Health Benefits of Cod Liver Oil


Cod liver oil is one of the most popular oil supplements and is extracted from cod fish. You can find it in both oil and gelatin capsule forms. Cod liver oil has been used for centuries, starting with the middle of the nineteenth century when fishing communities in Norway, Iceland and Scotland began to use it as treatment for various infections during their long, harsh winters.

The first documented use of cod liver oil, goes back as far as 1789, when Dr. Darbey, started using it to treat rheumatism at the Manchester Infirmary in England. Traditionally, cod liver oil was made by filling wooden barrels with fresh cod livers and sea water. The mixture was allowed to ferment for a year before removing the cod liver oil. Now, it’s made by cooking all the tissues of the fatty cod fish during fish meal manufacture.

This article will explore the health benefits associated with cod liver oil as well as potential risks.

Fresh cod fishCod Liver Oil Nutritional Breakdown

According to USDA’s National Nutrient Database, 100 grams of cod liver oil contains the following nutrients (average values):

Vitamin A – 100 000 IU

Vitamin D – 10 000 IU

Saturated fatty acids – 22.608 g

Monounsaturated fatty acids – 46.711 g

Polyunsaturated fatty acids – 22.541 g

Cod liver oil contains high levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and small amounts of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega 3 fatty acids.

Omega 3 fatty acids support a healthy cardiovascular system, reduce inflammation and support cognitive function, offering a wide array of benefits.

Arthritis patientCod Liver Oil Health Benefits

Relieves symptoms of arthritis – Studies have shown cod liver oil to be an effective treatment for reducing pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis as well as reducing pain and cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis.

Relieves muscle pain – Muscle and bone pain are two common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. Since cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D, taking this supplement will increase vitamin D levels in the body, alleviating the symptoms associated with the lack of it.

Prevents coronary artery disease – According to research published in the journal Lipids, that coronary artery disease showed signs of decreased progression/increased regression for patients who ingested 1.5 g of n-3 fatty acids every day.

Accelerates wound healing – A 2006 study used the hairless mouse ear wound model to analyze the effects of topical application of cod liver oil. The conclusion was, that “topical 25% cod liver oil ointment significantly accelerated both the epithelial and the vascular component of healing compared with saline”. Also, the researchers suspect in this case, vitamin A could be the active component that promotes faster wound healing.

Maintains brain function – Research scientists analyzed the health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency, which is prevalent among older adults and found that it’s correlated with increased risk of death by CV-related diseases, depression, cognitive deficits and mortality.

Potential Risks of Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is considered safe, in general. However, taking large amounts over a prolonged period of time has toxicity potential because of environmental toxins in fish like mercury and other contaminants. Some of the most common side effects are mental confusion, hair loss, liver damage, bone loss, bad breath, heartburn, nosebleeds, loose stool and nausea.

As with any supplement pregnant and lactating women should consult their doctors before taking cod liver oil, no matter how safe it is considered to be.

Cod liver oil has a blood thinning effect and lowers blood pressure. If you’re under medication that has the same effect it should not be taken, at least not without consulting the doctor first.