SUMMARY

To optimize weight loss when following a ketogenic diet, avoid consuming too many processed foods and instead focus on meals and snacks that contain fresh, whole ingredients.

3. You May Be Consuming Too Many Calories

When trying to lose weight, it’s critical to create a calorie deficit.

This can be achieved by either reducing the number of calories that you consume or by expending more calories through increased physical activity.

If you switch to a keto diet and don’t watch your calorie intake, you’re unlikely to drop pounds.

Because many keto-friendly foods, including avocados, olive oil, full-fat dairy and nuts, are high in calories, it’s important not to overdo it.

Most people feel more satisfied after eating ketogenic meals and snacks due to the filling effects of fat and protein.

However, it’s entirely possible to consume too many calories on a ketogenic diet by eating portions that are too large or by snacking on high-calorie foods throughout the day.

Paying attention to portion size, increasing physical activity and snacking in moderation between meals can help create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

SUMMARY

When following any diet, it’s important to create a calorie deficit to promote weight loss. Curbing portion sizes, limiting snacks between meals and being more active can help you drop excess pounds.

4. You Have an Undiagnosed Medical Issue

The ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss tool.

However, if you’re having a difficult time losing weight even though you’re doing everything right, it’s a good idea to rule out any medical issues that may be preventing weight loss success.

Hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s syndrome, depression and hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels) are medical issues that can cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight.

These conditions can be ruled out by your doctor through a series of tests.

If you have one of the conditions listed above, don’t despair.

Through proper management, including medication if necessary and lifestyle and dietary modifications, you can achieve and maintain healthy weight loss.

SUMMARY

Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and depression, can make it hard to lose weight. Consult your doctor to rule out an underlying medical issue if you’re having a particularly hard time dropping the pounds.

5. You Have Unrealistic Weight Loss Expectations

It’s normal to want fast results when following a new diet plan, but it’s important to remember that weight loss can vary from person to person.

Although the ketogenic diet can promote weight loss if properly followed, the rate at which you lose may not be rapid — and that’s okay.

Small, consistent change is the key to losing and maintaining weight the healthy way.

While it may be tempting to aim for lofty weight loss goals, most experts recommend that losing 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week (depending on weight) is best.

Not to mention, if you adopt a new workout routine that involves weight lifting, you may gain muscle while losing fat.

Though this can lead to slower weight loss, putting on muscle mass and decreasing fat mass benefits health in many ways. It can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve bone health.

Instead of relying solely on the scale, take weekly measurements of your arms, thighs and midsection to track your progress.

SUMMARY

A healthy weight loss of 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week can help you stay on track and maintain weight loss over time.

6. You’re Constantly Snacking on High-Calorie Foods

Snacking on healthy food can be an effective way to prevent hunger between meals and overeating.

Yet, consuming too many high-calorie ketogenic snacks like nuts, nut butter, fat bombs, cheese and jerky may cause your weight loss to plateau.

Though these snacks are healthy in moderation, it’s best to choose lower-calorie options if you’re having more than one snack session per day.

Foods like non-starchy vegetables or proteins can keep you feeling full without the calories.

Flavorful snacks like celery sticks and cherry tomatoes dipped in guacamole or a hard-boiled egg with some cut up veggies are smart choices for those following ketogenic diets.

Plus, adding extra non-starchy vegetables to your diet adds a dose of fiber that can help keep your digestive system regular, which can be especially helpful for those first transitioning to a keto diet.

SUMMARY

Choose keto-friendly, lower-calorie foods for satisfying snacks that won’t cause you to pack on pounds.

7. You’re Stressed out and Not Getting Adequate Sleep

Research shows that stress, especially chronic stress, and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss.

When your body is stressed, it produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol.

Elevated levels of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, can encourage your body to store fat, especially in the belly area.

Additionally, those who are chronically stressed are often sleep deprived, which has also been linked to weight gain.

Studies suggest that a lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, causing increased appetite.

You can lower stress and improve sleep by trying techniques like meditation or yoga and spending less time on electronic devices.

SUMMARY

Stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss. Do your best to reduce stress and get enough sleep.

8. You Aren’t Getting Enough Physical Activity

Incorporating more physical activity into your lifestyle is vital when trying to lose weight on a ketogenic diet.

Aside from stimulating fat loss, adopting an exercise routine benefits health in countless ways.

For example, exercise lowers your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and obesity.

Not only does engaging in physical activity burn calories, but it also helps build muscle, which can give your metabolism a boost by increasing the amount of energy burned at rest.

Though starting an exercise routine can be difficult — particularly for those new to working out — there are ways to make it easier.

Creating a workout schedule and sticking to it is the best way to bolster a healthy exercise habit.

Set a goal of three to four days a week and choose a time that’s most convenient for your schedule.

Keep yourself motivated by storing a gym bag in your car for after work or by laying out exercise clothes before bed to keep you on task for early morning workouts.

SUMMARY

Exercise benefits health in many ways and stimulates weight loss. Make exercise a habit by setting aside time for a few workouts a week.

The Bottom Line

Along with other healthy lifestyle changes, the ketogenic diet can be an effective weight loss tool.

However, there are various reasons why some people may fail to see the results they desire.

Eating too many calories, lack of activity, chronic stress, underlying medical issues and not following the recommended macronutrient ranges can all negatively impact weight loss.

To maximize weight loss on a ketogenic diet, get adequate sleep, reduce stress, be more active and consume whole, nutritious, low-carb foods whenever possible.

Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/not-losing-weight-on-keto

Almond Milk – There Are Virtually No Almonds In It

What is it?

A white liquid made from blending almonds with water, salt and other flavourings. The blended mixture is strained to remove the almond pulp and the remaining liquid is used as a dairy-free alternative to milk.

The health claims?

  1. Almond milk is a great milk substitute as it’s full of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and potassium
  2. It’s a high protein drink
  3. It is more slimming than cows’ milk as it is low calorie
  4. Drinking the ‘superfood’ nut milk helps keep skin healthy and glowing

The scientific facts?

  • Home-made almond milk is actually devoid of many nutrients. Why? Because it’s mainly water. The bulk of the almonds used to make the drink are discarded and never make it into the drink. Let’s do the maths: one cup of almonds (around 100g), which contains around 21g of protein, 350mg of calcium, 705mg potassium, 0mg vitamin D and 0mg vitamin A, is used to make four 250ml cups of the popular nut milk. No studies have looked into exactly how much of the calcium, potassium and protein make it into the liquid and how much stays in the almond pulp that is thrown away, but it’s estimated that less than a quarter of the almonds’ nutrients seep out into the water during blending. So, that’s a grand total of a paltry 1.25g of protein, 21mg of calcium and 44mg of potassium per 250ml glass of almond milk.
  • This lack of nutrients in the home-made version of the so-called health drink is the reason shop-bought versions of the dairy-free drink are usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D – to make it nutritionally similar to cows’ milk.
  • Shop-bought almond milk really should be called almond-flavoured water. Why? Because almonds make up just 2% of the average carton of the popular health drink (check out the label of Alpro’s version). It’s also a health myth that the nut milk is high in protein because even though whole almonds are 20% protein, almond milk contains around 0.5g of protein per 100mls.
  • Claims that the drink is great for skin health are untrue. They are based on the health benefits of actual almonds rather than the resulting milk. Yes, the nuts themselves are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium and biotin, which all help keep skin looking healthy, but very little of these nutrients end up in almond milk.
  • One health claim that the nut milk does live up to is that it is lower in calories than cows’ milk. Alpro’s original almond milk comes in at just 24kcals per 100mls whereas the same volume of semi-skimmed milk has double the calories (48kcals).

Nutritional facts – Almond milk (Alpro) versus semi-skimmed cows’ milk

Trendy superfood almond milk is touted as a healthy, dairy-free alternative to milk. But is it really a better dietary choice? Let’s see how 100mls of both compare:

  • Kcals: Almond milk 24 v cows’ milk 48
  • Carbohydrate: Almond milk 3g v cows’ milk 4.6g
  • Sugar: Almond milk 3g v cows’ milk 4.6g
  • Fibre: Almond milk 0.2g v cows’ milk <0.5g
  • Protein: Almond milk 0.5g v cows’ milk 3.5g
  • Fat: Almond milk 1.1g v cows’ milk 1.8g
  • Saturated fat: Almond milk 0.1g v cows’ milk 1.1g
  • Vitamins, minerals and miscellaneous: Alpro’s version of the popular nut milk is fortified to provide 15% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, vitamin D, E, B2 and B12. Cows’ milk has a better nutrient profile as it naturally provides double the amount of vitamin B12 and B2, and the same amount of calcium as almond milk. It’s also a good source of vitamin B1 and vitamin C and a modest source of vitamins E and A.

Winner: Cow’s milk. Although almond milk is lower in calories and slightly lower in sugar and fat, cows’ milk is a natural source of more vitamins, calcium and protein. In fact, almond milk is to cows’ milk what a dissolvable multivitamin is to a fresh fruit/vegetable smoothie. One is naturally crammed with goodness, while the other artificially mimics this goodness. If eating clean is important to you, the best option is quite clearly milk.

Worth the hype?

No. If you’re a fan of the popular nut milk because you like the taste and are on a dairy-free diet for personal or medical reasons then it could be a good fit for you. But if you’re adding it to your diet based on the belief that the drink boosts health, you’re wasting your money. There are much better dairy-free milk alternatives out there that actually benefit your health without artificial fortification, like coconut milk (which is naturally high in anti-bacterial agents, metabolism-boosting fatty acids and provides modest amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamin C). If you are a fan of almond milk, why not make your own at home and keep the pulp for cooking? By doing so you’ll still benefit from the fibre and nutrients in whole almonds, while enjoying the taste of the nut milk.

Source: Article by Dr. Lauretta Ihonor BSC. MBBS. MA (http://www.drlaurettaihonor.com/almond-milk-know-virtually-no-almonds/)

The Natural Benefits Of Grass-Fed Butter

Some of the most interesting cultural (and culinary) changes in the first 16 years of this century have been overturning popular, sustaining myths. Case in point: butter.

For many years, it was considered one of the worst things to be eating on a regular basis. This largely stems from the heart disease epidemic, which began around 1930. Heart disease is still one of the world’s leading causes of death. Around the 1950s, with the popularity of Ancel Keys, a nutritional researcher, came the idea that foods like butter, meat, and eggs were the problem. The problems were – supposedly – saturated fat and cholesterol. Keys gained popularity with his theory, but he also disregarded a lot of his own data, focusing instead on the data that did support his idea.

While the science is a little bit complex, one of the biggest flaws in this theory came from data that was obtained from feeding cholesterol to rabbits. Cholesterol then caused problems in the rabbits. This would be notable – except that rabbits are herbivores, and should not be able to tolerate cholesterol.

Another major flaw with the research was that Keys didn’t attempt to differentiate between heart healthy, beneficial fats and the detrimental kinds. He also didn’t take the real culprit behind many of the discovered health problems into consideration, i.e., sugar. Both of these scientific errors would be corrected in due time – though many researchers of the day openly critiqued his poor science. In fact, there was no correlation of dietary fat and heart disease when more countries beyond Key’s original picks were added.

Unfortunately, the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad was accepted wholesale. Luckily, as time (and better science) has proven, the idea of saturated fat and cholesterol causing heart disease doesn’t really hold up under basic scrutiny.

The changes that came from Keys may have done more harm than good, though. Once we stopped consuming foods like butter and replaced them with choices like margarine, our disease rates skyrocketed. If the problem of heart disease was simply caused by our traditional foods, we likely would have seen the lessening of disease rates, not an increase. Clearly something was off in recommending lower cholesterol and saturated fat intakes. As many in the scientific community have noted, saturated fat is simply not the problem.

Isn’t Margarine Healthier?

Another issue in our recent history has been the quality of our butter, or butter-like products, like margarine. There was a 20-year period in which margarine was thought to be a much better alternative than butter. That couldn’t have been a worse choice. Margarine is, for starters, one of the least natural “foods” ever created. It was created entirely in a lab, and was devised just as a cheaper way to serve butter. Cheaper – not healthier. That’s because margarine is made from poor quality oils, like sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, or rapeseed oil. These oils are pro-inflammatory and actually cause negative results for our health.

Since margarine wasn’t yellow, scientists had to further “enhance” their product by dying it yellow. Perhaps worst of all, margarine has always been made from trans fat. Trans fat is one of the only things that all health professionals can agree on: that it is utterly useless and completely dangerous to our health. Scientific studies have shown that trans fat can cause heart disease. It also may lead to diabetes, clogged arteries, and high cholesterol.

Why Grass-Fed Butter Is Better

Why is butter so much better than margarine, and why has it been avoided for so long? For starters, the idea that saturated fat is damaging has been proven untrue. Debunking this myth gets rid of a lot of the poor evidence presented by Keys and takes the impact out of many others who have used it to push the blame onto butter. Saturated fats can actually help your blood lipids. That is because saturated fats not only raise your good cholesterol, but they change the type of LDL cholesterol to the less dangerous, “large and fluffy” kind. We now know that there is much to measure in terms of cholesterol, not just total cholesterol. With advances in modern science and the widespread availability of information, we are able to much better discern the benefits of butter, and weed out poor science.

The Type of Butter Makes All the Difference

When it comes to the benefits of butter, the quality and source make all the difference. Just like the benefits of grass-fed beef are unique compared to grain-fed, grass-fed butter trumps all other kinds. Grass-fed butter is high in vitamin K2, which is a uniquely beneficial vitamin found in hardly any other foods. With the idea of healthy eating becoming more and more mainstream by the day, it is now easy to find grass-fed butter in nearly every store. My personal favorite that I put on everything is Kerrygold Pure Irish butter. Get the unsalted kind if you are looking for the absolute healthiest choice.

Grass-fed butter is also high in vitamin A, which is another overlooked nutrient we need. In addition, grass-fed butter can help build muscle and burn fat because it is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Grass-fed butter also has a near-perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. The specific type of acid found in grass-fed butter can help with cognitive function, your skin health, and even prostaglandin balance.

Grass-Fed Butter Is Anti-Inflammatory

Once upon a time, heart disease was thought to be caused by too much cholesterol. However, as time moved on, we have come to realize that inflammation is the real culprit behind many diseases. In fact, it is now known that excess inflammation in the endothelium is a critical part of plaque formation and – eventually – heart attacks.

One important nutrient in grass-fed butter that is particularly beneficial is butyrate (or butyric acid). Scientific studies have shown that this particular fatty acid is a potent anti-inflammatory substance. This means that grass-fed butter – long thought to worsen your odds for disease, is – instead – likely lowering your odds for developing disease.

Remember – quality is what counts. No matter what you are eating, the nutrient density and health effects of many dairy products can vary greatly, depending on the diet of the cows. Since grass is the natural, normal food for cows, dairy products from these cows is much healthier, specifically being much higher in omega-3s and vitamin K2. By contrast, grain-fed cows produce food with lower levels of beneficial nutrients. The positive effects of grass-fed butter are not just anecdotal – studies show that in areas where cows are grass-fed, individuals who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 70% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Those are some pretty strong numbers.

What Is the Science Behind Grass-Fed Butter?

While you might look at grass-fed butter and think it only consists of a block of yellow flubber, there are actually 400 different fatty acids at play inside the yellow exterior. There are also a large quantity of fat soluble vitamins as well as the aforementioned beneficial omega-3s. Remember, the science behind the “Lipid Hypothesis” has proven to be bunk. This poor science perpetuated dangerous health myths for many years, and we are only now beginning to understand just how damaging this misinformation has been to our collective health.

The Bottom Line

Grass-fed butter is one of the healthiest forms of fat you can include in your diet – full stop. Though it is hard to unlearn years of poor misinformation, it will benefit your health to understand why the recommendations of the past were actually harmful. However, remember that just because grass-fed butter is healthy, that doesn’t mean you can skip on all other elements of a healthy diet – namely eating plenty of vegetables and nutrient-rich foods. The main takeaway is to skip the margarine, use grass-fed butter instead (in moderation), and enjoy the taste of good health!

Source: Article by Casey Thaler (https://blog.paleohacks.com/grass-fed-butter/)

Can Some Trans Fats Be Healthy?

Trans fats are one of the few food components that are widely accepted as being unhealthy, and for good reason. Industrial trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into liquid vegetable oil, changing the chemical structure and causing the oil to become a solid fat. Trans fats are generally considered to be especially harmful because they raise total cholesterol while lowering HDL cholesterol. However, as usual with conventional nutrition advice, there is far more danger to trans fats than simply the effect they have on cholesterol ratios. Mark Sisson has written a helpful explanation as to why trans fats are best to be avoided.

However, it may surprise you to learn that many of the foods recommended on a Paleo or whole foods diet contain trans fats as well. Dairy fat and meats from grass eating “ruminant” animals contain significant amounts of trans fatty acids, and grass-fed animals actually have higher levels of these trans fats than grain fed animals. In fact, your grass-fed steak contains about 0.5g-1.4g of trans fat per ounce (28.3g) of total fat.

Does this mean we should avoid all grass-fed animal products, cut out red meat, and only eat fat-free dairy if we want to reduce our risk of heart disease? Not at all! These naturally occurring trans fats in ruminant animal products are not at all harmful to our health, and may actually reduce the development of many different chronic diseases.

CLA: How is it different than industrial trans fats?

Naturally occurring trans fats are formed when rumen bacteria in the stomachs of ruminant animals (cows, sheep, etc.) digest the grass the animal has eaten and form trans-rumenic and trans-vaccenic acid via biohydrogenation of polyunsaturated fats in the grass. Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, is a trans-rumenic acid that is found abundantly in grass-fed meat and dairy products, and to a lesser degree in grain-fed products. It is also produced in our bodies from the conversion of trans-vaccenic acid (VA) from those same animal products.

Industrial trans fats have slightly different chemical structures than those trans fats found in beef and butter (specifically, the location of the double bond). CLA also has contains both cis- and trans- bonds, whereas most industrial trans fats have only trans bonds. But these minor differences in structure lead to majorly different effects in the body, as has been shown in many clinical and epidemiological studies. While industrial trans fats are shown to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and obesity, CLA and other trans fats found naturally in animal products are actually thought to decrease the risk of those diseases.

Health benefits of CLA

The major difference between CLA and industrial trans fats is the effect they have on heart disease and atherosclerosis. Several clinical and epidemiological studies have been performed, and meta-analysis of these studies suggests that natural trans fats from animal products are not associated with any increased risk of heart disease. These studies have generally have shown either an inverse or no association between natural trans fat intake and heart disease across multiple geographical locations.

While there have been very few highly controlled clinical trials studying the effects of CLA and VA on heart disease and atherosclerosis, the few that exist also support the conclusion that these natural trans fats may actually reduce the risk of heart disease. In animal studies, CLA has demonstrated potent anti-atherogenic effects, preventing fatty streak and plaque formation in the arteries of rodents by changing macrophage lipid metabolism. While more research in humans is needed, it seems that grass-fed dairy and meat products, high in both CLA and vitamin K2, are some of the best foods you can eat if you’re looking to prevent a heart attack.

CLA may also be helpful in preventing the development and improving the management of type II diabetes. In rats, CLA has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle insulin action. Research has also demonstrated that CLA may reduce hyperinsulinemia by increasing the production of adiponectin, a hormone that can lead to enhanced insulin action and improve insulin sensitivity. Epidemiological evidence suggests that there is an inverse association between CLA levels in adipose tissue and diabetes risk, further supporting the hypothesis that CLA may be involved in healthy insulin regulation.

CLA has even been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, in both experimental and case control studies. It appears to work primarily by blocking the growth and metastatic spread of tumors, controlling the cell cycle, and by reducing inflammation. CLA is able to interrupt the omega-6 PUFA metabolic pathway for the synthesis of eicosanoids, preventing the inflammatory processes that promote cancer development. This may be one reason why dairy consumption has been shown to be inversely associated with certain cancers like breast and colorectal cancer. Based on these animal and human studies, it’s possible that CLA plays a role in cancer prevention.

You may have seen CLA supplements advertised as a weight loss promoter. Some research suggests that CLA can help reduce body fat and promote weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. In a few studies, dietary supplementation of CLA has been shown to increase lean body mass, reduce body fat mass, and improve overall body composition in overweight individuals. It is thought that CLA may promote improvements in body composition by increasing the breakdown and reducing the storage of body fat. That said, this reduction in body fat is small, so CLA may not cause significant weight loss in the way that supplement advertisers would suggest. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt in your weight loss efforts to increase your dietary CLA.

These studies certainly provide interesting food for thought about CLA’s possible health benefits. That said, I think we need more high quality human research before we can be certain about CLA’s role in human health and disease. The good news is that all of the foods CLA is present in are beneficial in other ways, so you’ll get enough CLA simply by emphasizing grass-fed meat and dairy products (assuming you tolerate dairy).

Dietary Sources of CLA

So now that you know some of the incredible benefits of natural trans fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vaccenic acid (VA), how can you increase them in your diet?

As I mentioned earlier, grass-fed dairy and meat are the best sources of CLA and VA. In fact, 100% grass-fed animal products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed grain. And since CLA is in the fat, the best sources will be fattier cuts of meat, bone marrow, high-fat dairy products like butter and whole milk, and full fat cheeses. Eatwild.com has some great information about CLA in food products, and even has a product directory that allows you to search locally for food made from animals raised on fresh pasture.

Some people may believe that supplementing CLA has the same potential benefits as eating a diet rich in CLA. I disagree, and believe that these supplements could be potentially harmful. Most CLA supplements are derived from linoleic acid in safflower oil, and some studies have shown that CLA supplementation in humans can cause fatty liver, inflammation, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance. Furthermore, CLA supplements have not demonstrated the beneficial effects seen from dietary intake of CLA in human trials. This may be due to the composition of synthetic CLA supplements; 50% of the product is an unnamed isomer, and is an entirely different fatty acid than the CLA and VA found in meat and dairy products.

It’s always better to get nutrients from food rather than supplements whenever possible, and CLA is no exception. So if you’re looking for a heart-healthy, cancer-preventing diet, be sure to include plenty of grass-fed beef, butter, and cheese. (And don’t worry if your doctor thinks you’re crazy!)

Source: Article by Chris Kresser (https://chriskresser.com/can-some-trans-fats-be-healthy/)