What is CLA in Beef and Why It Matters

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a beneficial fatty acid found naturally in beef and dairy products. CLA levels are significantly higher in beef and dairy from grass-fed cows. Understanding the health benefits of CLA and how to get more of it from your diet can help you make informed choices about the beef and dairy you buy.

What is CLA?

CLA stands for conjugated linoleic acid. It is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that is formed in the first stomach (rumen) of cattle as they digest greens and grass. CLA is produced by bacteria in the rumen that interact with linoleic acid from the chlorophyll in greens.

There are 28 different forms of CLA, but the most common and most studied is called cis-9, trans-11 CLA or rumenic acid. This is the predominant form of CLA in beef and dairy.

CLA Content in Beef

The amount of CLA in beef depends largely on the cow’s diet. Grain-fed cattle have only about one-third the amount of CLA compared to grass-fed cattle.

On average, grass-fed beef contains 2-3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef:

  • Grass-fed beef: 2-8 mg of CLA per gram of fat
  • Grain-fed beef: 0.6-2 mg of CLA per gram of fat

An 85g serving of grass-fed ground beef can contain over 90mg of CLA, compared to about 30mg in regular ground beef.

Top 5 Health Benefits of CLA

Extensive research over the past few decades has uncovered many health benefits of CLA. Here are some of the top ways CLA may boost your health:

1. Burns Body Fat

CLA can help increase fat burning and metabolism. Studies show doses of 3-5 grams per day can decrease body fat mass in humans. CLA helps inhibit genes responsible for fat cell production.

2. Builds Muscle

Along with burning fat, CLA also helps promote the growth of lean muscle mass. The combination makes it an effective supplement for weight loss and body composition goals.

3. Fights Inflammation

CLA exhibits anti-inflammatory effects that may help several conditions tied to excessive inflammation like arthritis, eczema, and asthma. CLA helps calm immune overreactions.

4. Protects Heart Health

Research shows CLA can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, plaque formation, and cardiovascular disease risk. It supports healthy blood lipid profiles.

5. Controls Blood Sugar

CLA may help improve insulin resistance, fasting glucose levels, and diabetic outcomes. It shows promise for helping manage blood sugar spikes.

Where to Find CLA

The best sources of CLA are grass-fed beef and dairy products. Some good options include:

  • Ground beef
  • Steaks
  • Dairy milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese

Aim for grass-fed whenever possible, since grain-finishing reduces CLA content. Small amounts occur in turkey, chicken, eggs, and plant oils but much less than ruminant meats and dairy offer.

How Much CLA Do You Need?

There is no established daily value (DV) for CLA intake. However, studies show health benefits with around 3-5 grams daily. Most people consume 150-220mg per day – not enough for significant impact.

With grass-fed beef containing 2-8mg CLA per gram of fat, it’s possible to get beneficial amounts through diet alone. But supplements are also a simple option.

Top 5 Tips to Get More CLA

Here are some easy ways to increase your CLA intake:

  • Choose grass-fed beef instead of conventional
  • Switch to grass-fed dairy products
  • Select fattier cuts like ribeye over lean cuts
  • Cook with grass-fed butter instead of oils
  • Take a CLA supplement with meals

The Beef with CLA

As a natural trans fat, CLA offers powerful health benefits. Grass-fed beef provides much higher amounts than grain-fed. Choosing grass-fed meat and dairy whenever possible maximizes your CLA intake.

With anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, heart-healthy, and muscle-building effects, it’s worth seeking out CLA-rich foods. Just 3-5g daily is enough to see results – easily achievable through a CLA-conscious diet.

So next time you buy beef or dairy, look for “grass-fed” on the label. Your body will thank you for the extra dose of this magical fatty acid!

What is CLA and Why Is it Such a Big Deal (or not)


What are the benefits of CLA in meat?

Grass-fed beef also contains plenty of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). And the benefits of CLA range from better athletic performance to weight loss and lean muscle gains. Some show it may even lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.

How much CLA is in beef?

Total CLA (mg/g fat)a
Fresh ground beef
Beef round

What is CLA and is it safe?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of fat. Dairy and beef are major sources of CLA in the diet. Most CLA supplements are made from safflower oil. CLA might help reduce body fat deposits and improve immune function.

What foods are highest in CLA?

(2020) recommended that a dietary intake of 3.2 g/day CLA preserve the muscle mass in the trunk region. The highest quantity of CLA is found in mutton, beef, and milk (Table 1.5).

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