To Your Health!: Mommy, what’s CLA?

To Your Health!

By Richard S. Gubbe

When asked by an inquisitive child, “What do cows eat?”, the question should be correctly answered with “grass.” Cows know where to get the nutrients they need. As humans, our minds recall where we get the nutrients we need, thus we tend to eat those things over and over.

Fast-food joints also supply a modicum of nutrients that our brain recalls. Junk food chains attract customers with the additional lure of fat and salt. As one food chemist once told me, “Unless we put fat or sugar or both in the product, no one wanted to eat it.”

A cow may have more sense than we do. Hence, the better question for little Johnnie to ask is, “Why do cows eat grass?”

Cows eat grass because it has what the cow needs most—a higher concentration of CLA.

The moniker CLA stands for a good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid,” which may be a potent cancer fighter a cow passes along to humans in their meat and dairy contributions. In animal studies, small amounts of CLA have blocked the growth of cancer.

Although human CLA research is in its infancy, a few studies have suggested CLA may have similar benefits in people. One recent survey determined women with the most CLA in their diets had a 60 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer. The study was titled “Inverse Association between Dietary and Serum Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women.”

Other European studies have linked a diet high in CLA with a lower risk of breast cancer. French researchers measured CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women. Once again, the women with the most CLA had “a 74 percent lower risk of cancer.”

A lean burger from grass-fed cattle has two-and-a-half times more conjugated linoleic acid than an equally lean hamburger from cattle raised in a feedlot. Turkeys and wild game also contain higher levels of CLA than pigs or chickens.

Cows that get all their nutrients from grass produce milk with 86 percent more vitamin E, according to a recent study. The standard dairy diet for cows consists of large amounts of corn and soy. Organic dairies raise their cows on pasture and supplement them with organic concentrate; others keep their cows indoors and feed them organic concentrate and stored grasses. The more freshly-grazed grass in a cow’s diet, the more vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and CLA found.

But for the quick fix of consumption through pills or recycled grease, CLA could be risky and perhaps fruitless in results. Studies are under way.

All cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows is rich in CLA. However, the cheese-making process itself can increase or decrease the amount. The highest amounts of CLA were found in soft cheeses aged approximately three months. Longer aging periods reduced CLA. Brick, swiss, muenster, colby and blue cheese have the highest amounts of CLA.

The true power of cheese lies in organics.

Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a longtime Rockford resident who has taught at Rock Valley College since 2003.

From the April 20-26, 2011 issue

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