Modulation of body composition and immune cell functions by conjugated linoleic acid in humans and animal models: Benefits vs. risks

D. S. Kelley, Kent L Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


We have reviewed the published literature regarding the effects of CLA on body composition and immune cell functions in humans and in animal models. Results from studies in mice, hamsters, rats, and pigs generally support the notion that CLA reduced depot fat in the normal or lean strains. However, in obese rats, it increased body fat or decreased it less than in the corresponding lean controls. These studies also indicate that t10,c12-CLA was the isomer that reduced adipose fat; however, it also increased the fat content of several other tissues and increased circulating insulin and the saturated FA content of adipose tissue and muscle. Four of the eight published human studies found small but significant reductions in body fat with CLA supplementation; however, the reductions were smaller than the prediction errors for the methods used. The other four human studies found no change in body fat with CLA supplementation. These studies also report that CLA supplementation increased the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease including increased blood glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, VLDL, C-reactive protein, lipid peroxidation, and decreased HDL. Most studies regarding the effects of CLA on immune cell functions have been conducted with a mixture of isomers, and the results have been variable. One study conducted in mice with the purified c9,t1 1-CLA and t10,c12-CLA isomers indicated that the two isomers have similar effects on immune cell functions. Some of the reasons for the discrepancies between the effects of CLA in published reports are discussed. Although significant benefit to humans from CLA supplementation is questionable, it may create several health risks in both humans and animals. On the basis of the published data, CLA supplementation of adult human diets to improve body composition or enhance immune functions cannot be recommended at this time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-386
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry


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