Cod Liver Oil is an age-old remedy. Personally it reminds me of generations gone by who used to spoon it into their children’s mouths creating a fierce dislike for the golden liquid. Cod liver oil was originally used to treat rheumatism and rickets, and to prevent other problems caused by vitamin D deficiencies, in the late 18th century. It has stood the test of time and is still a dietary supplement staple in many households, so what is the big deal? Is it really that good for us and should we all be taking it?
What exactly is Cod Liver Oil?
Cod liver oil, is exactly that – oil extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod fish and is one of the best sources of omega-3. Unlike other fish oils it is also high in vitamin A and vitamin D and other nutrients. The species of cod is actually an important factor in relation to the exact amount of said nutrients.
Why do we need fat?
The reason we need omega-3 fatty acids is that each and every cell in our body requires fat, good fats which promote health are far better for us than those that cause harm, and so balancing our diet with healthy fats is extremely important for skin health, vitamin and mineral absorption and boosting the immune system. Healthy fats also slow the breakdown of carbohydrate into sugar which keeps our levels stable. Our brains also require fat in order to function effectively.
What does Cod Liver Oil help with?
People suffering with arthritis often take supplements as it is known to reduce inflammation and therefore can lessen pain, tenderness and stiffness. In a similar structure to cannabinoids certain molecules are present in cod liver oil that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Cod liver oil boosts brain health as DHA (the fatty acid present in the oil) is vital for the development of brain and emotional health and is especially important in premature infants. Dietary intake of omega-3 fats during the last trimester of pregnancy and the initial months of a newborn’s life is crucial to the development of the central nervous system in foetus and child.
Omega-3 fats inhibit the inflammatory responses that can cause metabolic alterations that are known triggers of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression and abnormal hormone signalling in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Increasing fatty acids can boost brain health by controlling insulin sensitivity in the brain to ward off obesity, type-2 diabetes and prevent cognitive decline. Research suggests that the two fatty acids found in cod liver oil (EPA and DHA) are likely to provide the greatest benefit at preventing and providing therapeutic treatment to those with bipolar depressive disorders.
High levels of vitamin D are found in cod liver oil which is not readily available in many foods, but can be obtained directly from sunlight onto the skin. Many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency and so must supplement this somehow. Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones as it helps us to use calcium from our diet. Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, severe asthma, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure and cancer.
When it comes to nutritional benefits cod liver oil is also high in vitamin A which promotes healthy skin, hair and nails. Vitamin A is required for the synthesis of hormones and is a key player in the function of the immune system, it promotes cellular growth and aids in reproductive function in men and women, and is essential for bone health and night vision. It is also fat-soluble, which is why the combination of fatty acids in cod liver oil enhances the delivery of vitamin A to the body. Vitamin A and D are an excellent combination as one cannot function effectively or be absorbed by the body efficiently without the other.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one teaspoon of cod liver oil, weighing 4.5 g, contains:
• Energy: 41 calories
• Vitamin A: 4,500 international units (IU)
• Vitamin D: 450 IU
• Saturated fatty acids: 1.017 g
• Monounsaturated fatty acids: 2.102 g
• Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 1.014 g
• Cholesterol: 26 milligrams (mg)
The combination of these nutrients provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the body from illness and chronic disease.
As far as the facts go this seems to be one of the best fish oils as far as the combination of vitamins, nutrients and fatty acids it contains. The only real risk there seems to be is for those taking anticoagulants or blood pressure medication as it can interact with these drugs. For safety and peace of mind always consult your doctor, medical practitioner or a nutritionist when adding or changing something within your diet, especially supplements.
When selecting your cod liver oil opt for one with the least processing possible from sustainably sourced fish, and with only natural preservatives rather than synthetic ones which improve their shelf life. Go organic and focus on purity and high nutritional content.
Become a Nutritional therapist
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we specialise in nutritional therapies, offering a total of 7 courses:
- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
- Ethical & Sustainable Eating
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition
All these distance-learning diplomas are accredited in 26 countries worldwide, so as soon as you have passed your exams you are ready to start working as a therapist!
If you’re looking for other holistic therapy courses – we have more than 60 to choose from! Take a look at our A-Z Course listing page. If you have any questions regarding these courses, please do contact us, we’d love to hear from you!