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Health Benefits of Vaccenic Acid

While limited scientific evidence exists regarding the effect of vaccenic acid on health, the literature suggests that consumption of this natural trans fatty acid may impart favourable health effects.

What is Vaccenic Acid?

Vaccenic acid, an isomer of oleic acid, is the principal ruminant trans fatty acid.1 It is produced through the biohydrogenation of linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid by microorganisms in the rumen and is found naturally in foods such as dairy and ruminant meat products.

There is limited scientific evidence regarding the effects of vaccenic acid on human health. Vaccenic acid is the precursor of rumenic acid, the cis-9,trans-11 isomer of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been associated with diverse health benefits.

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Recent data suggests that the consumption of trans vaccenic acid may provide health advantages beyond those related to CLA, namely in relation to:1

  • Cardiovascular diseases,
  • Cancer,
  • Immune function and inflammation.

Cardiovascular Diseases

In epidemiological studies, no apparent association has been shown between vaccenic acid and cardiovascular diseases.1 Conversely, elaidic acid, the industrial trans isomer of oleic acid, has been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.1

Limited evidence from animal models and human trials indicates that vaccenic acid does not have an adverse impact on cardiovascular biomarkers, including C-reactive protein.1 In a 6-week trial among healthy middle-aged men, milk products enriched with vaccenic acid did not have a significant effect on cardiovascular risk factors and the blood lipid profile.2


Other than the benefits obtained though CLA, the effects of vaccenic acid itself on cancer are not clear. Epidemiological studies have produced contradictory results. For instance, some studies have shown a direct association between vaccenic acid and reduced risk of cancer, such as breast and prostate cancer, whereas others have not found associations.1,3,4

Most studies on vaccenic acid in animal models and cancer cell lines have demonstrated a beneficial reduction in cell growth and/or tumour metabolism.1,3

Immune Function and Inflammation

The evidence of the role of vaccenic acid in immune function is also uncertain. Short-term human trials have shown that vaccenic acid does not appear to affect markers of inflammation, phagocytic function or circulating immune cell phenotypes.1

Data from some short-term animal studies indicate that vaccenic acid may have a positive influence on immune response. However, health benefits could be derived from the long-term consumption of vaccenic acid. In a 16-week trial involving rodent models, a diet enriched with vaccenic acid significantly improved immune function.1,5


Current evidence of the health effects of vaccenic acid is limited. Overall, vaccenic acid does not appear to adversely affect health as compared to industrial trans fats. However, more studies are needed for definite answers.

Furthermore, the mechanisms by which vaccenic acid may impart health advantages are poorly understood. Studies should be conducted to elucidate the mechanistic actions of vaccenic acid.

Keywords: conjugated linoleic acid , trans fat

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