Photo of cows in the mist
Eating grass means animals produce meat and milk with healthier fats like CLA, a beneficial treatment for IBS [Image: Pikaluk UK - Wikmedia Commons]

Healthy animal fat improves IBS symptoms

20 March, 2012

Natural Health News — People with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease may respond to a natural treatment with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – a naturally occurring fat found in meat and dairy products.

“In our recent open label study of CLA as a supplement in study subjects with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease there was a marked improvement in disease activity and quality of life in 50% of the subjects.” said lead researcher Professor Kim L. Isaacs, a Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. CLA was also well tolerated by all of the study subjects a finding which Isaacs said was “encouraging”.

Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are both types of Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD). Symptoms include abdominal cramping, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, skin and mouth ulcers and diarrhoea or constipation. In addition, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases by about 1% each year in IBD patients. Currently, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease and the exact causes of it aren’t fully understood.

Natural anti-inflammatory

In this study CLA proved to be an effective anti-inflammatory treatment for  those afflicted with mild to moderate IBD without the unwanted side effects of many synthetic drugs.

“Furthermore,” said co-researcher Dr Raquel Hontecillas, an Assistant Professor of Immunology at the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory (NIMML) research at Virginia Tech “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.”

More research is necessary, say the scientists, to understand the best way to take CLA as a supplement. The study’s full findings are reported in a forthcoming edition of the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Not all fats are the same

The results may surprise some especially in an era where we are increasingly encouraged to eat less meat and less fat.

Those who promote eating less meat, generally also advocate eating better quality meat. This inevitably means organic and pasture-fed meat. And pasture fed meat (and dairy) has been shown to be higher in healthy fats like CLA.

Also, oversimplification of the fat/disease argument fails to recognise that many foods naturally contain some fat, that there are many different types of fat and most of them have beneficial properties in appropriate amounts. In excess or when out of balance with each other, however, some of them – even so-called ‘healthy’ polyunsaturates –  can be harmful. The key is the balance of naturally occurring fats in our diets rather than the wholesale avoidance of one or two in the name of  ‘health’.

Overall consuming better quality, organic grass fed meat and consciously reducing your consumption of man-made  partially hydrogenated fats could have lasting health benefits for the general population and this latest study shows promise for CLA supplementation in those who suffer with difficult to treat IBD.