Cla vs Fish Oil: What’s the Difference & Which Is the Best?

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A spoonful of capsules and tablets and pills with the title "CLA Vs Fish Oil: What’s The Difference & Which is The Best?"

Quick Answer

CLA and fish oil supplements are both sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs).

CLA offers omega-6 fatty acids and is best suited for those looking to achieve weight loss and improve muscle tone.

Fish oil offers omega-3 fatty acids and is suitable for anyone looking to boost their omega-3 levels in order to improve their physical and mental health.

It has become more apparent over recent years just how important it is to include ‘healthy fats’ in our diets.

CLA supplements and fish oil supplements are both sources of healthy fats, but what’s the difference and, more importantly, which is the best?

Let’s get the lowdown on good fats!

What Are Essential Fatty Acids and Why Should You Care?

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are long chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids. The human body cannot produce them so we must get them from the food we eat (hence the name “essential”).

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are generally broken down into two categories:

  • Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid)
  • Omega-6 (linoleic acid)

Omega-9 does also exist, but as it is not classed as essential, we usually concentrate on the first two.

Essential fatty acids have a number of important roles within the body and are necessary for overall health and well being:

  • Takes care of thyroid and adrenal gland activity
  • Promotes healthy hair growth
  • Breaks down cholesterol
  • Aids healthy cell membrane formation
  • Aids the production of many hormones
  • Responsible for brain development
  • Aids weight loss

Although you may be aware that essential fatty acids are important, many people do not realize just how catastrophic a deficiency in these healthy fats can be.

Believe it or not, if you don’t get enough omega-3 and omega-6, you could start losing your hair, your vision and even undergo changes in your mental state.

Capsules of cod liver oil arranged in a fish shape on white wooden background

What Are CLA Supplements?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of fatty acid closely related to omega-6.

Omega 6 is of the two types of EFA that help the body to increase metabolic rates, boost its immune system and keep cholesterol levels in check.

CLA is best known as a supplement for weight loss. It is believed to reduce body fat, improve muscle tone and promote exercise endurance.

Recent research shows that CLA can preserve lean muscle mass when strength training by reducing the catabolic effect of training on muscle protein. (source)

Studies have also shown that CLA works to preserve muscle in the case of age-related skeletal muscle loss. (source)

Although the search for a smaller waistline is the main reason people reach for CLA supplements, weight loss is not its only major benefit.

Studies have shown that CLA has a number of potential health benefits including:

  • Reducing the risk of cancer (source)
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (source)
  • Can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes (source)

What Are Fish Oil Supplements?

Fish oil supplements are a source of omega-3 fatty acids. When omega-3s are consumed, they are broken down into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are responsible for a number of bodily functions and offer many benefits to both physical and mental health.

Findings have shown that correct levels of EPA and DHA in the body can have seriously positive effects on a number or chronic diseases and conditions such as:

Studies have also shown that fish oil can improve general health in a number of ways too:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Lift mood
  • Assist weight loss
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Supports joints
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Treat eye disorders (dry eyes/cataracts)
  • Support immune system
  • Whole body anti-inflammatory
  • Ease menstrual pain

Fish oil supplements are made by pressing the flesh of cold water farmed or wild fish in order to extract the oil.

Fish oil supplements are sourced also from cold water, oily fish including:

  • Albacore tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Sturgeon
  • Trout

When to Choose CLA Supplements

When to Choose Fish Oil Supplements


Both CLA and fish oil supplements offer essential fatty acids, however, one offers omega-6 and one omega-3. As we have discussed, their health benefits are different.

The only overlap is the fact that both have been shown to aid weight loss. However, if you are looking to use EFA supplements for that reason, CLA supplements is the superior choice.

If you are looking to get the broad spectrum of physical and mental health benefits essential fatty acids have to offer, fish oil supplements would be the best choice for you.

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