Beef and cheese are good sources of a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA for short. (There is also a linolenic acid, with an n, in some healthy plant oils.) Strictly speaking, CLA is a trans- fat, but it is the one trans- fat that isn't bad for you. Research studies with animals in the lab have found that it fights cancer, lowers blood sugar levels, lowers fat mass, and may reverse atherosclerosis. It seems to help animals in the lab lose weight by sending fat cells into some kind of nirvana where they voluntarily undergo apoptosis, the end of their life cycle, once they have absorbed this wonderful fat.
Of course, if you stuff yourself with cheeseburgers, the fat cells that are left behind will just have to do double duty. And in clinical trials with human volunteers, the benefits of CLA seem to be helping dieters maintain healthy weight once they have lost the pounds, or in losing weight from fat rather than muscle. The benefit of taking a CLA supplement while dieting averages about a pound or two--but every pound helps. Even when users didn't lose weight, they lost waistline inches, so that's another potential benefit of the supplement.
The best way to consume CLA is not from the foods that are richest in it, such as the cheeseburger, but rather as a supplement. This is because conjugated linoleic acid is not the only fat you get in your burger! If you were to consume just the beef and the cheese, you would have fewer problems with blood sugar control afterwards. However, the combination of beef, bread, cheese, and ketchup is literally addictive, and as Bev discusses in her book Eat to Beat the Belly Fat Blues, they are even harder for your body to handle if you eat them later in the day.
But when you take CLA in capsule form you get the modest benefits for weight loss plus:
- Less inflammation in your belly fat, so you lose a small amount of water weight, that allows you to tighten your belt,
- Easier control over your appetite, especially if nighttime eating is a problem, and
- Better blood sugar control, too.
Norris LE, Collene AL, Asp ML, Hsu JC, Liu LF, Richardson JR, Li D, Bell D, Osei K, Jackson RD, Belury MA. Comparison of dietary conjugated linoleic acid with safflower oil on body composition in obese postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Sep;90(3):468-76. Epub 2009 Jun 17.
Ocaña A, Gómez-Asensio C, Arranz-Gutiérrez E, Torres C, Señoráns FJ, Reglero G. In vitro study of the effect of diesterified alkoxyglycerols with conjugated linoleic acid on adipocyte inflammatory mediators.
Lipids Health Dis. 2010 Apr 6;9:36.
Image credit: National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia.