9 Amazing Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

The health benefits of cod liver oil include a lower cholesterol level, type I diabetes control in children, and relief from cardiovascular disorders, osteoporosis, asthma and arthritis. This nourishing oil from the liver of codfish is excellent for skin, relieves muscle pain, strengthens the immune system, promotes gastrointestinal health, and improves vision.

What is Cod Liver oil?

Cod liver oil is derived from the liver of codfish (Gadidae) and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It is a nutritional supplement with high levels of vitamins A and D. These nutrients help the human body in various ways and stimulate the healthy functioning of organs.

Cod liver oil is a pale yellow, bland-tasting, translucent liquid that has a strong odor that is akin to seafood. Nowadays, traders often add various flavors to make oil more appealing to consumers. However, the oil quality is a major factor in deciding its smell. A good quality oil has a slightly sardine-type of flavor. You can find it in a liquid form at pharmacies and drug stores. However, if you do not prefer the smell of this oil, you can take it in the form of a capsule or pill.

The production of cod liver oil is meticulously done through advanced technology. This article will discuss the positive effects of this oil on your vital organs, like the heart and brain. In the past, it was also given to children because of its high level of vitamin D that prevented rickets and other vitamin D deficiency diseases. However, other supplements of vitamin D are prescribed for the same to avoid the adverse effects of cod liver oil, if used in excess.

Fish oil capsules on a table

Cod liver oil is helpful in boosting cognition. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutritional Value of Cod Liver Oil

Nutrition Facts

Fish oil, cod liver
Serving Size :
Energy 902
Energy [kJ]3774
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]30000
Retinol [µg]30000
Vitamin A, IU [IU]100000
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]10000
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]250
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]22.61
14:0 [g]3.57
16:0 [g]10.63
18:0 [g]2.8
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]46.71
16:1 [g]8.31
18:1 [g]20.65
20:1 [g]10.42
22:1 [g]7.33
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]22.54
18:2 [g]0.94
18:3 [g]0.94
18:4 [g]0.94
20:4 [g]0.94
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]6.9
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.94
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]10.97
Cholesterol [mg]570
Sources include : USDA [1]

Owing to its rich composition, this oil provides multiple health benefits. The nutritional value or composition of the cod liver oil is discussed below, as per the USDA National Nutrient Database. [2]

  • Vitamin A helps boost the immune system, resist infections, and improve eyesight and skin conditions.
  • Vitamin D helps maintain strong and healthy bones.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate arthritis pain, relieve asthma, reduce stress, prevent allergies and improve brain function.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and reduces inflammation issues.
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) improves the eyesight and the nervous system and nourishes the skin.

Health Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil has become an important topic of study in many universities across the globe, partly due to its immense health benefits and partly to nullify its adverse effects, so that its beneficial horizon can be widened. Research has shown that consuming this oil daily can protect you from serious ailments like diabetes, arthritis, kidney problems, cholesterol, and musculoskeletal pain. Let us look at the cod liver oil benefits in detail below:

Reduces Arthritis Pain

This oil has been used extensively as a supplement to maintain healthy bones and joints for ages. It has been considered a remarkably successful supplement whether it is used in curing bone ailments or keeping the skeletal system strong. A 3-month long research study indicates that cod liver oil can also be recommended for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Intake of cod liver oil also helps in reducing the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) requirement in rheumatoid arthritis, according to Oxford University Press Journal – Rheumatology. These NSAIDs may have cardiovascular and gastrointestinal side effects on the body. [3] [4]

Relieves Muscle Aches

Often, vitamin D deficiency leads to bone and muscle pain. Cod liver oil is a rich source of this vitamin and ensures a strong and firm bone structure, says Orvosi Hetilap. Many studies state that regular consumption of cod liver oil increases vitamin D levels in the body, thereby improving muscle strength and reducing muscle pain significantly. Vitamin D deficiency from childhood can lead to serious issues like rickets or malformed bone structures, and this deficiency in adolescents often leads to retarded growth, muscular pain, and physical weakness. In such cases, regular doses of cod liver oil can successfully ease this problem. If the problem persists, you should consult a doctor. [5] [6]

Prevents Osteoporosis

For decades, cod liver oil has been used as a natural remedy for osteoporosis. This oil is an ideal supplement for post-menopausal women to avoid the problems of osteoporosis. No tolerable upper limit for the consumption of vitamin D has yet been established; however, adults over 50 years can consume 400 units per day (for men) and 600 units (for women). Vitamin D is essential for the body in order to process calcium and thus, it prevents osteoporosis and effectively maintains bone health. A 2016 report by the British Dietetic Association shows a detailed study on osteoporosis highlighting the importance of vitamin D in curing it. [7]

Reduces Cholesterol Levels

Cod liver oil has fatty acids that help lower the LDL or bad cholesterol levels in our body. Intake of cod liver oil can lower fats called triglycerides, which can be harmful if found in excess in the human body.

Skin Care

Traditionally, cod liver oil has been used as an effective natural remedy for healthy skin. Many a time, it is seen that when cod liver oil is applied to skin areas with local burns, it healed the skin instantly and left behind no burn marks or scars. Applying cod liver oil on facial skin gives a radiant glow within a few weeks. In fact, you will notice that you do not need any fairness cream or moisturizers after using this oil for quite a while. Consuming cod liver oil regularly assures you a young look for an extended period of time and minimizes wrinkles.

Prevents Type 1 Diabetes in Children

A research study published in Diabetologia shows that consumption of cod liver oil either by pregnant women or by their babies reduces the risk of type 1 diabetes in children. However, it is always advisable to consult your doctor before taking it regularly. [8] [9]

Relieves IBD-associated Joint Pain

Studies show that the intake of cod liver oil reduces inflammatory bowel disease-related joint pain. [10]

Eye Care

Cod liver oil is rich in vitamins A and D, both of which help maintain healthy eyesight over the long term. Vitamin A, especially, ensures the retention of normal vision in the long run. Cod liver oil is effective in the treatment of various eye conditions, as per a report submitted by researcher Edgar Stevenson to the British Journal of Opthalmology. [11]

Boosts Immunity

Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamin D. The deficiency [12] of vitamin D can lead to autoimmune diseases and can increase the susceptibility to infection. Regular intake will provide the required amount of vitamin D, ensure a healthy immune system, and decrease the chances of infection.

Side Effects of Cod Liver Oil

Common side effects of using excess cod liver oil include:

  • Belching
  • Heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from nose


Let’s take a look at the risks involved.

  • High Blood Pressure: When taken in moderation, cod liver oil does not show any adverse effects, but excessive consumption can lead to high blood pressure. It has extreme quantities of vitamin A and excessive consumption of this oil may cause hypervitaminosis and osteoporosis.
  • Complications in Pregnancy: Pregnant women or women taking medication related to pregnancy should always consult their doctor before starting any cod liver oil diet or other dietary supplements. During pregnancy, high doses of synthetic vitamin A or retinoids can lead to birth defects; it can also bring about gestational hypertension and other complications.
  • Blood Clotting: If you have blood clotting disorders, consult a doctor before taking cod liver oil.
  • Mercury Levels: Sometimes, cod liver oil also contains impurities like mercury and pesticides. Nowadays, manufacturing companies meticulously check the quality of this oil so that consumers do not suffer from any of these health complications.

From an environmental point of view, overharvesting of codfish has now led to near extinction of the species and their harvesting also damages other forms of marine life. One healthy alternative to this oil is fish oil, which is readily available in the market. Although the health benefits of cod liver oil are immense, the dosage should be maintained accurately to ensure that you don’t end up with any unwanted health risks.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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