CLA shows promise to boost bottom line of dairy producers

CANADA - "CLA" is a new term to most dairy producers but the remarkable health potential of this natural food component could soon make it a valuable selling feature of dairy products.
calendar icon 8 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a unique fatty acid produced only by ruminant animals, and found naturally in dairy and beef products. Though research is in early stages, pioneering studies based largely on animal models show considerable CLA potential for human health benefits related to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and bone density.

"Milk is nature's most perfect food - that's been our line for a long time," says Bruce Beattie, a Sundre, Alta., dairy farmer and Chair of the CLA Network. "As we learn more about the components of milk through research, we're just finding more reasons to back that up."

The CLA Network is an organization founded in Canada in recent years to harvest the potential of natural CLA in dairy and beef. The network is a collaborative team from academia, industry and government, including representatives from many areas of expertise such as research, food industry, health and communications.

Network members have been very active in studying CLA health benefits, the impact on animals and the methods of increasing CLA in dairy products. Studies have confirmed this natural CLA is transferred into dairy products as a portion of milk fat, and the natural CLA level can be multiplied through a variety of livestock production strategies.

"It doesn't matter whether it's cheese or yogurt or milk or ice cream, the potential is there to have a higher level of CLA and to emphasize CLA as one of the positive aspects of the product," says Beattie.

CLA can help strengthen the health image of dairy products, increase demand for existing products and create opportunities to introduce new health-oriented products with enhanced CLA. "All of that can support the bottom line of producers and strengthen the long-term outlook for the industry," he says.

One of the most simple and effective ways of increasing CLA produced by dairy cows is adding a dietary supplement of plant oil or seed that is high in linoleic acid. This method has resulted in increases of two-to-four times the natural CLA level in milk fat.

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