Type 2 Diabetes and Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs)

Like fructose, red meat has its share of bad publicity. The high level of saturated fats in this variant of meat fends off health practitioners and health buff alike. Random studies, however, found that the triglyceride-loaded red meat also abounds with potent nutrient known as Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs).

CLAs are clusters of fatty acids found in beef and dairy products believed to be essential to long-term weight management specifically to diabetic patients. The trans-10 (t10) and cis-12 (c12) in CLAs were found to function precisely like thiazolidinediones (TZDs). The said isomers have the capacity to create an insulin-sensitizing effect to the cells. Unlike TZDs, CLAs can reduce body fat and boost weight loss.

TZDs include pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and troglitazone (Rezulin). Rezulin was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2000 after it was linked to liver failure. Avandia’s use was strictly regulated in 2011 due to its users developing cardiovascular problems. Actos, the only shelf-available TZD, is facing mounting Actos lawsuits as a result of the link between Actos and bladder cancer.

Other health benefits of CLAs include prevention of cancer (lung, colorectal, skin, breast, and stomach), cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and inflammation. Another study found that a 0.5 percent of CLA in the diet could shrink tumors by 50 percent.

In a 2009 study sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), grass-fed cattle are found to have levels of CLA three to five times higher than their grain-fed counterparts. Moreover, meat and milk from cows, which fed on grass are generally lower in total fat specifically saturated fat but higher in beta-carotene, vitamins E and B, minerals (calcium, magnesium, and potassium), and omega 3 and 6. A diet of grass-fed cattle is estimated to shed 17 thousand calories or six pounds per year off an average American.

Majority of commercially available red meat and dairy products in the country are from grain-fed cattle. The USDA said that in 2010, grass-fed beef made up three percent of the U.S. beef market and was growing at 20 percent rate per year.

While medical researchers do not recommend over-consumption of red meat, they are hopeful that more studies will be devoted to foods containing CLAs and eventually pave to addressing the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the country.

CLAs can also be found in button and agaricus mushrooms. The said fatty acids are rarely found in plants.

The American Diabetes Organization (ADA), however, warned against the safety of dietary supplements containing t10 and c12-CLA. ADA said t10 and c12-CLA supplementation might alter human’s sensitivity to insulin. Further studies are needed to ensure the safety of CLA supplements to the human body. A study conducted by the Ohio State University’s Department of Human Nutrition published in 2008 by the Journal of Lipid Research proved otherwise.

Also in 2008, the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) accorded CLA a “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” status. With GRAS status, food manufacturers can now add CLA to products like milk, yogurt, shakes, nutritional bars, soymilk, and fruit juices.

Like fructose, CLAs are still best consumed on their unprocessed or less-processed form. A daily diet, which includes 15-174 mg of CLA, is beneficial to the body. For obese patients, a dose of 1.8 to 7 grams per day is advised.

Milk fat on an average contains 5 mg of CLA per gram of fat while meat fat from lamb contains 6 mg/g, 4mg/g  for beef, and 2mg/g  for veal.

The recent findings on the health value of fructose and red meat lead us to one conclusion: the formula to controlling glucose levels is not largely dependent on the kind of food we eat, rather, on the quantity and frequency certain food is consumed.

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