Cod Liver Oil

arthritis Oct 12, 2018


Nowadays we hear a lot about cod liver oil. But there are many questions that come to our mind. What is cod liver oil? What are its benefits? Are there any side effects of cod liver oil? And many more such questions.

This article will give a complete insight into cod liver oil and its benefits.

Cod liver oil is extracted from Atlantic cod fish’s liver (Gadidae). It is also available as a dietary supplement in a capsule form. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). In addition to these, it is a good source of vitamin A and D.

Uses of Cod Liver Oil:

The mechanism by which cod liver works is due to the presence of certain “fatty acids” which prevents the clotting of blood. In addition, these fatty acids reduce swelling and pain. It is an excellent source of nutrients and hence might have some important therapeutic properties.

The use of cod liver oil, when taken through mouth, has been done for treating diseases like, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, kidney disorders, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, osteoarthritis (relieves joint stiffness), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (an autoimmune disease), and many other disorders.

  • The type of fat in cod liver oil is the right kind required by the body as each cell in the body needs fat. The omega-3 fatty acids present helps to promote skin health, boost the immune system, and increase the absorption of vitamin and mineral.
  • Fat is required by the brain so that it can function properly. Consuming healthy fats will slow breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar, hence, regulating blood sugar levels.
  • A research conducted in Norway reported that cod liver oil consumption reduced the risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus, due to the anti-inflammatory effect of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids present (Stene et al., 2003).
  • The most effective use of consuming cod liver oil is lowering triglycerides or blood fats.
  • It might also be useful in lowering blood pressure among individuals with mild high blood pressure.
  • It is also effective in treating kidney disease in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Cod liver oil consumption reduces urinary protein, an important marker for severity of kidney disease.
  • There is insufficient evidence for effects of cod liver oil consumption on treating irregular heartbeat in patients having a heart
  • Preliminary research has reported that cod liver oil might prevent ear infections in children, but when consumed with a multivitamin-mineral supplement that contains selenium.
  • The use of cod liver oil has been found to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oils help in reducing inflammation and thus, cod liver oil taken as a supplement helps in reducing pain, stiffness, and tenderness among patients with arthritis. The inflammation is reduced when the proteins promoting it are suppressed. These include the IL-1, TNF-α, and IL-6.
  • It is also helpful in treating age-related macular degeneration. The presence of vitamin A along with omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in preventing age-related macular degeneration.
  • Regular intakes of cod liver oil help in the prevention of coronary atherosclerosis. This could be attributed to the presence of fatty acids that acts as a potent antioxidant.
  • Topical application of cod liver oil as an ointment to wounds helps in healing.
  • Cod liver oil might improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil help in lowering inflammation and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The presence of vitamin D also helps in reducing depression. This is attributed to vitamin D which binds to the receptors present in the brain and helps in stimulating the release of the mood improving hormones, that is, serotonin.
  • Cod liver oil might help in healing stomach and gut ulcers.

Adverse or Side Effects:

Cod liver oil is considered safe for consumption for most of the adults and children when taken by mouth. However, it can cause some side effects showing symptoms such as bad breath, belching, loose stools, heartburn, and nausea. These side effects can be prevented or decreased when the supplement is taken along with meals and in appropriate doses.

Taking cod liver oil in high doses or amount are considered unsafe. They might prevent blood from clotting and thus increase chances of bleeding as they act as a blood thinner. The levels of vitamin A and D might also increase with high consumption of cod liver oil. High vitamin A will accumulate in the liver and might cause hypervitaminosis A. High vitamin D might lead to weight loss, anorexia, polyuria, and irregular heart rhythms. It can also cause calcification of tissues and blood vessels through increased levels of blood calcium. This might result in the development of kidney stones. Hence, you should always consult your doctor before taking a cod liver oil supplement.

A recent study reported that high consumption of fish might cause side effects due to environmental toxins in fish such as mercury, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other contaminants. Further, the study reported that processing for preparation of supplement reduces the risk of environmental toxins and thus hypervitaminosis.

Interactions with Other Medication:

  • Antihypertensive drugs: Consuming cod liver oil supplement along with medications for high blood pressure might lower your blood pressure too much. This can be due to the cod liver oil helps in decreasing blood pressure.
  • Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs: Cod liver oil helps in slowing blood clotting. Hence, the anticoagulant medication and cod liver oil might increase bruising or bleeding.

The Dosage of Cod Liver Oil:

One teaspoon i.e. 5ml of cod liver oil will provide following nutrients:

  • Calories: 40 Kcal
  • Fat: 4.5g
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 890mg
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.1g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
  • Vitamin A: 90% of RDI
  • Vitamin D: 113% of RDI

The recommended doses of cod liver oil in various scientific research when taken by mouth are:

  • 20 ml per day for lowering triglycerides
  • 30 ml per day for high cholesterol.
  • 20 ml per day for lowering blood pressure.

Although this article has provided complete insight on cod liver oil and its side effects and dosage, I will recommend that you should consult your doctor and dietitians and interact with them about this topic before taking the supplement. Read online reviews for cod liver oil marketed under various brands before purchasing them.

Stay Fit, Happy and Healthy!!!



Neha Saini

Hi, I am Dr. Neha Lohia Saini. I am a nutritionist. Blogging is my passion as I love writing and share my knowledge about food and nutrition. I have completed my Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition f

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