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Cod liver oil is a vitamin D powerhouse
Cod liver oil is one of the richest sources of vitamin D available, providing over 100% of our daily-recommended intake in just one tablespoon. Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with osteomalacia and osteoporosis, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma severity and swine flu, however more reliable studies are needed before these associations can be proven.
Vitamin D plays a substantial role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones.
Reduced risk of diabetes
Several observational studies have shown an inverse relationship between blood concentrations of vitamin D in the body and risk of type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetics, insufficient vitamin D levels may have an adverse effect on insulin secretion and glucose tolerance.3 In one particular study, infants who received 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D had an 88% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of 32.
Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D seem to be at greater risk of developing preeclampsia and needing cesarean section. Poor vitamin D status is also associated with gestational diabetes mellitus and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. It's also important to note that vitamin D levels that were too high during pregnancy were associated with an increase in food allergy of the child during the first two years of life.
Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies have suggested that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, increasing cancer cell death and by reducing cell proliferation and metastases. Vitamin D has an influence in more than 200 human genes, which can be impaired when D status is suboptimal.14
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.13
Nutritional profile of cod liver oil
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
Cod liver oil - the forgotten food
In this video, originally featured on America Now, wellness and nutrition expert Peggy Hall discusses the possible health benefits of cod liver oil and the differences between cod liver oil and fish oils.
Potential health risks of cod liver oil
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
The Upper Level (UL) limit recommended for vitamin D is 4000 IU per day. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suggested that vitamin D toxicity is unlikely at daily intakes below 10,000 IU/day.