Cod liver oil capsules is used as a source of vitamin A and vitamin D, and to treat high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels, kidney disease in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glaucoma, and middle ear infections (otitis media). It is also used to prevent respiratory infections, and an age-related eye condition called macular degeneration and Cod liver oil can be obtained from eating fresh cod liver or by taking supplements.
Some people put cod liver oil on their skin to speed healing of wounds, burns, and rashes.
What other names is Cod Liver Oil known by?
Aceite de Higado de Bacalao, Acides Gras Oméga 3, Acides Gras N-3, Acides Gras Polyinsaturés, Cod Oil, Fish Liver Oil, Fish Oil, Halibut Liver Oil, Huile de Foie, Huile de Foie de Flétan, Huile de Foie de Morue, Huile de Foie de Poisson, Huile de Morue, Huile de Poisson, Liver Oil, N-3 Fatty Acids, Omega 3, Oméga 3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.
9 Science-Backed Benefits of Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a type of fish oil supplement.
Like regular fish oil, it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to many health benefits, including reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure.
It also contains vitamins A and D, both of which provide many other health benefits.
Here are 9 scientifically supported benefits of cod liver oil.
1. High in Vitamins A and D
Most cod liver oil is extracted from the liver of Atlantic cod.
Cod liver oil has been used for centuries to relieve joint pain and treat rickets, a disease that causes fragile bones in children.
Although cod liver oil is a fish oil supplement, it’s quite different than regular fish oil.
Regular fish oil is extracted from the tissue of oily fish like tuna, herring, anchovies and mackerel, while cod liver oil is extracted from the livers of cod.
The liver is rich in fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and D, which give it an impressive nutrient profile.
One teaspoon (5 ml) of cod liver oil provides the following:
- Calories: 40
- Fat: 4.5 grams
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 890 mg
- Monounsaturated fat: 2.1 grams
- Saturated fat: 1 gram
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1 gram
- Vitamin A: 90% of the RDI
- Vitamin D: 113% of the RDI
Cod liver oil is incredibly nutritious, with a single teaspoon providing 90% of your daily requirements for vitamin A and 113% of your daily requirements for vitamin D.
Vitamin A has many roles in the body, including maintaining healthy eyes, brain function and skin.
Cod liver oil is also one of the best food sources of vitamin D, which has an important role in maintaining healthy bones by regulating calcium absorption.
2. May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body fight infections and heal injuries.
Unfortunately, in some cases, inflammation can continue at a low level for long periods of time.
This is known as chronic inflammation, which is harmful and may increase the risk high blood pressure and several diseases, such as heart disease.
The omega 3-fatty acids in cod liver oil may reduce chronic inflammation by suppressing the proteins that promote it. These include TNF-α, IL-1 and IL-6.
Cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D, which are powerful antioxidants. They can reduce inflammation by binding and neutralizing harmful free radicals.
Interestingly, studies also show that people who are deficient in vitamins A and D are at a greater risk of chronic inflammation.
3. May Improve Bone Health
It’s incredibly important to maintain healthy bones as you age.
This is because you start losing bone mass after age 30. This can lead to fractures later in life, especially in women after menopause
Cod liver oil is a great dietary source of vitamin D and may reduce age-related bone loss. That’s because it helps your body absorb calcium, which is a necessary mineral for strong bones, from the gut.
In fact, studies show that when accompanied by a diet high in calcium, taking a vitamin D supplement like cod liver oil can reduce bone loss among adults and strengthen fragile bones in children.
Getting enough vitamin D from foods and supplements like cod liver oil is especially important for people who live far from the equator, a their skin doesn’t get enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D for up to six months of the year.
4. May Reduce Joint Pain and Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that’s characterized by damage to the joints.
There is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but studies suggest that cod liver oil may reduce joint pain and improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis like joint stiffness and swelling .
In one study, 43 people took a 1-gram capsule of cod liver oil daily for three months. They found it reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as morning stiffness, pain and swelling.
In another study in 58 individuals, researchers investigated if taking cod liver oil would reduce pain from rheumatoid arthritis enough to help patients reduce their use of anti-inflammatory medications.
By the end of the study, 39% of people who took cod liver oil comfortably reduced their use of anti-inflammatory medication by over 30%.
It is believed that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil may help reduce inflammation in the joints and protect against damage.
5. May Support Eye Health
Vision loss is a huge health problem, affecting over 285 million people worldwide.
There are many reasons why people lose their vision, but two of the leading causes are glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Both of these diseases can result from chronic inflammation.
However, the omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A in cod liver oil have been shown to protect against eye diseases caused by inflammation.
Studies in animals have found that omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk factors for glaucoma, such as eye pressure and nerve damage.
In another study in 666 people, researchers found those who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids had a 17% lower risk of early AMD and 41% lower risk of late AMD.
Furthermore, diets high in vitamin A may reduce the risk of glaucoma and AMD, compared to diets lower in vitamin A .
In one study in 3,502 people aged 55 and over, researchers found that people who consumed the most vitamin A had a much lower risk of glaucoma than those who ate the least vitamin A.
Although vitamin A is great for eye health, it’s not recommended to take high doses of it, as it may cause vitamin A toxicity.
6. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, affecting over 17.5 million people annually.
Studies have shown people who regularly eat fish have a much lower risk of heart disease. This effect can be attributed to its omega-3 fatty acid content.
Omega-3s have been shown to have many benefits for your heart, including:
- Reducing triglycerides: Omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil may reduce blood triglycerides by 15–30%.
- Lowering blood pressure: Many studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids may lower blood pressure, especially in people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Increasing HDL cholesterol: Omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil can raise good HDL cholesterol, which is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
- Preventing plaque formation: Animal studies have found that cod liver oil may reduce the risk of plaques forming in the arteries. Plaque buildup can narrow the arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
While taking fish oil supplements like cod liver oil may reduce risk factors for heart disease, there is little evidence that it can prevent heart disease or strokes.
Unfortunately, few studies have specifically examined the association of cod liver oil and heart disease, as many studies classify cod liver oil as regular fish oil.
Thus, more specific research on cod liver oil and heart disease risk factors are needed to make a clear link between the two.
7. May Improve Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are common illnesses that together affect over 615 million people worldwide.
Interestingly, studies suggest there may be a link between chronic inflammation and anxiety and depression. Many studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil can lower inflammation and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A large study including 21,835 individuals found that people who took cod liver oil regularly had fewer symptoms of depression alone or combined with anxiety.
Nevertheless, while omega-3 fatty acids help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, their overall effect seems small.
In an analysis of 26 studies including 1,478 individuals, omega-3 supplements were only slightly more effective than placebos at reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Moreover, many studies have also found a link between increased blood levels of vitamin D and a reduction in symptoms of depression.
How it reduces symptoms of depression is still unclear, but some studies suggest that vitamin D can bind to receptors in the brain and stimulate the release of mood-improving hormones like serotonin.
8. May Help Heal Stomach and Gut Ulcers
Ulcers are small breaks in the lining of the stomach or gut. They may cause symptoms of nausea, upper abdominal pain and discomfort.
They are often caused by bacterial infections, smoking, excess use of anti-inflammatory medications or too much acid in the stomach.
Animal studies indicate that cod liver oil may help treat ulcers, particularly in the stomach and gut.
In one animal study, researchers found that low and high doses of cod liver oil helped heal ulcers in both the stomach and gut.
Another animal study found that cod liver oil suppressed genes that are linked with gut inflammation and reduced inflammation and ulceration in the gut.
While the use of cod liver oil to help heal ulcers seems promising, more studies in humans are needed to make clear recommendations.
9. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Cod liver oil is incredibly easy to add to your diet. It comes in many forms, but liquid and capsule forms are the most common.
There are no set guidelines for cod liver oil intake, so most recommendations are based on safe intake levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and D.
A common dose is often 1–2 teaspoons, but taking up to one tablespoon per day is usually safe. Higher doses are not recommended, as they would result in excess vitamin A intake.
Although cod liver oil is extremely healthy, some people need to be cautious about their intake since cod liver oil can act as a blood thinner.
So check with your doctor before taking cod liver oil if you take blood pressure or blood thinning medications.
Also, pregnant women should check with their doctor before taking it, as high levels of vitamin A may cause harm to the baby.
The Bottom Line
Cod liver oil is an incredibly nutritious type of fish oil supplement. It’s very convenient and contains a great combination of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Cod liver oil may provide you with health benefits like stronger bones, reduced inflammation and less joint pain for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
If you want to try supplementing, a common dose is 1–2 teaspoons of liquid cod liver oil per day. You can also try the capsule form.
If you struggle with the fishy taste of either, try taking it on an empty stomach before your first meal or with a few sips of water.
In the 1800s, cod liver oil became popular as a dietary supplement for children whose lack of sunlight exposure increased their risk for rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. Today cod liver oil is a popular supplement used for a wide range of conditions.
Cod liver oil is one type of fish oil. If you buy a common fish oil supplement, the oil contained in the product usually comes from cold-water oily fish, such as salmon, herring, or sardines. Codfish oil is a slightly different type of oil, specifically sourced from the liver of the Pacific or Atlantic codfish. Each type of oil provides healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been widely studied for their health benefits. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the omega-3s available in different types of fish oil are probably effective for the prevention of heart disease. In addition, the NIH states that fish oil may help:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Ease asthma symptoms
- Manage rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduce menstrual pain
- Reduce stroke risk
- Protect against osteoporosis
- Slow the progression of atherosclerosis
However, the NIH does not specify whether cod liver oil in particular (rather than fish oil sourced from other types of fish) might produce these health benefits.
Although research on the specific health effects of cod liver oil is somewhat limited, some studies show that cod liver oil may help with certain medical conditions.
What Is Fermented Cod Liver Oil?
Proponents of fermented cod liver oil claim that this form of cod liver oil is more pure and higher in vitamin A, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids than heat-processed forms of cod liver oil. However, there is currently a lack of scientific evidence to support this claim.
What’s the Difference Between Cod Liver Oil and Fish Liver Oil?
Cod liver oil and fish oil are two different health supplements. They come from different fish sources and have unique benefits. Generally speaking, though, cod liver oil is a specific type of fish oil.
The health benefits of both fish oil and cod liver oil come from their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids support many body systems and may prevent a number of ailments. The human body can’t make its own omega-3 fatty acids, which is why you need to include them in your diet.
The fatty acids in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are the “good oils” that everyone needs to include in their diet.
Some plant sources (such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil) contain another kind of omega-3 fatty acid, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This hasn’t been proven to be as beneficial as the fatty acids from fish oils.
If you don’t eat two to three servings of (nonfried) fish per week, you may benefit from taking fish oil or cod liver oil supplements.
Where do fish oil and cod liver oil come from?
Fish oil is usually extracted from the flesh of fatty fish like:
Cod liver oil, as the name implies, comes from the livers of codfishes. Atlantic cod and Pacific cod are most commonly used to make cod liver oil.
The fish get their omega-3 fatty acids by eating phytoplankton, which absorb microalgae. Microalgae is the original source of rich omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits of cod liver oil
Cod liver oil contains high levels of EPA and DHA as well as vitamins A and D. Many of the benefits of cod liver oil are believed to be from its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
The unique strengths of cod liver oil versus fish oil are likely due to the presence of vitamins A and D.
Cod liver oil may help:
- lower inflammation all over the body
- reduce pain associated with arthritis
- reduce anxiety and depression
- promote healthy fetal brain function and eyesight
- maintain bone density
- lower risks of type 1 diabetes when used in pregnancy and in newborns
- support a healthy immune system
- prevent upper respiratory illness
- lower triglycerides in blood
- lower blood pressure
- slightly increase HDL, the “good cholesterol”
- prevent plaque build-up in arteries
Cod liver oil used to be a very common supplement given to children in the United States, especially to prevent rickets, until the practice raised concerns about potential vitamin toxicity.
Benefits of Fish Liver Oil
Thirty percent of fish oil is pure omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is especially helpful in areas of:
- heart health
- mental health
- inflammatory ailments
Fish oil may help:
- support healthy brain development and function
- prevent mental health disorders for those at risk and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
- reduce waist circumference
- reduce inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis
- support skin health
- support pregnancy, fetal development, and breastfeeding
- support liver health
Are fish oil and cod liver oil safe?
Both fish oil and cod liver oil are generally considered safe, but you should still talk with your doctor before taking them. Both fish oil and cod liver oil might cause minor side effects, and they may not be safe for all people:
- Especially talk with your child’s pediatrician before administering either oil to your child.
- It’s unknown if fish oil or cod liver oil are safe for people with fish and shellfish allergies.
- People with heart and blood conditions should be cautious about taking either fish oil or cod liver oil.
Cod liver oil may:
- cause belching
- cause nosebleeds
- cause heartburn
- make blood thinner
- contain unhealthy levels of vitamins A and D, although this is still debated
Don’t take cod liver oil if you’re pregnant.
Fish oil may cause:
- trouble with blood clotting or nosebleeds
- loose stool
- indigestion and fish-tasting burps
- reduced vitamin E levels
- interactions with contraceptive medication, weight loss drugs containing orlistat, and blood medications
How much do you need?
Fish oil and cod liver oil supplements come in capsule and liquid forms. Supplements usually contain less mercury than fresh fish.
Calculate your fish oil and cod liver oil dosage based on the amount of EPA, DHA, and vitamins in fish oil or cod liver oil. There’s no standard recommended dosage of EPA or DHA, so you can determine the right dose for you by talking with your doctor, reading supplement bottle labels, and comparing the EPA and DHA levels to what you might get if you ate a whole fish.
- 3 ounces of wild Atlantic salmon, cooked, has 1.22 grams of DHA and 0.35 grams of EPA
- 3 ounces of Pacific cod, cooked, has 0.10 grams of DHA and 0.04 grams of EPA
When it comes to supplements, more of a good thing isn’t always better. Too much omega-3 fatty acids in any form can have risky side effects.
It’s likely best to take only fish oil or cod liver oil, but not both together. Both oils deliver the benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, but cod liver oil has the added vitamins A and D. If you want those extra vitamins, you can take just cod liver oil.
If you don’t want those extra vitamins, take just the fish oil. You can also take fish oil in addition to vitamin A and D supplements if you want the benefits from those vitamins but don’t want to take cod liver oil.
Taking fish oil or cod liver oil with food, especially fatty food, may help you better digest and absorb the omega-3 fatty acids.
Never switch from a prescription medicine to a supplement without the help and oversight of your doctor.
Where can you buy them?
Fish oil may be easier to find than cod liver oil. However, dietary supplements are becoming easier to find in general. From grocery stores to health food stores to Target and Amazon, you can now find a variety of supplements for sale.
Quality is most important when selecting supplements, and it can be hard to tell which are best. Ask your doctor for a trusted brand and research third-party testing to ensure you buy pure supplements of high quality.
Always keep supplements in a cool, dark place, and never consume them if they smell rancid.
Fish oil and cod liver oil are two supplements you can take to increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake. These fatty acids are essential for healthy functioning of most body systems including the heart, brain, and developing fetuses during pregnancy.
Fish oil and cod liver oil have many of the same attributes, but their specific risks and benefits differ because they come from different sources.