Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), found naturally in meat and dairy products, offers several health benefits, including improving fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity and protection against heart disease and cancer. At the National Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, researchers found that high full-fat dairy food and CLA intake reduces the risk colorectal cancer.

Using a study group of 60,708 women, aged 40-76 years, researchers looked at the consumption of high-fat dairy foods from 1987 to 1990, and again in 1997. They found that women who consumed four or more servings per day of high-fat dairy foods (whole milk, full-fat cultured milk, cheese, cream, sour cream and butter) had a reduced risk of colorectal cancer compared with women who consumed less than one serving per day. Each increment of two servings of high-fat dairy foods per day corresponded to a 13% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer.

CLA, which is also available as a dietary supplement, also may help prevent breast cancer, according to researchers at the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York. From their lab study, these researchers found that when lab rats were fed CLA, particularly during puberty, it made a significant impact on the growth of mammary cancer cells and also had anti-tumour effects. Their research confirmed that CLA had various important actions on the body, which combined to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels and new cells in vivo and thus reduced cancer growth.

Sources: Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Oct;82(4):894-900; J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2003 Jan;8(1):103-18