Cod liver oil is among the most popular nutritional supplements. In the past, parents used to give it to their children in order to prevent any avitaminosis and to ensure good and healthy development. As the name indicates, the oil derives from the fish ling or otherwise known as cod and lives mainly in the northern seas. The striking feature of cod liver oil is the strong smell and the unpleasant taste.
It is considered as an excellent food for both children and adults. It is a very good natural source of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids in triglyceride form. Omega 3 fatty acids are the most studied food ingredients. The most known are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (dosoexanoiko acid), which are involved in many biochemical pathways of the body and have many beneficial effects. Furthermore, cod liver oil is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidant vitamin A and vitamin D.
Differences between cod liver oil and fish oil
Fish oils are obtained from the body of sharks, salmon or tuna, while cod liver oil derives from the distillation of the liver of ling.
Although both types of oil are considered good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, cod liver oil has a relatively lower concentration of these beneficial fatty compared to fish oil. However, because it derives from the liver, it is rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which are no found in common fish oils. Additional features include the antioxidant action of vitamin A that protects the sensitive omega 3 fatty acids from oxidation.
Cod liver oil properties
The main properties of cod liver oil are attributed to the composition of the oil in omega 3 fatty acids in combination with the actions of vitamins. Specific benefits:
- Cardiovascular protection (atherosclerosis)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Brain development and cognitive function
- Bone Health
- Mood, depression and mental health
- Anti-inflammatory action
Omega 3 and cardiovascular protection
Cod liver oil has many protective effects against heart and blood vessels. Many studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly when administered in the form of a supplement, significantly reduce the cardiovascular risk and atherosclerosis while also improve the function of blood vessels. Omega 3 fatty acid help to reduce concentrations of bad cholesterol (LDL) and serum triglycerides (~ 25-30% reduction) while also to increase (increase of ~ 3%) good cholesterol (HDL). Recent studies show that omega 3 fatty acids may also help fight fatty liver disease.
Cod Liver Oil and blood pressure
Omega 3 fatty acids have the ability to cause vasodilation. As a result, they can reduce significantly (~ 3-5mmHg) both systolic (large) and diastolic (low) blood pressure (~ 2-3mmHg).
EPA is a precursor of prostaglandins, hormones that are involved in inflammatory reactions. The additional use of omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce inflammatory reactions and thus reduce pain. Based on the above property, cod liver oil has been shown to help in the management and treatment of osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease e.t.c..
Eye and skin health
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant vitamin that participates in vision. Lack of vitamin leads to decreased visual acuity, especially at night, and adequate intake prevents or delays the onset of degenerative eye diseases. Both vitamin A and fatty acids improve skin health and vision throughout. Many studies have shown that cod liver contribute to faster healing and treatment of skin disorders such as wounds or eczema.
Cod liver oil, mental function and mood
DHA is a very important element in the healthy development and functioning of both the brain and the nervous system. For this reason, the sufficient omega-3 fatty during pregnancy is crucial for the proper development of the infant.
Many studies have shown that conditions associated with brain function, such as dementia, mental and cognitive impairment including Alzheimer’s disease is greatly associated with the intake of omega fatty acids. Additionally apart from cognitive function, there are many reports linking the intake of omega 3 fatty acids with depression and mood, highlighting the multiple benefits of essential fatty acids.
Bone development, musculoskeletal and joint
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is involved in calcium metabolism and healthy development and maintenance of bones, thus cod liver oil contributes to the development of children and adolescents (bones and teeth).
Side effects and contraindications
Side effects exist when large doses of omega 3 fatty acids are consumed (> 3-4gr./day). The most common symptom is nausea. Since omega 3 fatty acids are involved in blood clotting mechanisms, concomitant use of anticoagulants and cod liver oil is contraindicated, since the increased risk of bleeding. Moreover, because omega 3 fatty acids affect blood pressure, attention is needed in the concomitant use of anti-hypertensive treatment or supplements that affect blood pressure. For these reasons, avoid taking cod liver oil along with saw palmetto, ginkgo biloba and garlic.
Cod liver oil forms
Commercially, cod liver oil exists both in the form of oil and capsules. Because cod liver oil has a distinct intense smell, many oils are fortified with fruit flavor in order to be more palatable, although there are also capsules that greatly facilitate the taking, particularly by young children.
When they get it and at what dose?
The recommended daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids is 1 gr/per day with EPA and DHA can range from 200 – 800mg, independently ratio between them. As higher daily intake down the 3gr. per day.
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