In a study published in Cancer Letters, an international scientific journal, researchers at Harvard Medical School have identified molecular components in the dietary supplement conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) as potentially influential in the reduction of colorectal and prostatic cancer cells.
A naturally occurring fatty acid found primarily in milk, beef and dairy products, CLA is part of the omega-6 fatty acid family. Its mechanism of action, however, mimics that of omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil, which have been proven to have significant health benefits. Mounting scientific evidence now suggests that some omega-6 dietary fatty acids, such as CLA, can inhibit tumor growth and proliferation of human cancer cells.
“There are specific isomers within CLA that exhibit an inhibitory effect on cancer proliferation,” says Dr. John Palombo, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. He notes that CLA contains two molecular components, or active isomers, which exhibited the greatest potency against colorectal cancer cells in his studies. Both isomers were also shown to be moderately effective against prostatic cancer cells. The specific CLA studied was the CLA One brand from PharmaNutrients, Inc., Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Encouraging results from the in vitro study have increased scientific interest in the possible use of CLA and other nutrition and natural interventions as a safe and effective adjuvant therapeutic agent against cancer versus aggressive pharmacological therapy that has attending adverse side effects.
Palombo cautioned that CLA should be studied further. “These in vitro results indicate that the cancer-reducing properties of CLA or its constituent isomers are not equivalent. The net reduction in cancer cell proliferation appears to be dependent upon the type and concentration of CLA isomer used. A better understanding of novel CLA preparations and their constituent isomers is required before initiating intervention (human clinical) trials of CLA in patients undergoing treatment of colorectal and prostate cancer, as well as individuals at risk for these cancers.”
Other research to date suggests CLA may also help maintain a healthy heart and veins, maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, act as an anti-oxidant and possess anti-atherogenic properties. Recent human studies appear to indicate positive effects in helping to control plasma lipids, blood glucose and body weight when used in conjunction with diet and exercise.