Is cod liver oil good for us?

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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.

  1. Much of this historical information I garnered from the Weston A. Price foundation. []

2 Responses to “Is cod liver oil good for us?”

  1. Mahmod 2012-07-1

    There is evidence that cold liver fish oil is good for you. However, if you pucahrse fish oil supplement you must make very sure that the supplement is natural fish oil and not a chemical equivalent. There is good evidence that all the vitamin supplements are a waste of money, the reason being is that they are in fact chemical equivalents to vitamin A etc. they are not the natural vitamin.Further, a pill or a cod liver oil pill is very concentrated and is not combined within its natural food matrix. The stomach will see this as an overload and will dispose of it as the body will only absorb the amount of natural vitamins it needs. Overdoses of vitamin C are a waste of money.So as fish oil etc are very complex molecules and since the beginning of time the body has only received them within and combined with the matrix of the food and can only really handle such things if delivered naturally then rather than spend money on capsules or 50$ every 2 weeks I suggest that you spend the cost of the fish oil capsules on actual oily fish and eat the fish.

    • Clare Harding 2012-07-2

      Mahmod makes some good points here. Any supplement should be of the highest quality, and when it comes to the fish oils these are particularly prone to contamination, either from the fish or from the solvents used to clean the oil.
      The reason to take cod liver oil is listed in the blog. To get sufficient nutrition from the original fish would also involve taking in a lot of toxins present in the fish. After all, the human race has made a right mess of the seas.
      Finally as for overloading the system. The huge majority of supplements should be taken mid meal, so absorbed along with food. I have written about Vitamin C elsewhere, and, as previously stated, it is the quality of the supplement that counts. Yes, with all the water soluble vitamins, excess is peed away. But the high quality vitamins come in a very bioavailable form, so the uptake is spectacular. Much better than you can get from supplements bought in the shops.


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