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This fatty acid might naturally help with Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Omega-6 fatty acid and Crohn's disease

Researchers discovered a fatty acid that could curb inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) was found by researchers to help reduce Crohn’s activity and improved quality of life, in addition to being well tolerated. If you haven’t asked your doctor about supplementing with CLA, you may want to consider a discussion about the potential benefits if you have Crohn’s disease.

Where does CLA come from?

The fatty acid is found in many foods. It can also be taken in capsule form. CLA is found in dairy products.

Some of the healthiest sources might be from yogurt and cottage cheese. Many people report yogurt helps symptoms of Crohn’s disease, yet studies don’t completely support that probiotics help the disease. For some patients, Crohn’s symptoms might improve because yogurt has conjugated linoleic acid. Other sources of CLA are eggs, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Grass-fed beef is also an excellent source of CLA that also promotes muscle mass and might help prevent cancer.

CLA is also linked to lower rates of cancer and is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. A healthy diet should include a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

"Furthermore, we have demonstrated that probiotic bacteria can produce CLA locally and suppress colitis. Therefore, CLA can be administered directly in capsules or indirectly through CLA-producing probiotic bacteria," said Dr. Raquel Hontecillas, an Assistant Professor of Immunology at The Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory (NIMML) research team at Virginia Tech where the study was conducted.

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The finding that was published October, 2012 in the Clinical Journal of Nutrition included 13 patients with mild to moderately active Crohn’s disease. They were given 6 grams of CLA by mouth for 12 weeks.

The researchers for the study discovered the fatty acid modulated the immune system to reduce harmful cytokines that lead to inflammation. The action of CLA came from it’s effect on T-cells that are immune fighting cells. CLA stopped the ability of T-cells to produce cytokines.

CLA a powerful anti-inflammatory

“CLA is an example of an anti-inflammatory compound in a pipeline of naturally occurring and synthetic compounds (e.g., abscisic acid, eleostearic acid, terephthalanilides) with tremendous therapeutic and prophylactic potential as anti-inflammatories," said Dr. Josep Bassaganya-Riera, a Professor of Immunology, principal investigator of this human clinical trial, and the Director of the NIMML and the Center for Modeling Immunity to Enteric Pathogens.”

Boosting CLA in the diet from healthy food sources or taking it in supplement form is worth revisiting as a treatment for Crohn’s disease if you are struggling. Too often, small studies that can benefit patients get “lost”. The aim of the researchers was to help Crohn’s disease sufferers find a natural way to deal with symptoms of Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, both of which are forms of IBD. The benefit is that CLA can have fewer side effects than medications. You can view a PDF of the study here.

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