Cod Liver Oil



“There is hardly a disease in the books that does not respond well to cod liver oil, and not just infectious diseases but also chronic modern diseases like heart disease and cancer.”1

 

Fermented cod liver oil is my favorite source of vitamin D because you need very little, it is easy to store, and it needs no preparation.   Fermented cod liver oil is naturally balanced with vitamin D’s vital partner, vitamin A.   Cod liver oil also contains health-supporting quinines, EPA (for inflammatory response) and DHA (for brain and neurological function), and omega-3,-6,-7, and -9 oils.  A teaspoon or two over breakfast along with X-Factor butter oil (which provides vitamin K2) works well for me.   Also, for people with an aversion to its taste, fermented cod liver oil comes both in flavors and capsule form and can be taken with orange juice to blunt any aftertaste.

 

Fermented cod liver oil that is made in accordance with tradition often contains ten times the vitamin A relative to vitamin D, but the amount of A to D is inconsistent; these amounts vary according to the diet of the specific catch and the season (summer cod livers have more oil than those taken in winter and are less potent—the less oil in a liver, the more potent the oil).

 

Fermented cod liver oil should not be confused with commercial brands that are cleaned and deodorized using alkali refining, bleaching, and deodorization.    Because people often buy cod liver as a source of EPA and DHA, some deodorized brands do not bother to add back lost vitamins, and hence have low levels of vitamin A and no vitamin D.  Such a product can lead to vitamin A toxicity if over-consumed.  Other brands—the majority of cod liver oils sold—are cleaned and deodorized, and synthetic vitamins A and D are added back after processing.  When labels contain exact levels of vitamins A and D, it is a sign that they fit this latter category.  Read labels carefully.  Traditional cod liver oils, such as Green Pastures; Radiant Life; and Dr. Ron’s UltraPure, may not list vitamin A and D levels.   This  can be a good sign, indicating that it is a natural product created without commercial processing and the addition of synthetic, measureable forms of vitamins A and D.

 

While dosage recommendations can vary, a dose of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is generally half that of regular cod liver oil.  Guidelines provided by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig of the Weston A. Price Foundation are as follows:

 

  • Children aged 3 month to 12 years:  ½ teaspoon, providing approximately 4,650 IU vitamin A and 975 IU vitamin D;
  • Children over 12 years and adults:  1 teaspoon or 10 capsules, providing 9,500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D;
  • Pregnant and nursing women:  2 teaspoons or 20 capsules, providing 19,000 IU of vitamin A and 3900 IU vitamin D.2

 

All cod liver oils in the United States are tested for contaminants like mercury, cadmium, lead, and PCBs by the Association of Analytical Communities.  Mercury, which is water soluble, is not a concern.  It may be present in the flesh of fish but it is not contained in fish oil.3

Why don’t we hear more about cod liver oil?  Per capita cod liver oil consumption is less than one-twentieth that of our parents’ or grandparents’ generation.4

 

Cod liver oil has gone out of style, perhaps because we can now purchase vitamin D supplements, and perhaps, too, because we eat food more for pleasure than for health—with broad-based medical coverage, it is easy to leave the rest to doctors and drugs.  Another very important reason that cod liver oil has fallen from favor is that it has no large constituency of support.  Unlike synthetic drugs that can be patented and sold for multiples of their production costs, cod liver oil is a food, with little profit-generating power.

 

While naturally-produced cod liver oil has no broad constituency, its cause has been taken up by the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), a not-for-profit organization, to further the pioneering work of Weston Price.  In addition, cod liver oil has devoted people like David Wetzel who, through his non-profit company Green Pastures.org, produces traditional fermented cod liver oil and X-Factor butter oils.  These are nutrient-dense products for optimal health that provide the important vitamins D, A, and Activator-X (vitamin K2) dietary factors discovered by Dr. Weston A. Price in his surveys of healthy, robust traditional cultures around the globe during the 1920s and 1930s (see Nutrition and Physical Degeneration).  It is hard to think of anything that delivers so much for so little.

 

Copyright 2011 Pathways4Health.org



  1. Krispin Sullivan, “Cod Liver Oil:  Number One Super Food.”  Weston A Price Foundation.org. []
  2. Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, “Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations.” WAPF. []
  3. Krispin Sullivan, “Cod Liver Oil:  Number One Super Food.” WAPF. []
  4. The United States imported five million gallons of cod liver oil in 1927, but less than half a million gallons in 2000, a figure that must then be adjusted for population growth. []