Cod Liver Oil Benefits

By Adrian Oaks / January 16, 2016

Cod liver oil is a highly potent supplement created from the extraction of liver oil from the cod fish. It is considered by many to be more of a "super food" or "complete food" similar in scope to raw milk. It differs from normal fish oil by being sourced from a specific organ rather than the whole fish. The average fish oil is primarily sourced from pelagic fish such as sardines or anchovies. Sardines and anchovies provide plenty of Omega-3's, however they are lacking in vitamins A , D, E, and K. These essential vitamins are important to maintain a healthy body and can mean the difference between a life riddled with chronic conditions or a life that is disease free.

Cod liver oil boosts your immune system and provides protection from common illnesses like colds and the flu. It can provide relief from a wide variety of diseases, such as: eczema, depression, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even tooth decay.

And this only scratches the surface. This supplement is quite powerful and has a wide variety of uses. It is not a new creation however. In fact, it is considered by many to be an ancient remedy.


Fish oil has probably been around since the days of Hippocrates, who wrote about the positive effects of the oil of dolphins being used for “chronic eruptions of the skin.”

Another recorded use dates back to Newfoundland, 1000 A.D during the Viking period. The Vikings would catch cod out of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and extract the livers, which would then be tied to posts for drying. In order to endure the long and dark winters, the Vikings would consume these highly nutritious dried livers as field rations.

The Romans considered Cod oil to be a tincture that promoted health and longevity, and also added it to their troop rations.

Sailors in the 1700’s would add the livers to a barrel of salt water, which would then be sealed for a period of 6 months to a year in a process called fermentation. This oil was used on long sea voyages to cure night blindness. This fermented oil was also given to young children as it was believed to prevent rickets.

It is plain to see that our ancestors understood the benefits of cod liver oil. To see why, we will take a look at the vitamin content of cod liver oil.

Vitamins & Minerals

Cod liver oil is abundant fat soluble vitamins. It is made up of vitamins A, D, E, K, and a large range of many other Quinones.

Vitamin A aids in bone growth, strengthens the eyes (retina), and plays a role in reproductive health. It also aids in regulation of the immune system. The ratio to vitamin A to vitamin D in cod liver oil promotes a healthy balance of these 2 fat soluble vitamins. Note: the vitamin A in cod liver oil is called retinol, which is a much more potent than the vegetable variety. Retinol is only found in animal products. The vegetable vitamin A is a compound called carotene, which is not actually true vitamin A. The body requires a large amount of carotenes to convert even a small amount of retinols, so it is rather ineffective to consume carotenes by themselves.

Vitamin D is also only found in animal fats. Vitamin D is a hormone that regulates the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the intestine. Some recent studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D can prevent fractures, reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

Vitamin K promotes tissue and bone growth, and aids the body in the utilization of calcium. Its primary role is to prevent excess calcium from building up in the system. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and promote coronary artery health.

Quinones are aromatic compounds present in all plant and animal cells, and are known for their anti-tumor and antibacterial properties. The most well known Quinone in CLO is Co-enzyme-Q10. Supplementation with CoQ10 can be effective in reducing migraines, regulating blood pressure, increasing human lifespan, and even protecting cells against the effects of harmful radiation. In a recent double blind study CoQ10 significantly reduced the symptoms and improved the quality of life of patients suffering from heart disease. The full effects and understanding of Quinones are still being researched and are outside the scope of this article.

CLO also contains a large amount of omega-3s. These are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These polyunsaturated fats are an important building block for our bodies and they can only by gained by consuming oily fish, as the body cannot create them on its own. Hundreds of clinical trials and studies have shown the positive effects of omega-3s in relieving the symptoms of wide range of ailments. Omega 3’s can: reduce and reverse rheumatoid arthritis, reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, reverse and prevent insulin resistance, provide protection from autoimmune disorders, treat bi-polar disorder, and is just as effective as Prozac for treating major depression. Omega- 3s can even help strengthen hair follicles and the scalp that surround them, resulting in healthier looking and more vibrant hair. It has also been shown to cure acne and fix oily or dry skin.

Cod liver oil benefits Your Teeth

One of the lesser known things about cod liver oil is that it can reverse tooth decay! Dr. Weston A Price, often cited as the "Isaac Newton of nutrition" conducted many studies on children and adults suffering from tooth decay and other degenerative diseases. He specialized in taking a nutritional approach to healing cavities In one such case study he writes:

“The quantity of the mixture of butter oil and cod liver oil required is quite small, half a teaspoonful three times a day with meals is sufficient to control tooth decay when used with a diet that is low in sugar and starches and high in foods providing the minerals, particularly phosphorus. A Teaspoonful a day divided between two or three meals is usually adequate to prevent dental caries and maintain a high immunity; it will also maintain freedom from colds and a high level of health in general. This reinforcement of the fat-soluble vitamins to a menu that is low in starches and sugars, together with th use of bread and cereal grains freshly ground to retain the full content of the embryo or germ, and with milk for growing children and for many adults, and the liberal use of sea foods and organs of animals, produced the result described."

Side effects and overdose?

Cod oil is very safe when taken in moderation. Vitamin D overdose/toxicity is possible at extremely high doses (150 ng/ml (375 nmol/L). In some cases too much omega-3 has been known to cause blood thinning when used with anti-coagulant medications. A more common side effect is burping or a bad aftertaste (fish taste). Indigestion and heartburn can also become an issue if your body is not used to digesting oils. In general, processed cod liver oil has more side effects and the possibility of allergic reactions is higher.

Processed or Fermented?

If you are looking to supplement with cod liver oil, you should decide on whether you want to go with the processed or fermented type.

Processed cod liver oil is a relatively new creation. Up until about the mid 1800’s, there was no such thing as “processed cod liver oil”. In 1853 a heating process called “rendering” was discovered by a Norwegian named Peter Moller that allowed cod livers to be heated much more quickly, with nutrient extraction taking only hours, as opposed to months. Rendering is similar to modern day pressure cooking or steam distillation. This method produced oil that was denatured, smelled and tasted terrible, and did not endure a very long shelf life. Over time, rendering technology and processes have evolved to produce the mostly odorless and long lasting fish oils that we see on the shelves today. These products have often been bleached, alkalized, and heavily refined. The methods used to produce these processed oils destroys some of the nutrients because of the high temperatures and chemicals that are used. Some fish oil companies will add these lost vitamins back in after processing.

Fermented cod liver oil is ancient method of preparing fish oil. However, it is much more difficult to make. The process is time consuming and labor intensive. The cod livers need to be stored in containers for an unknown period of time (usually 6-12 months) and the finished product must be purified in such a way as to not destroy any nutrient content. Needless to say, fermented cod liver oil is unfortunately extremely rare these days. Not many companies are willing to go the long and slow route to produce their product.

To get a better idea about fermentation, lets check out this video. Dave Wetzel, the founder of green pastures, describes the various types of redox methods:

Essentially, food products can be broken down using heat, chemical or fermentation. The heat and chemical methods are damaging to the molecules in the food. Fermented food is a natural breakdown that is comparable to digestion. Consumption of heated or chemically altered foods results in toxic byproducts during the breakdown (digestive) process. Fermented food products don't suffer from this problem.

Fermented oil is typically the optimal way to consume this type of fish oil. This is due to the way in which our bodies break down and utilize the molecules in the various foods we eat. Essentially, fermentation in enzymatic breakdown (digestion). If you are looking to give this type of fish oil a try check out our review of green pasture cod liver oil.

Cod Liver Oil.. the "Superfood"

This is just a small list of the health benefits gained from taking cod liver oil. As you can see, cod liver oil benefits you on many levels. It is a super food in the purest sense. If you take only 1 supplement, it should be this one. If you are just looking to improve your overall health, then I recommend you check out the normal cod liver oils as they should provide pretty good nutrient boost to your diet. However, if you are suffering from 1 or more degenerative diseases, or you are sensitive to the processed type of cod liver oil, than you may need the fermented variety as it will provide a larger amount of overall nutrients and be more digestible.

​For more information about cod liver oil check out our homepage or our article here.