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Most studies of CLAs have used a mixture of isomers wherein the isomers c9, t11-CLA and t10, c12-CLA were the most abundant ones.
Conjugated linoleic acid is both a trans fatty acid and a cis fatty acid. The cis bond causes a lower melting point and ostensibly also the observed beneficial health effects. Unlike other trans fatty acids, it is not harmful, but beneficial.CLA is conjugated, and in the United States, trans linkages in a conjugated system are not counted as trans fats for the purposes of nutritional regulations and labeling. CLA and some trans isomers of oleic acid are produced by microorganisms in the rumens of ruminants. Non-ruminants, including humans, produce certain isomers of CLA from trans isomers of oleic acid, such as vaccenic acid, which is converted to CLA by delta-9-desaturase
There are concerns that the use of CLA by overweight people may tend to cause or to aggravate insulin resistance, which may increase their risk of developing diabetes.However, the evidence is controversial, and some studies showed no changes in insulin sensitivity.
In one study CLA produced a 32% increase in biliary cholesterol concentration which increases the chance of gallstone formation.
In 2006, a study by the US Department of Agriculture suggested that CLA can induce essential fatty acid redistribution in mice. Changes in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) levels were observed in some organs. For instance, certain CLA isomers reduced the DHA content of heart tissue by 25%, while in the spleen, DHA content rose, and AA fell.A study of CLA supplementation in hatchling chicks (2005) showed high mortality and low hatchability rates among CLA-supplemented groups, and also a decrease in brain DHA levels of CLA-treated chicks. These studies raise the question of whether CLA may increase the risk of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, but it has yet to be established whether such changes occur in humans, and whether they are clinically relevant.