11 Health Benefits of Vitamin-Rich Cod Liver Oil

Consuming fish in the diet has been hailed by multiple scientific studies to be extremely beneficial for health, helping decrease risk multiple cardiovascular, cancer-related and mental diseases. (1) These benefits are seen mostly in fish like salmon, cod and mackerel. The reason behind these benefits is thought to be in the oil of the fish, hence salmon and cod proving most beneficial as they contain the most oil. This oil is thought to deliver these health benefits and more through its healthy fat and vitamin content. (2). However, including a lot of fish in the diet can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. As such, finding an easier, cheaper and more time-efficient way to obtain the above benefits should be a priority for any health and fitness enthusiasts or those trying to improve their health who have a busy schedule.

Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

This is where fish oil tablets are the best alternative. They’re easily accessible, easy to transport and easy to eat. Cod liver oil tablets are one of the most common forms of fish oil tablets both in consumer use and in scientific research.

These are pills that contain oil that is taken from ground and boiled cod liver and contain many different benefits that can be obtained from only 1-2 pills per day. (3)

The main difference between cod liver oil and common fish oil is that cod liver oil is the latter contains slightly less omega 3 fats but contains much more vitamin content in Vitamin A and D, which allows cod liver oil to offer more varied and unique benefits than fish oil alone.

Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Due to the healthy fat content and the high levels of the above mentioned nutrients, the benefits to health and well-being is easily the largest list for cod liver oil. From reducing levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol to improving brain matter growth and mental health, cod liver oil is an essential supplement for health improvement.

1. Cod Liver Oil Can Protect From Cardiovascular Disease

As mentioned above, cod liver oil shares many of the benefits of high fish consumption. One of these benefits is the ability to improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease, with studies showing those who supplemented regularly with cod liver oil experienced fewer cardiac events. (4)

Another study showed that cod liver oil supplementation caused a decrease in LDL cholesterol, which is the type of cholesterol associated with heart attacks and plaque buildup. (5)

More research also showed that supplementing with just 40 ml, or roughly two teaspoons, of cod liver oil led to improved ability for blood clotting and reduced blood pressure. (6)

When considering that cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest causes of hospitalizations and death around the world, especially in those over the age of 50, cod liver oil offers an easy and cheap means of improving heart health and reducing the risk of falling victim to a cardiac event.

2. Cod Liver Oil Improves the Immune System

The omega 3 fats that are found in cod liver oil can be converted in the body to leukocytes, which are cells in the immune system that helps fight infections and protect against illnesses. (7) It is also useful in decreasing inflammation by reducing signals in the body that cause it. (8)

While many nutrients have shown to have a beneficial effect on illness occurrence (9), there is few that have been shown to directly increase cells in the immune system to help fight these illnesses.

Along with the omega fats, the high dose of Vitamin D and A will also help increase immune system function, particularly during winter months, when sunlight exposure is decreased and the risk of infection is increased. (10)

This provides another reason to supplement with cod liver oil daily, as it offers a useful and potentially superior means than traditional fish oil, to boosting the immune system and maintaining good health throughout the year.

3. Cod Liver Oil Can Reduce Pain

Another significant benefit of cod liver oil supplementation is it can reduce pain levels in those with injuries or chronic muscle pain. (11) This was seen primarily in people with musculoskeletal disease and is most beneficial for these groups.

However, cod liver oil may prove to be a natural and healthy choice for all individuals who struggle with pain management.

4. Cod Liver Oil Can Help Fight Mental Illness and Improve Mental Health

Again due to a high omega 3 content, there is the potential for cod liver oil supplementation to provide a wide range of psychological benefits, from improving depression symptoms (12) to help protect the brain from stress-induced damage (13) and even helping neurons recover from damage due to disease and deficiency and increasing brain matter growth. (14) This has also been shown to help in behavioral problems or issues such as ADHD or anti-social behavior in both children and adults. (15, 16)

With mental illness affecting a high percentage of the population, this provides several reasons to include cod liver oil in the diet for reasons more than physical health benefit.

5. Cod Liver Oil Can Help Fight Arthritis

With high levels of bone-supporting Vitamin D and Omega 3 fats that fight inflammation, cod liver oil is a logical choice for helping to treat people with arthritis. It has been shown to reduce inflammation in affected joints (17), decrease the need for the conventional anti-inflammatory drugs (18), and act as an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (19) as well as delaying the progression of the disease. It has also been proven to be effective in helping to treat osteoarthritis (20), which affects nearly all elderly individuals.

This makes cod liver oil a natural alternative to those looking to treat their arthritis or those at risk looking to prevent the disease.

6. Cod Liver Oil Can Help Prevent Diabetes

The omega 3 fats in cod liver oil can help both prevent the occurrence of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and help treat the illness if it does occur. (21) Studies have shown that cod liver oil supplementation can help improve insulin sensitivity and thus protect against the development of diabetes and reduce the amount of insulin needed to transport sugar into muscle from the blood. (22, 23)

This makes cod liver oil an effective supplement to help diabetes patients and protect against its development in healthy or overweight individuals.

Fitness and Athletic Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

Other than those looking to improve their overall health, cod liver oil is also a powerful supplement for athletes, helping improve recovery and adaptation to exercise while also having the potential to directly improve speed and strength if taken at the right time. These benefits show that cod liver oil tablets should be a staple in every athlete’s diet, particularly those who have diets that are lacking in fish.

7. Cod Liver Oil Can Improve Muscle Growth

The Omega 3 fats and Vitamin D found in cod liver oil have been found in research to both help increase muscle protein synthesis and increase the amount of muscle growth signalling that takes place in a muscle both with and without exercise. (24, 25, 26)

This can help improve strength and muscle growth when taken after a strength workout and could help improve long term performance and help prevent injury.

8. Cod Liver Oil Promotes Recovery From Exercise

The high dose of Vitamin A and D and the omega fats in cod liver oil helps reduce inflammation and prevent muscle damage from strenuous strength training. (27) This, along with the benefits listed above, can help increase the amount of training that can be done and hence increase fitness levels.

This adds another reason for including cod liver oil into the diet plan of an athlete or recreational exerciser.

9. Cod Liver Oil Can Improve Speed and Strength

The Vitamin D in cod liver oil can be very beneficial to improving athletic performance, with studies showing that increasing Vitamin D consumption can improve speed, strength and power. (28, 29, 30) This effect is particularly strong during winter months or in northern european athletes, where sunlight exposure is less than more southern countries.

With the potential to improve strength, power and speed along with helping recovery cod liver oil stands as one of the most beneficial supplements for athletes and presents an argument for selecting cod liver oil as the main source of omega-3 fat supplementation over traditional fish oil capsules.

Beauty Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

Alongside the benefit of taking cod liver oil for health or fitness purposes, the nutrients in cod liver oil also help improve beauty and aesthetics. This comes from a beneficial effect cod liver oil has on the skin and hair and can offer another use for cod liver oil for those focused on beauty.

10. Cod Liver Oil Improves Skin Health

Because of it’s high Vitamin A and omega 3 fat content, cod liver oil has been called one of the best skin care products available. (31) It’s benefits for improving skin health include helping to clear up and prevent acne, improving skin texture and helping maintain a healthy skin glow.

This wide range of benefits along with those discussed below makes cod liver oil a cost-friendly efficient and effective product for skin health and beauty.

11. Cod Liver Oil Can Be Used As An Anti-Aging Cream

Other than just taking cod liver oil in a capsule or in liquid drink form, it is also possible to apply it on the skin directly to help improve skin health and protect it from age. Rubbing cod liver oil directly on to the face has been claimed to help clean pores, help moisturize the skin and keep skin looking more youthful. (32)

This is a useful alternative means of obtaining the skin benefits of cod liver oil for those who don’t enjoy taking the capsules or liquid form due to taste.

12. Cod Liver Oil May Help Improve Grey Hair

As well as offering anti-aging benefits to the skin, cod liver oil can also help decrease grey hairs, particularly in those struggling with premature greying. (32) This could be due to high levels of Vitamin A and D contained in the supplement.

The protective effect of cod liver oil on the hair and skin during aging makes this an ideal choice for both men and women looking for an affordable anti-aging supplement.

Potential Side Effects

While there are numerous benefits to cod liver oil supplementation, excessive or mistiming the intake of the supplement may cause some unpleasant or health threatening side effects. (33) These can include:

  • Heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Decreased blood clotting

These side effects can be avoided by ensuring that the daily dose of cod liver oil is not excessive and that each dose is taken with a meal.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Cod liver oil offers an easier, cheaper and portable means of achieving many of the benefits of regular fish intake. It offers a wide range of benefits, both physical and psychological and, in many cases, is superior to traditional fish oil supplements due to higher levels of Vitamins A and D with similar levels of omega-3 fats.

Making sure that the daily dose is between 20-40 ml per day, or 1-2 capsules taken with a meal, will reduce the risk of any side effects while providing all of the above benefits, allowing both short and long term health, fitness and beauty improvement.

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