Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) are a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), some isomers occurring naturally in beef and dairy products and others being formed as a result of bihydrogenation of vegetable oils to form margarine. Synthetic and natural sources of CLA may have beneficial effects in a range of inflammatory conditions including colitis, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the biological effects have been attributed to the cis9, trans11- (c9, t11-) and the trans10, cis12- (t10, c12-) isomers. Evidence suggests that c9, t11-CLA is responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect attributed to CLA while t10, t12-CLA appears to be responsible for anti-adipogenic effects. This review will focus on the effects of CLA on the inflammatory components associated with insulin resistance, atherosclerosis and Th1 mediated inflammatory disease, at a cellular, systemic and clinical level. Whist CLA may ameliorate certain aspects of the inflammatory response, particularly within cellular and animal models, the relevance of this has yet to be clarified within the context of human health.
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