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Cod Liver Oil: Health Benefits, Facts and Research

Cod liver oil, as the name suggests, is the essential oil extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua).

The oil is commonly taken as a dietary supplement. It is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and contains relatively high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D.

The exact concentration of nutrients in cod liver oil depends on the species of Gadus family the oil comes from.1

The medical use of cod liver goes back centuries. Its first documented medical use was in 1789, when Dr Darbey of the Manchester Infirmary in England used the oil to treat rheumatism.

Only a few decades later, in 1824, cod liver oil was used as a remedy against rickets. By the 1930s the therapeutic properties of cod-liver oil were well established and it was frequently given to children to help prevent rickets and other conditions caused by vitamin D deficiency.2

The difference between cod liver oil and regular fish oils is that fish oils are extracted from the tissue of deep sea oily fish such as tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, salmon and cod. By contrast, cod liver oil is extracted solely from the livers of cod. Cod liver oil contains lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than regular fish oils, but larger amounts of vitamins A and D.

Possible health benefits of cod liver oil

Apart from being a good source of nutrients, studies have found that cod liver oil may have some very important therapeutic properties.

Cod liver oil is thought to help relieve joint stiffness associated with arthritis, have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and help repair wounded teeth, nails, hair, and skin.

Let's take a look at the possible health benefits of cod liver oil in more detail. It is important to note that more evidence is required before any health benefit links are proved definitive.

1) Cod liver oil is the right kind of fat

Fat is essential for every single cell in your body. Eating the right kinds of fats (like the omega 3 fatty acids in cod liver oil) will make the skin glow, increase vitamin and mineral absorption and boost the immune system. Fat keeps you full and satiated. When you consume fat, your brain receives a signal to turn off your appetite. Eating healthy fats with a meal helps slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar, which helps to keep blood sugars levels in your blood stable. Your brain needs to be fueled with fat to function optimally.

2) Arthritis

A German study, which included 43 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who ingested 1 g of cod liver oil every day for 3 months, found that the patients experienced a decrease in the pain intensity of their stiff joints.4

A separate study concluded that cod liver oil may also help those suffering from osteoarthritis. Researchers at Cardiff University found that cod liver oil helped reduce pain and cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis, as well as reducing the need for joint replacement. In their study, the investigators found that cod liver oil reduced enzymes linked to pain and cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis.5

3) Age-related macular degeneration

Several studies have suggested that omega 3s support eye health and prevent macular degeneration. These findings have not been consistent in all studies, however. Other nutrients that have been found to be helpful in preventing AMD are carotenoids, which can minimize the damage and reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Cod liver oil is also high in carotenoids. Vitamin A was actually first discovered in butterfat and cod liver oil in 1913.15

4) Coronary artery disease

Daily intake of cod liver oil can help prevent coronary atherosclerosis. Research published in the journal Lipids concluded that ingestion of 1.5 g of n-3 fatty acids per day resulted in "decreased progression/increased regression of established coronary artery disease."

5) Repairing wounds

One study assessed the effect of topically applying cod liver oil ointment on wounds using a hairless mouse ear wound model. The scientists concluded that topical application of 25% cod liver oil ointment "significantly accelerated both the epithelial and the vascular component of healing compared with saline."

6) Cognitive performance

Cod liver oil contains a high amount of vitamin D. A link between vitamin D and cognitive performance was identified in a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. The authors concluded that Vitamin D may play a key role in maintaining good brain function in old age.

7) Tuberculosis

A review of a historical study from 1848 revealed that cod liver oil could be an effective treatment option for tuberculosis. The disease was stabilized in 18% of participants who received cod liver oil, in comparison with only 6% in the control group.

The Best Fish Oil Comes from Canada Not Norway

Did you know although heavily advertised as being better for you than most of the other omega 3 fatty acid supplements on the market, there is really nothing special about Norwegian fish oil? It seems as if the people of the Nordic regions want you to believe that they are the most knowledgeable about the effects of omega 3 fatty acids, and that some how the fish from the waters surrounding their homelands are somehow better sources of these nutrients.

It is true that much of what we have learned about the many benefits of DHA and EPA omega fatty acids is based on the work of Danish doctors Dyerberg and Bang. They are the scientists that studied the differences in the diets of Inuit people in Greenland, and the Danes back home. What they discovered about the differences in the health of these groups of people paved the way for the omega 3 fatty acid craze.

Inuits that remained at home in Greenland reaped the benefits of Norwegian fish oil, even though their diets were incredibly high in fat. These people suffered from virtually none of the inflammatory diseases that we so regularly develop. Cardiovascular disease, arthritis, gout, type two diabetes, and allergies were all but unheard of among the Inuit people.

When some of the Inuits migrated to Denmark and adopted the diets of the Danish people however, things began to change. The Inuits no longer seemed impervious to inflammatory ailments, and this is what prompted the studies by Dyerberg and Bang. They needed to figure out exactly what differences in the diets forced one group of people to fall prey to disease, and not the other.

What they discovered is that a diet that is rich in foods that contain high levels of omega 6 fatty acids causes the inflammation that leads to the development of disease, while a diet that is rich in omega 3s has an anti-inflammatory effect. In the years since these scientists published their findings the production and sales of Danish, Icelandic, and Norwegian fish oil have simply been phenomenal.

The truth is though that Denmark, Iceland, and Norway are not the biggest producers of omega 3 fatty acid fish oil supplements. That title goes to Peru, which accounts for one fourth of worldwide fish oil production followed closely by Chile. The waters that the Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic people fish from produces no higher quality fish than the waters around South America or anywhere else.

The highest quality omega 3 fatty acid product is not Norwegian fish oil, but oil that comes from a combination of South Pacific tuna and hoki fish manufactured by a company in Canada. Their product is the best because of the protocols they follow when it comes to ensuring that you get the freshest, purest, most highly concentrated DHA omega 3 fatty acid formulas possible.

The bottom line is Norwegian fish oil doesn't stand up next to the omega 3 fatty acid products that this Canadian Company has developed. Their formula is the best source of omega 3 fatty acids you can buy.

Laurel Cohen is a strong advocate of natural health in all its forms: skin care, supplementation, and farm fresh foods. She enjoys introducing people to the best natural products she can find and uses herself daily.

Visit her site to learn about the omega 3 fish oils.