Should I Take Cod Liver Oil?

I recommend cod liver oil only if your goal is to use it as a vitamin D supplement, but it is very high in vitamin A.  Although cod liver oil is moderate in omega-3 fatty acids, I do not recommend it as a fish oil supplement since there are better options higher in omega-3s on the market.  I will review some of my recommendations below.

Why Should I Care About High Doses of Vitamin A?

One word: Hypervitaminosis A.  We never want to take in over 10,000 IUs of vitamin A per day. High vitamin A can result in a number of different complications.  Women can increase the risk of bearing a child with birth defects, and both men and women can increase the risk of hair loss, liver problems, skin discoloration, and bone mineral density loss.

1 teaspoon of cod liver provides 4,501 IU of vitamin A –1 teaspoon is a small amount!  Many people might take upwards of 1 tablespoon, which provides 13,502 IUs of vitamin A.  This is too much.

Isn’t Cod Liver Oil Full of Omega-3s?

1 teaspoon only provides a total of 888 mg omega-3s. We want to get at least 1000-2000mg omega-3s per day, meaning if we consume the recommended amount for omega-3s via cod liver oil we exceed the daily recommendation for vitamin A (which is toxic, as explained above).

Although cod liver oil is considered an omega-3 source, it is not nearly as high in omega-3s as other fish oils per 100 grams of fish:

Atlantic Salmon: 2.15 omega-3s
Atlantic Herring : 2.01 omega-3s
Sardines : 2.0 omega-3s
Mackerel : 1.85 omega-3s
Cod Liver : 0.28 omega-3s

Is There Ever an Instance When You Would Recommend Cod Liver Oil?

I recommend cod liver oil when compliance is an issue (forgetting to take), i.e., if you are not a fan of taking supplements but need to increase both omega-3s and vitamin D in the diet, then cod liver oil is and excellent choice. In that case, 1 teaspoon is sufficient.

What Brands Do You Recommend as a source of Cod Liver Oil? Vitamin D? Omega-3?

All of the following supplements are NSF-certified.

Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin D: try the Nordic Naturals line

Vitamin D and Calcium only: try Premcal (yes it says for “PMS” relief, which high Vitamin D levels have shown to help in some cases, but it is a good supplement for anyone looking to amp up calcium and D)

Omega-3s: omega-3 sources come from both fish and algae. For vegetarians, they should make sure they are not taking supplements that are fish-based. Below are my recommendations for both groups:

For non-vegetarians, I recommend the Nordic Naturals line.

For vegetarians, I recommend algae oil (known as Algal Oil).  Martek is an NSF-certified brand.  Natrol DHA Omega-3 is USP certified; I would go with the first since there is more DHA, but it is also a little more pricey.

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