Is cod liver oil good for us? Yes and no. In a nutshell, cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin A and D, but over- dosing on vitamin A causes irreparable liver damage. And then there is the vexed question of how clean the cod liver oil is.
Starting with the positive side of cod liver oil. Its health giving benefits have been valued for centuries. Pliny the Elder recorded using dolphin liver oil as a remedy for skin eruptions.1 In 1766, the Manchester Infirmary started using cod liver oil to cure rheumatism after a patient cured herself by eating the cod liver oil she had been prescribed instead of rubbing it into her skin. Apparently they conducted a trial comparing its effectiveness with a placebo. They also pioneered using cod liver oil as a cure for rickets. About this time too it was found that cod liver oil cured night blindness and dry eye, although it remained until 1904 for a paper to be published on the subject.
Before the advent of anti-biotics, cod liver oil was being explored for its anti-infective properties and so was used to treat and prevent measles, absenteeism and puerperal fever (the fatal fever women were prone to catching after child birth).
And so today in our healthy modern times – with levels of diabetes, cancer and now rickets climbing – is there still a place for cod liver oil? Yes. A good quality cod liver oil works well because of the synergy between the constituent nutrients of vitamins A, D, E, K and the omega 3 oils. The best form of nutrition comes from food – provided we can actually digest it properly, of course. And so a period of time dosing up with cod liver oil can help improve rheumatoid arthritis, bone loss, multiple sclerosis, depression (as the above song attests), wound healing, diabetes and boost the immune system amongst other things.
For optimum benefit, cod liver oil works with organic butter, magnesium and saturated fats – wow. Yes, saturated fats, like lard, coconut oil or goose fat. This enables the body to uptake and use the omega 3 oils in the cod liver oil. In these ‘healthy’ modern times with our epidemic of fatness it is my fond hope that at some point people will wake from their torpor and realise that mankind has not taken 2 million of years of evolution to be able to eat Cheesy Wotsits and be healthy.
Finally we come to the different manufacturing processes of cod liver oil. Always, the less heat used, the better. Heat destroys nutrients. Because of the purity laws, Norway is a reliable country of manufacture. From experience Nordic Naturals cod liver oil tastes OK. But possibly a better oil will be the Blue Ice Fermented Cod liver oil, which is produced using less heat. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect that this oil is best taken in capsule form to avoid the bleurrghh experience. Anyway, just 2 guidelines here – made in Norway and with minimal heat.
So how much cod liver oil can we take? On a daily basis about 2 teaspoons a day of Nordic Naturals, for example, or 1 teaspoon of Blue Ice Fermented, since it is stronger. Children take about half of that. However, for therapeutic reasons temporarily the dose can be increased. So as part of a gut healing protocol, we can take much more for a few weeks. But high intake should not be sustained longer than this to avoid liver damage.
Cod liver oil is good for us and can be taken in small quantities regularly provided we take care over sourcing the oil and eat it with synergistic nutrients such as saturated fats and magnesium.
- Much of this historical information I garnered from the Weston A. Price foundation. [↩]