Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a generic term denoting a group of naturally occurring isomers of linoleic acid (18:2, n6) that differ in the position or geometry (i.e. cis or trans) of their double bonds. The predominant isomers in ruminant fats are cis-9,trans-11 CLA (c9,t11-CLA), and trans-10,cis-12 CLA (t10,c12-CLA). The biological activities of CLA have received considerable attention because of its protective effects in cancer, immune function, obesity and atherosclerosis. Importantly, dietary administration of a blend of the two most abundant isomers of CLA, has been shown to inhibit the progression and induce the regression of pre-established atherosclerosis in the ApoE⁻/⁻ murine model. Studies investigating the mechanisms involved in CLA induced protective effects are continually emerging with results from both in vitro and in vivo models yielding confounding and often inconsistent results depending on both the isomer of CLA and the species under investigation. The purpose of this review is to comprehensively discuss the effects of CLA on monocyte/macrophage function in atherosclerosis. This review also discusses the possible mechanisms through which CLA mediates its atheroprotective effects with a particular emphasis on the migratory capacity of the monocyte and the inflammatory and cholesterol homeostasis of the macrophage.
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