Cod Liver Oil: What's the Down-Low?

Feed the Dietitian | Cod Liver Oil: What's it all about? Relieves pain, reduces risk of disease, and repairs damaged teeth, nails, hair, and skin.

Here's how I first learned about Cod Liver Oil

One of the best parts of working in a startup is the company’s open floor plan – not only does this setup allow you to work closely with your team members, but it also enables you to keep up-to-date with office gossip, share snacks (within arm’s reach) and, unfortunately, pick up whatever virus is spreading around the office.

In an attempt to stave off the “plague” (which is what we call it in my office), there are number of tactics my colleagues employ to try and stay healthy – exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat foods high in vitamin C, drink the herbal Echinacea tea, and inhale zinc nasal spray as a cold remedy. Because I seem to be susceptible to the office plague, I am willing to try most any strategy.

Recently, I was listening to a coworker (who could be one of Allure Magazine’s beauty insider editors with her endless makeup and skincare knowledge) talk about how smooth her skin has been of late, which she attributes to cod liver oil pills (the open floor plan is also a great way to catch up on the latest beauty tips). Cod liver oil (CLO) is packed full of vitamins and minerals so it’s no surprise that her skin was glowing. That’s when I thought – something that could boost my immune system and keep my skin clearer? Yes, please!

What is Cod Liver Oil?

Familiar with fish oil? Regular fish oils are extracted from the flesh of deep-sea oily fish (think tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, salmon and cod) and are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids but limited in vitamin A or D. Cod liver oil also comes from fish, but is extracted from the liver of the cod and has a relatively higher content of the fat soluble vitamins A and D for an added immunity boost. So what’s so important about all this?

Vitamin A:  Vitamin A is important for vision, the immune system, as well as helping the organs function properly. There are two types of vitamin A: 1) Retinol – the bioavailable type that is found in animal products (such as grass-fed beef and organic butter); and 2) Carotenoids – the pre-vitamin found in plants (such a beta-carotene in carrots).

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for bone and cardiovascular health. Around 64% of Americans, or 1 billion people, are deficient in vitamin D and can’t get the right amount their bodies need from just food. The most natural way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight, but if you can’t get enough sunlight or you’re worried about sun exposure, then an alternative is to take a vitamin D supplement.

Note: Vitamin K plus D: Vitamin K is known for the role it plays in blood clotting, but it’s also essential in building strong bones, preventing heart disease and fighting some cancers. And now there’s research that shows when vitamin K is used with vitamin D, the two vitamins work synergistically to enhance both bone strength and cardiovascular health. So you may want to supplement your cod liver oil with high-vitamin butter oil rich in vitamin K2.

Are there different kinds of Cod Liver Oil?

 Cod liver oil is a popular health supplement but not all brands are created equally. Cod livers can be sourced from farm fish or wild fish. Farmed fish may be cheaper to source, yet the presence of heavy metals and lower omega-3 levels decreases the quality and nutritional value of the oil.  From what I have read, the best cod liver oil is sourced from wild waters, which have fewer toxins and contain vitamins A and D in their naturally occurring form, allowing the body to absorb them easily and efficiently.

The extraction of oil also differs, varying from wet processing and dry rendering to salt water fermentation, all of which have produced some controversy and confusion. I am not advocating any particular brand, but you should consider purity, freshness, potency, nutrients, sustainability, and cost of the product.

Please note that I am not an expert in this subject, so use my blog as a resource to do your own research.

What are the benefits of cod liver oil?

 Apart from being a good source of nutrients, cod liver oil has therapeutic value, including relieving joint stiffness from arthritis, boosting cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of cancer.  It also helps repair damaged teeth, nails, hair and skin (there you have it, clearer skin!). Although most moms today don’t keep jars of cod liver oil in their medicine cabinets (my grandmother always had a jar handy when her three daughters were young), they may want to reconsider (always ask your pediatrician first).  Vitamins A and D are important nutrients for growing children.

How can you use it?

You can either purchase CLO in pill version or in the form of an oil drop. I usually use CLO drops in my morning cup of bulletproof coffee, a blend of coffee beans, unsalted grass-fed butter or grass-fed ghee and brain octane oil (now you have your vitamin K). The drink not only tastes great, but it keeps me focused and energized for the day.

XO Eliza