For centuries, north European fishing communities have used cod-liver oil for a variety of purposes. In 16th century England, it was very commonly used by fishermen to treat a plethora of health issues as varied as wounds, body-aches, common colds and even skin diseases. The earliest medical use of cod-liver oil dates back to 1789 and is credited to a Dr. Darby of Manchester infirmary; he used it in the treatment of rheumatism. Since the early 19th century, cod-liver oil has been regularly used in the treatment of varied conditions like rheumatism, arthritis and rickets.
The recent upsurge in its popularity as a health supplement is due to an early 1970’s Danish study on Greenland Eskimos. The researchers observed that in spite of the extremely high-fat diet of the Eskimos, incidence of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases was very low. They concluded that the real reason for this was ironically, the high-fat fish diet that the Eskimos consumed. They found that this diet had a high concentration of a particular type of unsaturated fatty acid called Omega-3 fatty acid. Since then, the benefits of fish oil have been put into light as a great source of omega 3. The cold liver oil benefits will however be the main focus of this article. As a health supplement it has become exceedingly popular.
As the name suggests, cod-liver oil is extracted from the liver of the cod fish which is mainly found in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It is pale yellow in color and has a fish-like taste. It contains a high concentration of vitamin A and vitamin D along with Omega-3 fatty acids like Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DPA), which are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The major difference between fish oil and cod-liver oil is the presence of vitamin A and vitamin D in the latter, making cod-liver oil distinctly superior as a health supplement. The various health benefits of cod-liver oil are detailed below.
Benefits of cod liver oil
- The omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in cod-liver oil are known to be effective in treating/preventing various medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 1 diabetes, neurological illnesses like Alzheimer’s and autism, arthritis, asthma and various learning disorders. Moreover, regular cod-liver oil supplementation has also been proven to aid normal neurological development in infants and better brain function and focus in adults.
- Vitamin A present in cod-liver oil helps maintain vision and skin health. It also plays an important as one of the many immune system vitamins and also helps in preventing night blindness.
- Cod-liver oil is also a great vitamin D source which is also known as the “sunshine” vitamin. It keeps the bones healthy. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets, arthritis, juvenile diabetes and even cancer. Thus regular cod-liver oil supplementation is extremely helpful in avoiding vitamin D deficiency.
The above cod liver oil benefits explain it’s growing popularity as health supplement but while these benefits of daily cod-liver oil supplementation cannot be denied; it also involves certain disadvantages and potential side-effects.
Cod liver oil side effects
-1) Due to ever increasing environmental pollution, heavy metals like mercury and arsenic have been detected in many brands of fish oil and cod-liver oil worldwide. These heavy metals are known to cause neurotoxicity and can lead to permanent brain damage, especially in children. Also, cancer causing PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl) have also been detected in significant proportions. This is also true as one of the fish oil side effects you should watch out for.
-2 ) Since cod-liver oil is one of the most potent naturally occurring sources of fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and D, excessive intake of cod-liver oil can lead to “Hypervitaminosis”; toxicity triggered by an overdose of vitamins. Hypervitaminosis D is known to cause dehydration, vomiting, anorexia and constipation. On the other hand Hypervitaminosis A is known to cause birth defects, vision problems, osteoporosis and hair-loss.
-3) Cod-liver Oil can interfere with certain blood-thinning medications like Aspirin and Warfarin. In severe cases, this can lead to internal bleeding and hemorrhaging.
Though the above mentioned cod liver oil side effects are very serious, they can be eliminated by using pharmaceutical grade cod-liver oil as opposed to food grade cod-liver oil. As pharmaceutical grade cod-liver is distilled and refined completely, the chance of it being contaminated with heavy metals and PCBs is remote. Also, the side-effects related to the excessive consumption of cod-liver oil can be nullified by taking a doctor’s advice before beginning regular cod-liver oil supplementation.
Thus, it is safe to conclude that by taking a few simple precautions, the amazing health benefits of daily cod-liver oil softgels can be enjoyed without any fear of adverse side-effects related to cod liver. Fish oil was already mentioned but the krill oil benefits as also quite similar to those from cod liver oil should you want an alternative source of omega 3.