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Research eyes benefits of trans fats in beef, milk

An Alberta multi-commodity livestock industry fund will put up $2 million for research into naturally-occurring trans fats and their health benefits.

The Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund (ALIDF) said Wednesday it will fund a five-year research program, to be led by the Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition at the University of Alberta. The program is part of the CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) Network, a joint private/public/academic team focused on CLAs produced by ruminants.

Past research by the University of Alberta and the CLA Network has indicated that the major types of natural trans fats found in dairy and beef products are not harmful and in fact show health-boosting properties, network leaders said in a release Wednesday.

The new five-year research program is meant to further establish and understand said health benefits, including through human clinical trials.

The funding support and research plans represent an important strategic partnership bringing together industry and research as well as human health and agriculture, said Dr. Spencer Proctor, the CLA Network’s science lead, in the release.

?We have the world-class science, research team and the network in place to do great things,” he said. “This type of funding support allows us to realize this potential. It also provides invaluable anchor support that will help us to attract additional investment and resources.?

CLAs, which are technically trans fats, have been shown to contain strong antioxidant, anti-tumour and other health-boosting properties, the network said. Studies based on animal models have shown CLAs’ “considerable potential” for human health benefits beyond just basic nutrition, such as helping to prevent or fight cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease and metabolic syndrome, as well as to improve bone density.

The network also pointed to promising avenues of research in trans vaccenic acid (VA), another dairy and beef fatty acid that is converted to CLA in the human body.

Proctor said his and his colleagues’ research showed feeding VAs was tied to a “major lowering” of triglyceride levels and a modest lowering of both total and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, thus lowering risks for cardiovascular disease and other health threats.

?Knowledge of both CLA and VA can go a long way in helping the public to learn that there is a clear difference between natural trans fats from livestock products and harmful hydrogenated trans fat created through industrial processing,? he said in Wednesday’s release. ?This can help to revitalize the health image of dairy and beef products, and drive numerous innovations spanning product development, nutrition and health.?

Along with ALIDF, Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Beef Information Centre have also generally funded the CLA Network’s research work.

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