OK, I have a confession. I’m obsessed with a study called “Conjugated Linoleic Acid in Adipose Tissue and Risk of Myocardial Infarction”. It offers support for a food principle that I’ve been preaching about for a long time: the benefits of grass-fed beef and dairy. Here, it’s specifically on heart attacks and one of my favorite fats, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Grass contains soluble fiber and fermentable sugars that make ruminant stomachs–the stomachs of animals like cows, sheep and goats–more favorable for the growth of the bacteria that that creates CLA. In this study, higher amounts of CLA in the body’s fat were associated with a 49% lower risk of a heart attack. If you still think that red meat and full fat dairy are bad for you, this is the kind of study that should make you take a second look.
Here, the author’s review suggests that it may not be the presence of red meat or full fat diary in your diet that affect your risk of heart attack, but the presence of CLA in those foods.
The process of the study is what really got me particularly excited, as we learn about CLA in food. They grouped participants by the amount of CLA in their fat tissue, and measured their risk of a heart attack. It was atypically huge–as it studied 3,626 people. Usually studies are much smaller–can you imagine getting 3,626 fat tissue samples? The stats are even more complex when you realize that the study also considered a whole host of factors including medical conditions, genetics, lifestyle, and even previous heart attacks (for 3,6265 people). It’s also unique in that measured people’s CLA intake and levels from natural sources, so this isn’t about adding supplements to your diet but about building a diet around properly fed and raised natural food sources. They also led the study in Costa Rica, an area where traditional, non-industrial farming methods are the norm (compared to the conventionally grain-fed meat and dairy sources in the US). In fact, the content of CLA in the milk fat in Costa Rica was more than three times higher than the CLA in milk fat in the US.
I posted a blog entry about grain-fed vs. grass-fed beef, which you can watch here.