Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a nutritional supplement that is derived from the liver of cod, a species of fish. As a fish product, it is rich in a type of essential fatty acids called omega-3. Essential fatty acids cannot be created by the human body by itself, and therefore need to be consumed as part of a diet, or using supplements. However, oil derived from cod’s liver is rich in more than just omega-3 fatty acids – it is an excellent source of Vitamin A and D too. All these essential nutrients combine to ensure that, when taken regularly, cod liver oil improves your health and well-being.
Benefits of Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is one of the most popular naturally-derived nutritional supplements, and there are a number of reasons why. As one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid, known as EPA and DHA, it is consumed by many individuals who want the health benefits of taking omega-3 through a nutritional supplement. The importance of these essential nutrients in the functioning of our body, including in cognition and brain development, cannot be overstated: research has shown that these nutrients help temper our moods, as well as improve our reaction time, apart from the other cognitive benefits.
The complete list of omega-3 benefits could fill a book; however, we should note that a diet rich in these fatty acids has been found to be useful for arthritis, skin care, constipation and coronary heart disease, apart from other ailments. Even the FDA agrees that, “consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Its usefulness as a pain reliever in rheumatoid arthritis is well documented – not only does it provide relief from the pain, it does so without harmful side-effects that are associated with the use of other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Cod liver oil is also very rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D, which are essential vitamins that are an important part of the healthy functioning of our body. Indeed, it is interesting to note that Vitamin D was first discovered by American researchers Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis in the 1920s while doing their research on the oil itself. As part of their research, they used cod liver oil to cure a number of dogs suffering from rickets, and in doing so discovered Vitamin D. Even today, cod liver oil for dogs is a popular nutritional supplement that is used to keep them healthy and free of diseases such as rickets.
Traditionally, oil was derived from cod’s liver by the process of fermentation – the livers were fermented for up to one year before oil was derived from them. In the present day, much of this oil is manufactured by heating and cooking cod’s liver, but many manufacturers still make fermented cod liver oil because of consumer demand.
What cod liver oil is good for
Regular consumption of cod liver oil results in health benefits for just about anyone; however, there are some ailments and conditions that are especially helped by its consumption.
For patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, cod liver oil is one of the best pain relievers, surpassing even anti-inflammatory drugs in effectiveness. This nutritional supplement has been used for centuries to get relief from rheumatoid arthritis, but it is only now that scientists have started to understand how it works, and the many advantages that come from using it to relieve arthritic pain. In a double blind study conducted in April 2008, Professor Jill Belch from the University of Dundee confirmed that regular intake of cod liver oil helps with arthritic pain “without the harmful side effects associated with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.” By regularly using it as a nutritional supplement, arthritis patients can get pain relief without putting themselves at the risk of harm that comes from regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
When you are at a risk of coronary heart diseases, regular consumption of cod liver oil is perhaps one of the most helpful steps you can take to prevent any coronary event. A meta-analysis of eight trials involving more than 20,000 patients found that “dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids reduces the incidence of sudden cardiac death in patients with Myocardial Infarction.” Indeed, the effectiveness of omega-3 in reducing coronary risks is so well known that researchers have suggested the amount of these fatty acids in the blood stream can itself serve as a risk factor of the coronary heart diseases.
Cod liver oil is also a very good remedy for constipation. It works by lubricating the intestines, and by preventing water absorption, which hydrates the stool and makes it easier to pass. If you are suffering from constipation, and want a natural remedy, cod liver oil is an excellent solution for you.
Cod Liver, Fish oil and Vitamin D
Fish are one of the richest natural sources of omega-3, which is the reason why both fish oil and cod liver oil are rich in these fatty acids. The primary difference between the two types of oils is that cod liver oil is also rich in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients required for the healthy functioning of the human body – the American Pediatric Association advises that everyone should take at least 400 IU (10 micrograms) of Vitamin D supplementation every day. However, in spite of the fact that products such as milk are artificially fortified with Vitamin D, even in western societies many individuals fail to get sufficient Vitamin D in their diet. Deficiency in Vitamin D is directly responsible for bone-related diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, and has been associated with ailments as diverse as juvenile diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you want to supplement your diet with a healthy dosage of Vitamin D, your choice in the Cod Liver Oil vs Fish Oil is simple enough – take the former. Fish oil benefits mostly come from the omega-3 that fish are rich in, so if you want benefits of taking these essential fatty acids, fish oil can be your favored choice. However, it should be noted that cod liver oil is richer in these essential nutrients per gram of weight than fish oil.
Side Effects and Precautions
Cod liver oil is an unusual nutritional supplement because it is just too rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D, which can prove harmful for some individuals. Pregnant women are especially advised to take caution and expert advice before regularly consuming this oil, or any oil derived from fish, because high levels of some forms of Vitamin A have been known to cause birth defects.
Since a lot of fish come from contaminated waters, cod liver oil, as a fish product, can also be contaminated by poisonous substances such as mercury and PCBs. However, most manufacturers, and definitely the good ones, purify their product to remove any toxins from it. Before taking a particular brand of cod liver oil you should check that it has been tested by an impartial consumer research body to be free of toxins and other contaminants.
Taking Cod Liver Oil
A new research study, sponsored by Arthritis Research UK, and done by researchers at the Bristol University, has shown that not only do omega-3 act as painkillers in arthritis, they also stop the progression of the condition itself. Studies like these are throwing new light on how our body responds to and works with these nutrients. It is already known that they are essential – now we are coming to understand just how essential they are for us.
Even before scientific research had found out the reasons behind the efficacy of cod liver oil, grandmothers across the world were giving their grandkids a daily dose of this excellent health supplement. As one of the richest sources of omega-3, cod liver oil can help you remain stress-free, protect you against coronary events, act as a natural painkiller in arthritis, even as it stops progression of that condition, and remove constipation, among other benefits. Cod liver oil is one of the most potent natural nutritional supplements, and there is no reason why you should not take it regularly to improve your mental and physical well-being.