Cod Liver Oil Side Effects
As one of the richest sources of vitamins A and D, and of unsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids, cod liver oil is arguably the most beneficial natural health supplement one can take regularly. However, there are a number of precautions and side effects associated with its daily use.
Most of cod liver oil side effects are a result of the following two factors: its unusual richness in vitamins A and D, and contaminants and toxic chemicals that are often found in fish based products. The former can result in hypervitaminosis for both vitamins A and D, and is a cause of many adverse effects associated with this oil. However, before going into cod liver oil side effects, let’s see how to consume it, and the precautions that are needed with its daily use.
Use and Precautions
In its original liquid state, cod liver oil has a very strong taste that is considered distasteful by almost everyone. Some manufacturers produce flavored cod liver oil, which makes it more palatable. Lime and orange are some of the more popular flavors for this oil. If you buy it unflavored, you can take your daily dose with fruit juice to avoid its taste and smell. Cod liver oil is also available in the form of capsules, which are more easily ingested. Indeed, most of cod liver oil sold is in the form of capsules.
One distasteful result of taking cod liver oil is what is called a “fish oil burps”. One can get unpleasant burps even from capsules of cod liver oil. However, by keeping the oil or the capsules in the freezer, and swallowing it while they are still frozen, you can slow down their digestion and avoid the burps. You also have the choice of switching manufacturers to use a brand that is more suitable for you.
Side Effects of Cod liver Oil
The high concentration of vitamins A and D found in this oil can cause of a number of side effects. For adults, the upper tolerable limit for daily consumption of vitamin A is 3000 µg or 10,000 IU. Depending on the type or brand of the oil being used, one can easily consume more vitamin A than the recommended upper limit by taking only 2-3 spoonfuls of cod liver oil every day. Similarly, taking more than a few spoonfuls of the oil or consuming more than a few capsules can result in hypervitaminosis D. Since the upper tolerable level for vitamin D is much higher, and the oil contains less of it than vitamin A, one is less likely to suffer from hypervitaminosis D than from hypervitaminosis A while consuming cod liver oil.
Hypervitaminosis A can result in birth defects, osteoporosis and liver problems, apart from other ailments. Hypervitaminosis D can result in decreased appetite, dehydration, fatigue and muscle weakness, apart from other serious ailments and conditions. Pregnant women and unborn babies are especially at higher risk of hypervitaminosis A; if you are pregnant, consult your physician before taking this supplement. Other users too can avoid hypervitaminosis of both these vitamins, and the resultant adverse effects, by making sure that their daily intake for these vitamins is less than the respective upper tolerable level for them.
As a supplement derived from fish, cod liver oil is at a risk of containing higher concentrations of toxins such as mercury and PCBs that are often found in aquatic flora and fauna. However, all leading manufacturers remove these toxins from the final product by purifying the oil during its production. You should confirm that the brand of oil you are consuming has gone through such a purification process and is devoid of toxins found in fish products.
As long as you make sure that you are not consuming too much vitamins A and D, and that the oil has been purified to rid it of contaminants, you can regularly consume cod liver oil in doses that have been recommended for you. Taking more than the recommended dose can result in cod liver oil side effects mentioned above, and should be avoided. Nature has enriched cod liver oil with many nutrients, and our body needs it only in small quantities to benefit from it.