CORVALLIS, Ore. -- New research from Oregon State University suggests that eggs enriched with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a long chain fatty acid, may increase antioxidant activity while helping to rid the body of cholesterol and fats.
A diet containing CLA may decrease risks of cardiovascular disease and help prevent chronic illness, said Gita Cherian, a researcher in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.
CLA occurs naturally in the fats of ruminant animals like cattle, sheep and goats and in the dairy products derived from these animals. Synthetic CLA has also been produced, but its effect on health is inferior to the natural form, said Cherian.
"CLA is a component of fat," said Cherian. "As the western diet has shifted from including meats, whole milk and cheeses to focusing instead on reduced fat, nonfat and more processed foods, we have inadvertently removed much of what we need to be healthy."
Cherian used chicken eggs to incorporate more CLA into a typical western diet. Eggs are high in nutrients, versatile, inexpensive and popular in many cultures, she said. They provide a feasible alternate source of CLA for humans, and the unique properties of CLA seem to remove the cholesterol that leads to so many people asking for cereal instead of sunny-side up, said Cherian.
"In studies with hamsters, the cholesterol and fat from the yolks were excreted," she said. "We actually saw higher levels of cholesterol coming out of the animals when CLA enriched eggs were included in the diet."
Based on previously published research by others, about three grams of CLA per day would be required to produce beneficial effects in humans. Currently, we consume about 600 milligrams of CLA per day, said Cherian, adding that one serving of CLA enriched eggs could provide more than 640 milligrams. To find the same benefit from milk, you would have to drink about 7.4 cups of whole milk, said Cherian.
"We've taken so much of the animal fat out of our diet, yet Americans are more overweight than ever," she said. "The preliminary research suggests that there is likely a connection between the nutrients found in natural fats and the needs of our bodies."
Cherian, an animal scientist, said enhancing the nutritional value of food is a way to add value to what people eat. As people shy away from animal fat and red meat, CLA enriched eggs, mayonnaise, salad dressings and baked goods may be an alternative system for delivering these important fatty acids, she said.
A Linus Pauling Institute Pilot Project Grant funded Cherian's work on the health effects of CLA enriched eggs.
About the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences: The college contributes in many ways to the economic and environmental sustainability of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. The college's faculty are leaders in agriculture and food systems, natural resources management, life sciences and rural economic development research.
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