I know this may turn some of you off, and for that, I apologize. But regardless, I felt it necessary…a real yearning of the heart…to tell you about my most favorite nutritional supplement in the whole world.
Besides whole foods, fermented dairy, loads of fruits and veggies, and bee pollen – of course.
And it may also shock, or horrify you, that despite being sick during my first trimester, I've still been able to take this supplement without fail.
Yes, it's that wonderful. And important.
Bleh! Blah! How could you!? Cod liver oil? Do you know no bounds? What is wrong with you!
I know. Relax. Truly, it's not bad.
In fact, it's downright fantastic for you.
I'm now going to cheat and just post an excerpt right from the Weston A. Price Foundation's website (if you'd like, read the entire article HERE):
Once a standard supplement in traditional European societies, cod liver oil provides fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which Dr. Price found present in the diet of primitives in amounts ten times higher than in modernized diets. Cod liver oil supplements are a must for women and their male partners, to be taken for several months beforeconception, and for women during pregnancy. Growing children will also benefit greatly from a small daily dose.Cod liver oil is also rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA). The body makes these fatty acids from omega-3 linolenic acid. EPA is as an important link in the chain of fatty acids that ultimately results in prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones while DHA is very important for the proper function of the brain and nervous system. Those individuals who have consumed large amounts of polyunsaturated oils, especially partially hydrogenated oils, who are suffering from certain nutrient deficiencies, or who have impaired pancreatic function, such as diabetics, may not be able to produce EPA and DHA and will, therefore, lack important prostaglandins and necessary fats for the brain unless they consume oily fish or take a cod liver oil supplement.
Dare I post an enourmously long excerpt? I dare:
Doctor Price was right, as usual. Cod liver oil is very good for you, more than you ever knew. Research studies ranging from 1918-2001 give cod liver oil an A+ rating. This marvelous golden oil contains large amounts of elongated omega-3 fatty acids, preformed vitamin A and the sunlight vitamin D, essential nutrients that are hard to obtain in sufficient amounts in the modern diet. Samples may also naturally contain small amounts of the important bone- and blood-maintainer vitamin K.There is hardly a disease in the books that does not respond well to treatment that includes cod liver oil, and not just infectious diseases but also chronic modern diseases like heart disease and cancer. Cod liver oil provides vitamin D that helps build strong bones in children and helps prevent osteoporosis in adults. The fatty acids in cod liver oil are also very important for the development of the brain and nervous system. “If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children,” said David Horrobin, distinguished medical and biochemical researcher, “feed them cod liver oil.”Cod liver oil contains more vitamin A and more vitamin D per unit weight than any other common food. One hundred grams of regular cod liver oil provides 100,000 IU of vitamin A, almost three times more than beef liver, the next richest source; and 10,000 IU vitamin D, almost four times more than lard, the next richest source. Of course, cod liver oil is only consumed in small amounts, but even a tablespoon (about 15 grams) provides well over the recommended daily allowance for both nutrients.In addition, cod liveroil contains 7 percent each of the elongated omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is the precursor of important prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that help the body deal with inflammation; and DHA is extremely important for the development and function of the brain and nervous system. So it's no surprise that in numerous studies cod liver oil has proven to be a powerhouse in fighting disease.
Good for What Ails YouCod liver oil greatly improves heart function to prevent heart disease and to treat it even in advanced stages, after a heart attack and after heart surgery. Cod liver oil alters the linings of the arteries in such a way as to improve healing after damage. This is attributed to the omega-3 fatty acids but vitamin A, D and K all have important roles to play in facilitating mineral absorption, improving muscle function and supporting elasticity of the blood vessels. The inflammation-reducing prostaglandins made from EPA help mediate the inflammatory response in the arteries. In other studies the heart-protective effect was associated with changes in the muscle response to serotonin, increasing the heart's ability to “relax.”1-15 In a study with rats, treatment with cod liver oil actually caused artery-blocking atheromas to become smaller and blood vessel diameter to enlarge.55Weston Price noted that heart attack deaths increased during periods when the vitamin A content of the diet was low. Cod liver oil can provide vitamin A on a continuous basis throughout the year.Many of the conditions addressed by cod liver oil are considered related under the title Syndrome X. These include obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, adult onset diabetes and stroke. Evidence is accumulating that these diseases of civilization are the result of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids along with deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins. We may be paying a very high price for our rejection of parental wisdom to take our cod liver oil.In numerous studies, the elongated omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil have been shown to improve brain function, memory, stress response, immune response, allergies, asthma, learning and behavioral disorders, including bipolar syndrome and manic-depression.
Cod liver oil is most famous for contributing to bone health, preventing and reversing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.16, 17 Before the discovery of cod liver oil as a source of vitamin D, many children suffered greatly with deformed bones. Osteoporosis responds to vitamin D and to cod liver oil. Sufficient elongated omega-3 oils found in cod liver oil are one of the keys to keeping and rebuilding bone.18, 19 In women, higher levels of vitamin D from cod liver oil improve bone mineral density.20Two of the symptoms of low levels of vitamin D are bone pain and muscle pain. This may manifest as pain in the legs, muscle weakness and difficulty climbing stairs. Numerous studies have shown improvement in muscle pain, muscle strength and bone pain scores with cod liver oil.40, 41Cod liver oil is effective in treating arthritis as well. Researchers funded by Great Britain's Arthritis Research Campaign found that the elongated omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil reduce both pain and damage in inflamed joints.56Pregnant women using cod liver oil have infants with a lower risk for juvenile type 1 diabetes.21 This effect was found only in mothers taking cod liver oil, not in mothers taking multivitamin supplements. Cod liver oil taken by nursing mothers improves the fatty acid profile in breast milk to promote optimal brain development and also increases levels of vitamin A to prevent infections. Interestingly, cod liver oil does not provide increased vitamin D in breast milk.23,24Cod liver oil given to infants after birth and during the first year had no protective effect against type 1 diabetes but it nevertheless is an important source of nutrients for optimal infant health.22 In more than forty trials, vitamin A has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality of children.25 Cod liver oil was the supplement of choice in many of these trials. Books on feeding infants published in the 1930s and 1940s routinely recommended cod liver oil, starting with 1 teaspoon at the age of three weeks. It was Dr. Spock who threw this wisdom out the window by recommending vaccinations instead of the powerful nutritional support of cod liver oil. Few modern books on infant care mention the importance of the fat-soluble nutrients in this wonderful superfood.As for treating diabetes in adults, cod liver oil has been used in a number of trials with both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. In both conditions cod liver oil improved glucose response and other markers of the disease.26-31 Vitamin A in cod liver oil helps promote healing and protects the retina, both problem areas in the diabetic patient.Cod liver oil has lowered blood pressure induced by stress-elevated levels of cortisol.32-35 Cod liver oil given to rats reduced intraocular pressure suggesting a use in prevention and treatment of glaucoma.36 Vitamin D in cod liver oil promotes absorption of calcium and magnesium, thereby lowering blood pressure.Colitis responds more effectively to the type of omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil than to medication.37-38 Cod liver oil should be the first protocol for this condition as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease.Topically applied, cod liver oil contributes to faster wound healing and improvement in skin quality.39 An excellent treatment for diaper rash and other skin conditions is cod liver oil mixed with zinc oxide. And cod liver oil taken orally helps maintain soft skin and minimize wrinkles.And what about cancer? All the nutrients in cod liver oil help prevent cancer. Vitamin A has been part of every successful alternative cancer therapy so far. In a study in China, use of cod liver oil was found to be protective against childhood leukemia.57 In a study of Norwegian men and women, consumption of cod liver oil was found to protect against lung cancer.58
Practical AspectsEating fish will not provide the levels of nutrients that are found in cod liver oil. Even in heavy fish-eating populations, the addition of cod liver oil improves health.42-43 And taking fish oils is not the same as taking cod liver liver oil. One tablespoon of regular cod liver oil and one-half tablespoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil provide the amount of elongated omega-3 fatty acids found in twelve 1,000 mg fish oil capsules.As for vitamin D, body oils of fish can be good sources as long as you are willing to eat a lot of them. One-half pound of fatty herring or sardines gives a dose of vitamin D equal to that of about one tablespoon of cod liver oil. But salmon oil has one-fifth the potency of cod liver oil.One concern about taking cod liver oil is the presence of contaminants–heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium and lead), PCBs and so forth. Fortunately, consumers need not worry when it comes to cod liver oil. All cod liver oils in the US must be tested according to protocols of the Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC) and approved free of detectable levels of 32 contaminants before they can be imported into this country. Furthermore, mercury is water soluble. It may be present in the flesh of fish, but it is not present in the oil.Another concern is rancidity. Cod liver oil can become rancid if improperly handled. In a 1988 study, peroxide values (indicating rancidity) ranged from a low of 2 to a high of 44.7.44 Nevertheless, properly handled cod liver oil is relatively stable. It contains 21 percent saturated fatty acids and 57 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, which provide stability. The fishy smell of cod liver oil is due to the presence of small amounts of fish protein and is not a sign of rancidity. To ensure that your cod liver oil is fresh, avoid buying the large economy size or the end-of-season sale item. Buy cod liver oil in small dark bottles and keep them in a cool dark place. Cod liver oil need not be refrigerated after opening if it is used up quickly–within two months.Virtually all cod liver oil imported into the US comes from Norway, and while all of it is safe, there are different grades, depending on vitamin levels. The lighter oil from the “top of the barrel” has a lower molecular weight, goes rancid more quickly and has lower levels of vitamins, while the heavier oil, which sinks, is richer in vitamins. The heavier oil is what Dr. Price referred to as high-vitamin cod liver oil. It contains double the amounts of vitamin A and D as regular cod liver oil. Virtually all cod liver oil imported into the US is the lighter, “top of the barrel” variety. The Norwegians keep the best for themselves!Whenever taking cod liver oil, remember the findings of Dr. Price. He noted that he did not get good results from cod liver oil unless he gave it concurrently with high-vitamin butter. Just why this is so is a matter of speculation, but we do know that the very unsaturated fatty acids found in cod liver oil cannot be effectively assimilated and stored in the tissues without the presence of adequate saturated fatty acids, the kind that would be provided by butter. This means that even regular butter would help support cod liver oil therapy; but Price found that the combination of cod liver oil with high-vitamin butter, from cows eating rapidly growing green grass, was nothing short of miraculous, reversing tooth decay and bringing patients back from the brink of death.
I do not find it hard to take Carlson's cod liver oil on a spoon, but for many, the big challenge is how to get this oily substance down. One technique is to add cod liver oil to a small amount of water or fresh juice, stir and then quickly send it down the hatch. If you can't bring yourself to take cod liver oil on a spoon or in water, then use the capsules. For babies and small children, use an eye dropper.
Side note: I simply mix Georgia's in with her kombucha or milk. She doesn't know the difference.
There are only a few rules when it comes to Cod Liver Oil:
1. By the best brand you can find. In reality, this is a very inexpensive supplement for the amount of nutrients your body pulls from it, so no skimping. My favorite brand is Green Pastures, which you can buy here.
Here is some more information on other available brands:
BEST (Available Online/Mail Order):
- Green Pasture Products: Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Dr. Ron's Ultra-Pure: Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Radiant Life: Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil
- Natural Health Advocates: Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver OilGOOD (and available in Stores):
- Carlson soft gel Cod Liver Oil Super 1,000 mg capsules
- NOW double strength Cod Liver Oil capsules
- Sonne's Cod Liver Oil
- Swanson double strength Cod Liver Oil capsules
- Twin Labs non-emulsified liquid Cod Liver Oil
2. The second rule of cod liver oil is to make sure you take it with a high-quality, high-vitamin butter (preferably from grass-fed cows). Again, to quote:
Dr. Price always gave cod liver oil along with high-vitamin butter oil, extracted by centrifuge from good quality spring or fall butter. He found that cod liver oil on its own was relatively ineffective but combined with high vitamin butter oil produced excellent results. The butter oil contains what he called Activator X, now considered to be vitamin K2, which works synergistically with vitamins A and D (see Chris Masterjohn's article “On the Trail of the Elusive X Factor: A Sixty-Year Old Mystery Finally Solved”). Your diet should include sources of vitamin K, such as good quality butter from grass-fed cows and/or high-vitamin butter oil, fat from grass-fed animals, cheeses from grass-fed animals and duck or goose liver, along with cod liver oil.
I keep a half pound of KerryGold or Organic Valley Pasture Butter around for just this occasion. I put an extra dollop on my toast or eggs in the morning before I take my cod liver oil to aid in it's absorption.
I know, I know – it sounds like a lot of work, but I promise, it's not so bad. If you're a morning smoothie drinker, simply mix in a bit of butter and cod liver oil into your smoothie (I promise, you won't even know it's there!).
Especially when mixed in with some fresh grape juice I preserved last summer. It's like a cocktail!
Now, I'd like to apologize for using (and quoting) so many words to describe my love for cod liver oil. I hope you're still reading this. I just couldn't stop myself from sharing the goodness.