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If you’re looking to add some healthy fatty acids to your diet, then you might be facing a question: CLA or fish oil? Or maybe both?
We’ll provide you with a full comparison of CLA vs fish oil here based on scientific research and facts, so read on.
CLA vs Fish Oil – The Bottom Line
Having some form of oil on a daily basis will deliver proven benefits; however, it largely depends on what you’re after.
CLA pills are not well researched yet, but there are positive signs that CLA can help you boost your efforts towards weight loss. It helps with fat oxidation and boosting your metabolism, which is the process of using fat for energy instead of other nutrients in your body. But it’s also a bit more expensive and also largely unproven still.
Fish oil, on the other hand, can be a fantastic addition to your diet. It will boost your overall health, and it has proven effects of reducing fat in your bloodstream, reducing blood pressure, decreases inflammation, improves joint health, and has potentially positive effects for people with mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, bipolar disorder, and ADHD in children.
So both supplements can have impressive effects on your overall health. Fish oil is a bit more proven scientifically, although that doesn’t mean it should be your only supplement.
You can even stack both of these to get the benefits of both (although fish oil is a bit more well-rounded supplement).
What is CLA?
CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is an omega-6 fatty acid that is commonly found in meat and dairy, and especially in vegetable oils.
This type of fatty acid is thought to have several positive effects on your health and can be effective for weight loss. But there are some big and often overblown claims about CLA, too.
CLA is a type of trans fat (which might not sound great), but it is produced naturally. It is found in dairy products and the meat of cows and sheep. But grass-fed cows will produce up to 300% more CLA than grain-fed cows, which is why many manufacturers gravitate towards this trend.
In controlled experiments with mice, CLA produced up to 60% better results when it comes to weight loss as compared to the control group. So this evidence is promising, although it’s not clear yet whether the results are the same as the human population.
What are the Benefits of CLA?
The main benefit of CLA is that of (supposedly) increased weight loss. However, it doesn’t do that making you lose weight on its own – instead, it does it by oxidizing the fat, which simply means it makes sure your body will burn fat instead of other calories when you’re working out.
Taking CLA on its own will not make you lose fat, as proven by several scientific studies. Instead, it will promote the use of fats when you burn calories instead of other nutrients, which can make you fitter in the long-term.
However, the jury’s still out in terms of what CLA can do with weight loss. Some studies support this claim, while many other studies show little to no effects of CLA on weight loss.
Another benefit is muscle-sparing, which promotes better recovery and better muscle endurance.
There are some major flaws with taking CLA, which we’ll discuss next.
The Downsides of CLA Supplements
Firstly, we must get big claims out of the way; many studies have shown that the following claims about CLA are not true:
- Decreased insulin sensitivity
- Decreased blood sugar
- Better inflammation and recovery
- Higher metabolic rate
Furthermore, taking CLA may even be bad for you. Large doses of CLA for a prolonged period of time have proven to have serious potential consequences on your body, including:
- Accumulation of fat in your liver
- Metabolic syndrome (both consequences of the fatty liver)
- Insulin resistance
- Increased inflammation
So considering all of these potential side effects, it’s better to consider getting CLA from natural sources in your diet. Yes, CLA supplements can have some effects for weight loss and muscle sparing, although for the price they’re available at, they’re not that effective and it’s much safer to get them from your food.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a type of beneficial oil found in fish and fish products. It comes in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, available as both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
This type of oil comes when you eat fish, although it’s also available as a supplement. Fish oil is considered an essential oil, which means that you must get it from your diet, as your body is incapable of producing it on its own.
Around 30% of fish oil supplements come with omega-3 fatty acids. 70% are formed by both vitamins A and D, as well as other fats and oils that can boost your health.
Fish oil has proven benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing, and unlike CLA, fish oil has the science behind it. For many years now, several studies have shown great benefits for your body.
What are the Benefits of Fish Oil?
The benefits of fish oil are much better recorded and supported by years of scientific research. Here are the biggest ones.
- It supports your heart health. Several studies, including this one, show that eating more fish can reduce the risk of heart diseases massively. It makes sense because fish contain a lot of omega-3 fats, which can lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and reduce arrhythmia attacks.
- Improved mental health. Omega-3s are essential for improved brain functioning, but it can also alleviate or help with certain mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
- Weight loss. Fish oil supplements have also been proven to be beneficial for better body composition, lowering your body fat when paired with regular exercise.
- Reduced inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be a serious health problem and is widely considered to be linked to the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. Some research suggests that fish oil can reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risk of these diseases.
- Improved health skin, improved eye health. This comes from vitamins that are included in fish oils, including vitamins A and D.
- Alleviate ADHD in children. Considering that omega 3s take up a large portion of our brains, it’s essential to ensure that the brains of children with ADHD are sufficiently supplemented with fish oil, which can help alleviate ADHD.
Now, many of these benefits are still under research, but most of them are supported by an overwhelming majority of positive studies. The only benefit that is certainly 100% proven by now is that of improving your heart health by lowering triglycerides in your blood. Other benefits are, as of now, 80-90% accurate, which means they’re highly likely.
Are there any Side Effects of Fish Oil Supplements?
When taken in doses of 3 grams or less per day, fish oil supplements are considered to be likely safe by FDA.
When taken in larger amounts than that, fish oil can have serious side effects (which is understandable):
- Bipolar disorder
- Fatty liver
- High blood pressure
So the key is to take fish oil supplements in recommended doses – up to 3g per day! But 3g is quite a lot, considering that fish oil pills normally have 1g of fish oil at most.
So, CLA or Fish Oil? Or Both?
Having taken a closer look at all the evidence, it’s clear to see that fish oil is the clear winner of the two. But that’s not to say that CLA cannot have big benefits when it comes to weight loss and muscle sparing.
The best way to get the benefits of both is to combine them.
We suggest that you take fish oil supplements and get your CLA from your diet instead. Because CLA supplements have some big, although unsubstantiated claims, while fish oil has proven benefits. Plus, CLA can cost a bit more than fish oil supplements.
You can get CLA from natural foods, such as:
- Red meat
- Dairy products (milk, cheese)
So getting a well-rounded diet and taking fish oil supplements (and eating fish regularly instead) is the best way to go, most likely, at least according to the vast amount of research that’s been done on both of these supplements, especially fish oil, which seems to have better effects for your physical and mental health overall.
CLA and fish oil are two very popular supplements to boost your overall health. When we take a closer look at the scientific research, the question of CLA vs fish oil seems to favor fish oil a bit more. But that’s not to say that you have to exclude CLA from your life – you can get it from your diet instead, which can help you avoid the unpleasant side effects and higher costs of buying CLA supplements.