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101 Modern Uses for Cod Liver Oil

By on October 30, 2017
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Fish oils, in particular the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are contained within them, are great for the entire family for a variety of reasons. They are very well known, researched, and documented for supporting cardiovascular health, brain and nerve health, vision, the immune system, and joint health.

In children, in particular, omega-3s have been seen to promote brain development; impact behavior and learning abilities; and support comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and reading skills. The amount of studies backing omega-3 benefits are now tipping toward the 30,000 mark!

In the days of the Vikings, around 1,000 years ago, cod liver oil was sent off on ships to sell or trade in foreign markets. Its uses were varied from lamp oil to medicinal use. Like fish oil, cod liver oil provides the important omega-3 fatty acids, but with the added benefit of small amounts of naturally occurring vitamins A and D.

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“The cod liver oil nowadays certainly is not the same cod liver oil that was given years ago to your parents and grandparents as they were growing up.”

Throughout my years of working in the natural foods and supplement industry, I have heard a plethora of stories about how awful it was to stand in line and wait to receive the daily dose of cod liver oil; however, these same individuals are now grateful that they were given it after learning about how beneficial cod liver oil really is. Thankfully, there are now highly purified forms in the marketplace, which make them much healthier and tastier than the versions from years past.

The importance of EPA and DHA have been seen in studies to aid in brain and nerve health. In particular, DHA helps support cognitive function, enhances nerve transmission processes, and protects neuron lifespan. It also aids in vision health. DHA is found in the retina and is important for normal vision. EPA and DHA support balanced healthy immune responses, and support healthy joints, as well as, promoting comfortable movement.

Both vitamin A and D provide added support for the immune system. This additional immune support is great to use during the months of September to May, which is when kids and adults are not outside in the sun as much. Therefore, their bodies will make less vitamin D. Also during this time of year, children and adults are exposed to many more colds and viruses, as well as, recirculating heated air due to being inside more. Depending on the cod liver oil you purchase and the dosage used for the child or adult, the amount of vitamin D in each dose is typically not enough to keep the levels sufficient throughout the colder and darker months. Additional vitamins A and D will be acquired if one is supplementing with a multivitamin/mineral. Certain individuals may need even more vitamin D depending on their 25(OH)D lab levels. The “normal” levels for vitamin D status in Canada is 75-250nmol/L.

The Cochrane meta-analysis proves vitamin D helps with asthma. Both adults and children were used as the subjects who received vitamin D. They experienced fewer asthma attacks needing treatment with oral steroids. Vitamin D reduced the risk of having to be hospitalized due to an acute asthma attack from six per 100 to around three per 100.

New data presented at the 2013 Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy says vitamin D can help with recurrent ear infections. They found that the children who received vitamin D experienced less ear infections than the placebo group. They also found those who took vitamin D were less likely to have ear infection associated complications. There was a review looking at vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids taken together, with serotonin synthesis and action with relevance for ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior.

Be sure when choosing your cod liver oil that it is purified, tested, and rated by a reputable source. IFOS, which is the International Fish Oil Standards program, is the only third-party testing and certification program exclusively for fish oil supplements. It tests for purity, potency, and freshness of fish oils. A five-star rating is the highest rating a fish oil can achieve. This five-star rating assures you that the fish oil is clean, sustainable, and fresh. You can visit the IFOS website to have a look at the consumer reports on companies that pay for the additional third-party testing.

A great way for adults or children to get in their daily dose of cod liver oil is by adding it to a favorite smoothie recipe. In addition to that option for children, parents can drizzle it into or over some of their favorite foods like popcorn, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, hummus, or yogurt. Add some into your daily routine!t


1) W.S. Harris, “The Omega-3 Index as a Risk Factor for Coronary Heart Disease,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 87 (6), 1997S–2002S (2008).

2) Relationship between the total EPA and DHA (expressed as the Omega-3 Index) and sudden cardiac death. Data are from Dr. C.M. Albert and colleagues (2).

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