From Wikipedia, a conjugated molecule is an organic compound is one where atoms covalently bond alternating single and double bonds that influence each other to produce a region called the electron delocalization. In this region, electrons do not belong to a single bond or atom but to a group.
Very nice but what the heck does this mean for us? A conjugated linoleic acid is like linoleic acid in that it has 18 carbons with two double bonds, but we see the trans and cis configurations in there making the fatty acid all twisted instead of a nice straight line. The trans configuration means the molecules won't lie down nicely, so this oil is going to be slightly thicker than one filled with nice straight molecules. (See the molecule above!)
A conjugated linolenic acid is like linolenic acid in that it has 18 molecules with three double bonds, but it has the trans and cis configurations, making it all twisty. Again, this is going to be a thicker oil than one with normal linolenic acid.
Why do we care, other than the fact that chemistry is awesome? CLA has been found to be very effective at reducing inflammation, lightening skin, and improving epidermal differentiation. (Epidermal differentiation - The epidermis consists of cells that specialize or differentiate to provide the protective barrier between our skin and the outside world, keeping moisture in and keeping nasty things out!) There are some studies showing improvement in signs of photo-aging, skin tone, and dry skin using CLA.
CLnA has also been found to be regenerating, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial. Studies of CLnA are showing it may increase elasticity to our skin.
These fatty acids will oxidize more quickly than their non-conjugated versions of linoleic and linolenic acids, so you'll want to include anti-oxidant and chelating ingredients into products containing lots of CLA and CLnA heavy oils.
Join me tomorrow for fun with pomegranate oil!