10 Amazing Benefits Of Cod Liver Oil You Didn’t Know About

benefits of cod liver oil

A spoonful of smelly cod liver oil is a distinct childhood memory for many of us. This familiar face in the kitchen cabinet has a long history too. Even as early as the Second World War, cod liver oil was used to fight malnourishment in children – often combined with sweet tasting malt to make it more palatable!

So why exactly is cod liver oil considered a golden remedy? This may have to do with its omega-3 fatty acid content, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help keep your skin healthy.1 Cod liver oil is also a rich source of vitamin D and vitamin A, important vitamins that are needed to keep your body functioning smoothly. Here’s a closer look at how the nutritious cod liver oil can enhance your well-being and fight diseases.


1. Helps Prevent Rickets

Rickets is a disease which causes weak soft bones in children. This condition generally develops when children don’t get enough vitamin D which helps bones absorb minerals like calcium or phosphorus.2 Cod liver oil with its high reserves of vitamin D can help fight rickets. In one study, cod liver oil was able to prevent rickets in 92% of babies who took it for 6 months and in 58% of those who took it for 4 months.3

2. Lowers Risk Of Type 1 Diabetes

You may know of diabetes as a condition that affects older people with lifestyle problems like obesity. But you are thinking of type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in children, teenagers, and young adults. While the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be lowered to a large extent by regular physical activity, this is not so for type 1 diabetes.4 And this is where cod liver oil offers hope. A study in Norway found that the consumption of cod liver oil in the first year of life was linked to a significantly lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes, possibly due to the anti-inflammatory effects of long-chain n−3 fatty acids present in cod liver oil. 5


3. Reduces Arthritis Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that causes swelling, stiffness, pain, and loss of functionality in the joints.6 Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are usually used to treat the pain and inflammation associated with this condition can have unpleasant side effects. Cod liver oil may be able to step in here.

One study found that treatment with a mixture of cod liver oil and fish oil for a period of 9 months significantly reduced self-reported pain. About 39% of those who underwent this treatment were able to reduce their use of NSAID by over 30%. Again, the anti-inflammatory effect of EPA and DHA is thought to be at work here. However, if you’re undergoing treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, remember, this will need to be a supplementary therapy. It’s important to check with your doctor before changing the dosage of any medication that you take.7


4. Lowers Risk Of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which affects the brain or the spinal cord, causing problems with balance, sensation, vision, or leg or arm movement.8 Supplementation with cod liver oil between the ages of 13 and 18 has been found to lower the risk of developing this condition. Interestingly, supplementation during childhood was not found to have an effect. Since low levels of vitamin D have long been associated with multiple sclerosis, it is thought that cod liver oil works by improving vitamin D levels. 9

5. Helps Heal Wounds Faster

Topical application of cod liver oil has been found to quicken wound healing. An animal study found the application of 25% cod liver oil ointment to be extremely beneficial. It led to significantly faster formation of new blood vessels as well as quicker epithelialization or tissue formation over the wound. Since vitamin A has been found to accelerate wound healing in a similar manner, this active component may be responsible for this property of cod liver oil.10


6. Works As A Blood Thinner

Doctors often prescribe blood thinners to people with certain heart conditions. They can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by decreasing the formation of blood clots which block blood flow to your heart or brain. But did you know that cod liver oil works as a natural blood thinner? According to one study, healthy people who took 20 ml of cod liver oil for 3 weeks experienced a significant increase in the time it took for their blood to clot.11

7. Reduces Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common condition implicated in serious health issues like heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. Research indicates that cod liver oil may be able to help lower it. When people having a normal Western diet took 40 ml of cod liver oil per day for 25 days, their blood pressure fell. It was also found that cod liver oil blunted the circulatory response to norepinephrine and angiotensin II, hormones that increase blood pressure by triggering the narrowing of blood vessels.12 So cod liver oil might be just the thing if you want to turn down the pressure!


8. Cuts Risk Of Respiratory Infections

Are visits to the pediatrician for coughs and colds common in your family? Cod liver oil may be able to help. Research has found that the use of cod liver oil and a multivitamin supplement with selenium was able to reduce the number of pediatric visits for upper respiratory diseases by 36 to 58% during winter and early spring.13 Cod liver oil could be working through vitamin D here. This vitamin modulates the immune system by preventing the excessive expression of inflammatory cytokines and stimulating the production of antimicrobial peptides.14

9. Lowers Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a kind of fat found in your blood that can be extremely harmful, increasing your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke and also causing inflammation of your pancreas.15 Cod liver again to the rescue! A study that supplemented the diets of healthy men with 20 ml of cod liver oil daily for 6 weeks found that it lowered the triglyceride concentration in blood.16


10. Protects Against Depression

Research indicates that omega 3 fatty acids can help fend off depression. One study that looked at a large population found people who used cod liver oil regularly were less likely to have symptoms of depression. When the researchers looked at a subset of the population consisting of people between the ages of 40 and 46, they even found that depressive symptoms decreased as the duration of cod liver use increased.17

Fermented Cod Liver Oil: No Specific Benefits Found Yet

Fermented cod liver oil is oil made by fermenting the livers of fish. While anecdotal knowledge pegs this as being better than regular cod liver oil, there isn’t yet any clear evidence that this process of extraction can improve or enhance cod liver oil. Studies on cod liver oil don’t typically use fermented cod liver oil – another challenge. Moreover, there are some concerns in the scientific community about the high levels of free fatty acids in fermented cod liver oil. Your best bet right now is to check with your doctor and see if this is appropriate in your individual case.18


How Much Should You Take?

Many scientific studies focus on taking 20–30 ml of cod liver oil a day for benefits like triglyceride and blood pressure control.19 But as we saw, cod liver oil is also a rich source of vitamin A and D. And while both these vitamins are critically important, they can be toxic in excessive amounts. The upper limit for vitamin D in a day is 1,000 to 1,500 IU for babies; 2,500 to 3,000 IU for children between the ages of 1 and 8 years; and 4,000 IU for those who’re 9 years of age or older.20 The upper limit for vitamin A in a day is 2000 IU till the age of 3; 3000 IU between the ages of 4 to 8; 5667 IU between the ages of 9 and 13; 9333 IU between the ages of 14 and 18; and 10,000 IU for over the age of 19.21 A teaspoon (5 ml) of cod liver oil usually contains 4500 IU of vitamin A and 450 IU of vitamin D, so you need to take this into consideration while consuming cod liver oil.22

It is also not advisable to take supplements containing vitamin A, including cod liver oil, while you’re pregnant as excessive vitamin A can be harmful for your baby.23 Be wary of interactions if you are already on blood pressure or blood thinning medication or taking other herbal remedies.