Asthma is a condition where the airways “clamp down” and become inflamed when exposed to environmental factors such as animal dander, dust, and pollen. Fortunately, there are prescription asthma inhalers that can help asthmatics, but it would be better to keep the hyperactive airways from narrowing in the first place. According to a new study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, taking CLA, a natural supplement found in some foods, may help asthmatics naturally – by reducing the inflammation and airway narrowing that leads to the unpleasant breathing difficulties asthmatics experience.
Can Taking CLA Help Asthmatics?
In this study, researchers gave twenty young overweight asthmatics 4.5 grams of CLA or a placebo for three months. At the end of the three month period, the group taking CLA had less airway hyper-reactivity, better exercise tolerance, and fewer asthma symptoms. As a bonus, the asthmatics taking CLA also had a lower BMI (body mass index). This isn’t surprising since some studies show CLA promotes fat loss – which means CLA could be of benefit to asthmatics that are overweight or obese.
What is CLA?
CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is a fatty acid found naturally in meat and dairy products. It’s present in greatest quantities in grassfed animals. Much of the CLA is removed from meat and dairy products when low fat meat and dairy products are produced – so low-fat meat and dairy products aren’t a good source. Some studies also show that CLA has anti-cancer benefits.
Can Taking CLA Supplements Help Asthmatics?
Although this study is small, it was a double blind, randomized, placebo controlled study which makes the results more credible. On the other hand, it’s difficult to draw conclusions about the benefits of taking CLA until larger studies are carried out.
Is Taking CLA Risky?
There are concerns about the long-term effects of taking CLA supplements. Some studies show it worsens insulin resistance in diabetics, which could make it more difficult to control blood sugars. It also raises levels of c-reactive protein, a marker for heart disease. It’s not clear whether it actually increases the risk of heart disease.
CLA to Reduce Asthma Symptoms: The Bottom Line
Taking CLA supplements may help asthmatics, particularly ones who are overweight, but larger studies are needed before it can be recommended. Getting CLA naturally from grassfed beef and dairy products is the safest route until more is known.
British Journal of Nutrition (2005), 94: 791-795