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Cod liver oil, as the name suggests, is the essential oil extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua).
The exact concentration of nutrients in cod liver oil depends on the species of Gadus family the oil comes from.1
The medical use of cod liver goes back centuries. Its first documented medical use was in 1789, when Dr Darbey of the Manchester Infirmary in England used the oil to treat rheumatism.
Only a few decades later, in 1824, cod liver oil was used as a remedy against rickets. By the 1930s the therapeutic properties of cod-liver oil were well established and it was frequently given to children to help prevent rickets and other conditions caused by vitamin D deficiency.2
Nutrients in cod liver oil (value per 100g)*3
Vitamin A - 100,000 IU
Vitamin D - 10,000 IU
Saturated fatty acids - 22.608 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids - 46.711 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids - 22.541 g
Apart from being a good source of nutrients, studies have found that cod liver oil may have some very important therapeutic properties.
Cod liver oil is thought to help relieve joint stiffness associated with arthritis, have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and help repair wounded teeth, nails, hair, and skin.
Cod liver oil alleviates symptoms of arthritis
A German study, which included 43 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who ingested 1 g of cod liver oil every day for 3 months, found that the patients experienced a decrease in the pain intensity of their stiff joints.4
A separate study concluded that cod liver oil may also help those suffering from osteoarthritis. Researchers at Cardiff University found that cod liver oil helped reduce pain and cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis, as well as reducing the need for joint replacement. In their study, the investigators found that cod liver oil reduced enzymes linked to pain and cartilage damage caused by osteoarthritis.5
Cod liver oil helps prevent coronary artery disease
Daily intake of cod liver oil can help prevent coronary atherosclerosis. Research published in the journal Lipids concluded that ingestion of 1.5 g of n-3 fatty acids per day resulted in "decreased progression/increased regression of established coronary artery disease."6
Cod liver oil may help repair wounds
One study assessed the effect of topically applying cod liver oil ointment on wounds using a hairless mouse ear wound model. The scientists concluded that topical application of 25% cod liver oil ointment "significantly accelerated both the epithelial and the vascular component of healing compared with saline."7
Cod liver oil may help promote cognitive performance
Cod liver oil contains a high amount of vitamin D. A link between vitamin D and cognitive performance was identified in a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. The authors concluded that Vitamin D may play a key role in maintaining good brain function in old age.8
Recent developments on the health benefits of cod liver oil from MNT news
Cod liver oil is effective at treating tuberculosis. A review of a historical study from 1848 revealed that cod liver oil could be an effective treatment option for tuberculosis. The disease was stabilized in 18% of participants who received cod liver oil, in comparison with only 6% in the control group.9
Sufferers of Crohn's Disease may benefit from cod liver oil. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that Vitamin D, readily available in supplements or cod liver oil, can counter the effects of Crohn's disease.10
According to research published in the American Journal of Cardiology, large amounts of fish consumption can cause side effects because of environmental toxins in fish such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and other contaminants.
The authors said that "the risks of exposure to environmental toxins and hypervitaminosis with fish consumption are substantially reduced through purification processes used to develop selected concentrated fish oil supplements and prescription preparations."
Therefore, when choosing fish oil therapies, people should be particularly aware of all available information to assess the oils' safety, including US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory labeling.11
In the video below Dr. Joseph Mercola reviews important considerations of using cod liver oil as a supplement for getting vitamin D in the winter.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
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Nordqvist, Joseph. "What are the benefits of cod liver oil?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 15 Dec. 2013. Web.
25 Apr. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270071>
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