CLA and Fish Oil
With the multitude of supplements on the market today, it is often very difficult to decide which one is best for us and whether there are specific advantages of taking one type of supplement over another. Very often, these supplements have very similar properties and the claims made regarding their benefits often overlap.
My wife has recently been diagnosed with lupus and is going through a research phase that appears as endless as it is daunting. One such cause of confusion is whether CLA supplements are any better for your health than a fish oil supplement. After all, they both contain essential and very healthy fatty acids. But which one is best and do you need to choose one or can you take both?
In order to help you make the correct decision, it is important to identify the benefits of each of these supplements and take a closer look at the differences. If you are interested in taking either of these supplements or you are already taking them but are uncertain of the difference, please read on.
What are Essential Fatty Acids?
Both CLA supplements and fish oil contain these fatty acids. We have been told often enough that they are very good for you but what are they exactly?
These so called essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acid, these long chain acids can not be produced by our human bodies which means we have to get them from somewhere else. We can make sure that we get these healthy fatty acids either from consuming them in our diets or by taking specific supplements.
You can divide polyunsaturated fatty acid into two separate categories:
- Omega-3 also known as Alpha-linoleic acid.
- Omega-6 also known as linoleic acid.
Both types of fatty acid play several key roles in the body and ultimately help promote good health and general well-being. Some of the roles these acids play include improved thyroid gland and adrenal gland function, as well as promoting weight loss, hair growth and brain function.
While everybody has heard of these fatty acids and most are aware if their health benefits, many remain unaware of the problems caused by a deficiency. Some of the complications from a lack of omega-3 or omega-6 include hair loss, blurred vision and mental impairment.
Let us take a look at the benefits of both types of supplement starting with CLA…
1) CLA Supplements
Conjugated Linoleic Acid which is usually shortened to CLA is a fatty acid which is related very closely to Omega-6. It is an extremely popular supplement for those looking to lose weight and among body builders who are trying to reduce body fat percentage.
The main health benefits of CLA supplements include the following:
- weight loss
- body fat reduction
- improved muscle tone
- greater endurance while exercising
- bone strength
- heart health
- digestive health
- improved immune function
- improved inflammatory response
CLA has been well-researched with regards to its health benefits. There is evidence that it can help a person lose weight and improve their muscle mass especially in people who are obese or very overweight. (1) There is also evidence that it helps to modulate inflammatory and immune response in humans helping to protect us against various disease. (2)
According to another study done on animals, CLA can also help reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. (3)
Food that Contains CLA
Although we are primarily talking about supplements in this article, there are several dietary sources of CLA. These include the following:
- Full fat dairy produce including cheese, milk, cream and yogurt.
- Grass-fed beef.
- Butter produced from grass-fed cattle.
- Smaller amounts of CLA are also present in grass-fed lambs, turkey, veal and certain seafood.
2) Fish Oil Supplements
So what about fish oil supplementation. What are their benefits and how do they compare with CLA?
Fish oil supplements get produced by pressing the tissue of various cold water fish either farmed or wild. These include tuna, herring, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.
While CLA is an omega-6 fatty acid, fish oil is a source of omega-3. When you consume these fatty acids, they are broken into two different elements – DHA and EPA which both confer a number of different benefits on your health.
Among the major benefits of omega-3 are the positive effects it can have on heart health, cancer prevention, depression and other mental disorders like ADHD. By taking fish oil supplements, you can also help ensure good health in a wide variety of ways including:
- Blood pressure reduction
- Reduced cholesterol
- Weight loss
- Immune system health
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress and anxiety
Which Supplement Should You Take?
So, it is clear based on research that both of these supplements are good for your health. They are also generally considered safe but we will look at the precautions later. But where does that leave us if we are trying to decide which of these two healthy supplements is the best choice for us?
Despite the fact that many of the benefits of these supplements overlap, the choice largely depends on your goal or your reason for taking them in the first place.
Advantages of CLA Supplements
Omega-6 fatty acids are a little more difficult to get through dietary means in which case, taking a CLA supplement makes a lot of sense.
There are many advantages to taking a CLA supplement. One of the major benefits is that you can get a high dose of CLA from just a single, easy to consume gel capsule. Another great advantage is that they do not contain any sugar, additives or preservatives and are gluten-free.
The evidence also suggests that CLA supplements are a more reliable supplement for those looking to lose weight or improve their muscle tone.
Advantages of Fish Oil Supplements
If you are one of the many people who is not getting sufficient omega-3 acid from their diet, you may be better off taking a fish oil supplement instead. We have already seen that these supplements confer a wide variety of health benefits including many of the benefits of CLA.
The main difference in health benefits is the positive effect that omega-3 can have on your mood and on many mental issues including anxiety, stress and depression
Fish oil supplements are generally regarded as a safe choice for the vast majority of adults and for children.
If your main concern is losing weight or improving muscle mass then the evidence suggests that CLA supplements are a better choice.
Precautions and Side Effects for CLA
- CLA is regarded as safe if it is consumed through natural dietary means. It is also considered safe when taken in supplementary form provided you do not take doses larger than those found naturally in food.
- Some people have reported side effects from taking supplements including diarrhea, nausea, upset stomach and fatigue.
- CLA supplements should not be given to children because of the absence of safety data.
- CLA through a dietary source like beef, butter and full fat dairy is not only considered safe for children but encouraged because of CLA’s importance in development and growth,
- People with a history of liver disease or those with bleeding disorders should avoid taking CLA supplements.
- There is evidence that CLA may slow down blood clotting which increase the risk of bleeding so people who are scheduled for surgery should also avoid the supplement.