If you’re not familiar with the benefits of cod liver oil, you’ll want to read on to learn more about this ancient super food supplement. Contributor Stefani gives us all the details below.
The benefits of cod liver oil have been known for centuries. Natives in northern Europe used it to protect them from the cold winters. (source) At the beginning of the 20th century, it was discovered that cod liver oil was effective in preventing rickets, a disease linked to a vitamin D deficiency.
Parents started giving it to their children, and studies began to show that it reduced upper respiratory infections. (source) It’s no longer as popular as it once was, mainly due to the strong taste, however, it’s beginning to make a comeback in recent years.
What are the benefits of cod liver oil?
Cod liver oil is just as it sounds: it’s an oil made from the livers of codfish. It’s a good source of vitamins A & D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Because the Standard American Diet is too high in omega 6 inflammatory fatty acids and too low in omega 3 anti-inflammatory ones, taking a cod liver oil supplementation is wise.
Cod liver oil:
- relieves achy joints and muscle pain
- provides fatty acids known to improve brain health and may help with depression and other mental illness
- is useful in elderly populations for increasing bone density and reducing fractures
- may be useful in treating glaucoma due to its ability to reduce intraocular pressure. (source)
Additionally, the benefits of cod liver oil go beyond pain relief and healing glaucoma, to actually boosting and maintaining immune function in the body.
How vitamins A and D improve the immune system
One of the biggest benefits of cod liver oil is its impressive offering of high-quality vitamins A & D. Vitamin A is essential for the immune system, and our bodies don’t produce it so we must get it from an outside source. It’s responsible for the growth of bones and cells, the function of our skin and epithelial tissues, and reproductive functionality. (source)
Vitamin A deficiency causes an increased risk of infection. Additionally, infections increase the body’s need for vitamin A, which creates a downward cycle of health.
Direct sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but our indoor lifestyles, cloudy climates, and increasing air pollution affect the amount we receive. Therefore, researchers believe that half of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient. (source) Our culture’s overuse of sunscreens also decreases the amount of sunlight we receive. Wearing a sunscreen of 30SPF reduces vitamin D absorption by the skin by more than 95%.
Adequate Vitamin D not only prevents rickets, but reduces the risk of common cancers and other diseases. It’s been shown to reduce type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. (source)
The superior omega fats in cod liver oil
In addition to vitamins A and D, cod liver oil contains essential fatty acids. (Read more about why you need those and the best way to get them here.)
The beneficial omega 3 fatty acids that are present in cod liver oil are eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA). These are the same fatty acids that you can find in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
EPA and DHA are far superior to other omega 3 fatty acids such asalpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in chia seeds and flax seeds. While ALA still has benefits, you’d have to eat a great deal more of these foods than those with EPA and DHA to get the same benefit.
EPA and DHA are extremely beneficial for lowering systemic inflammation levels throughout the body. When studied, they showed the ability to lower the risk of heart disease by minimizing arterial inflammation. (source) Scientists believe that the protective omega 3s in fish oils also reduce triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol, further supporting the health of the cardiovascular system. (source)
Why you should avoid cheap cod liver oil
Gaining the benefits of cod liver oil is simple, but your top priority should be finding a high-quality source because not all of them are created equal. The biggest concerns to consider when choosing a cod liver oil are the source of the fish, the process of extraction, and whether or not there are any other additives.
Cod liver oil is highly fragile. It oxidizes easily when exposed to light and oxygen, which ruins the product. This is why great care must be taken during the production process to prevent oxidation (spoilage) and protect the nutrients in the cod liver oil.
A to D ratio: an important consideration
It is important to AVOID cod liver oil that contains low levels of vitamin D in relationship to vitamin A. The ideal ratio of A to D is no greater than 10:1 (for every one unit of vitamin D there should be no more than 10 units of vitamin A).
With industrialized processing, these ratios can become imbalanced and the risk for vitamin A toxicity becomes greater.
You will find that the purest, least processed cod liver oils have a ratio near the ideal 10:1, because when the vitamins are naturally occurring, rather than synthetic, they are naturally balanced.
Who needs the benefits of cod liver oil most?
Cod liver oil is a traditional, ancient super food that various cultures have long depended on for health, vitality, and fertility.
Yep- cod liver oil is super important for fertility. Those planning to become pregnant, or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding need cod liver oil the most, as the omega fats in cod liver oil nourish the brains of growing babies and children.
Yep- kids need it too. Growing brains and bodies can benefit greatly from cod liver oil supplementation. Especially in the winter.
Yep- vitamin D is scarce in the winter. Which means we can all benefit from cod liver oil supplementation, particularly during gray and cloudy seasons, in order to bolster the immune system when the sun can’t give us the vitamin D we need.
Best (& worst) cod liver oils
Best cod liver oil
Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil- EVCLO is unprocessed, which is superior to other processed cod liver oils. The naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D are already present in the right ratios, which allows this type of cod liver oil to provide far better benefits than other kinds. (source)
Each batch of Rosita EVCLO is carefully handcrafted without heat, chemicals or exposure to metal in Rosita’s dimly lit, cool facility.
How is it processed?
First, after removing the livers from the fish, they gently expose them to near-winter conditions (like the cold waters where the fish swim). They then gently allow the livers to warm up to just a bit above freezing. This gradual shift in temperature and pressure breaks down the liver cells. Within an hour or two, they release the oil with all its nutritional goodness.
The oil is then gently filtered using a natural marine material that absorbs contaminants like a magnet for easy removal. Next, the oil goes through a series of paper filters. Each batch is tested twice to meet strict EU standards for export and to ensure it’s free of heavy metals and contaminants.
In addition, tiny amounts of a carefully selected organic rosemary extract and full spectrum vitamin E is added to ensure freshness.
Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil is truly an artisan product and gives you the nutritional benefits of a whole, nourishing food. The truth is that I would rather give myself and my children smaller doses of this high quality oil and ration it than use a cheaper oil.
Please note that we do not recommend fermented cod liver oil at The Family That Heals Together.
We’ve written extensively about why we don’t recommend fermented cod liver oil. You can read about that here, here, and here. All signs point to fermented cod liver oil being rancid and causing health issues. In addition, the product appears to contain vitamin D2, not the desirable and absorbable D3, and the A to D ratios are way off.
In addition, testing found that the oil used in fermented cod liver was not even true cod!
As far as processing, fermented cod liver remains shrined in secrecy, so it’s unclear how the oil is actually fermented, lending to the uncertainty of safety and possibility of rancidity.
What about cheaper oils available online and at health stores?
While the benefits of cod liver oil are many, they are dampened by chemical processing and added ingredients. While some lesser quality oils may provide some beneficial omega fatty acids, they should not be depended on for quality vitamin D supplementation.
The cod liver oil industry has huge differences in the quality of oils from the various companies that produce it. The best way to ensure that you are getting the incredible benefits of cod liver oil is to thoroughly research the product, practices, and source prior to making a purchase.