The good version of linoleic acid
One of the omegas that doesn’t get a lot of press coverage is CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). It is the “good” cousin of linoleic acid, which has undergone one of several chemical modifications to the double bonds.
The t10, c12 version of CLA has been found to do several worthwhile things
- It decreases fat levels in animals and humans
- It stops the development of non-alcoholic fatty acid liver disease
- It interferes with the growth of colon cancer cells in the laboratory
Where do you find it ?
The most common source of CLA is milk – the full cream version which the typical dieter avoids like the plague. So, those interested in exploiting its powers need to turn to the supplement isle in the local pharmacy or health store.
But, scientists at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in Ireland recently described another way to bump up your CLA consumption – a laboratory designed Lactobacillus bacteria.
Designing a designer probiotic
Lactobacillus are a group of bacteria that humans have been exploiting for years. These little guys turn milk into yoghurt performing the chemical conversion of lactose into lactic acid. Unfortunately, they’re not terribly good at making CLA.
However, Propionibacterium acnes, makes the stuff very efficiently. But Propionibacterium acnes sucks at making yoghurt, its special talent is creating carbuncles on the skin during the turmultous teenage years.
The scientists took the gene which allows Propionibacterium to make CLA and gave it to Lactobacillus. Creating a very special bacteria which is able to make both yoghurt and CLA.
Designer bacteria kept mice thin
The special bacteria were added to the menu of mice. The bacteria bumped up the level of CLA in the mice by a factor of 4. The extra load of CLA helped keep the mice lean, as expected.
The benefits of designer probiotics
The biggest benefit of this approach to supplementing your CLA probiotically, rather than chemically, is going to be cost.
A tub of this special yoghurt, even if it is significantly more expensive than conventional yoghurt, will ultimately give you more value for money. The pills need to be taken every day, but establishing a population of bacteria in your gut capable of helping you make CLA won’t take daily yoghurt consumption.
An added bonus is the chemical version of CLA will be consistent. There are several different versions (isomers) of conjugated linoleic acid and the health benefits / risks vary among the compounds.
Bacteria the new drugs
Don’t expect yoghurt to hit the shelves soon. I suspect this idea will take years to hit the market, but it is the shape of things to come. Future medicines will not be restricted to chemicals but will include living bacteria.Recombinant lactobacilli expressing linoleic acid isomerase can modulate the fatty acid composition of host adipose tissue in mice. Microbiology 157 (2011), 609-615 ; Eva Rosberg-Cody, Catherine Stanton, Liam O’Mahony, Rebecca Wall, Fergus Shanahan, Eamonn Quigley, Gerald Fitzgerald and Paul Ross.
Interested in learning more about how bacteria can change your chemistry ?
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