The below provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner ... Please refer to: Medical & Legal Disclaimer.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, SPRING 2002.
The following applies mainly to human disease protocols. Please discuss with your vet safety for and applicability to your pet.
Dr. Price was right. We all need to take a good quality cod liver oil. The key is "good quality." The cheaper versions may contain mercury and "Persistent Organic Pollutants" ( POPs), which include known carcinogens such as DDT, PCBs and other pollutants and toxins. POPs are small particles eaten by fish in polluted oceans, and are absorbed into their organs. Please click here for info. Some of these pollutants can be filtered out, but not all. Good choices are:
Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver oil Fermented CLO is easier to digest than regular CLO; it contains 2.5 times more Vitamins A & D, and contains something referred to as "Price Factor X" - which offers additional health benefits. This being said, the fermented CLO does have a very strong "cod-liver" taste -- so some may not be able to tolerate it.
Carlson Laboratories - Norwegian Cod Liver Oil (CLO) - it comes in a pleasant lemon flavor and has been tested for pollutants. Because of its fairly pleasant flavor, even children are unlikely to object. In fact, I found that adding it to my cereal milk in the morning, gives the milk a "lemony" flavor and I can't even taste the CLO.
Another one that is of good quality is Nordic Naturals fish oil. This fish oil also comes in pleasant flavors.
You should be able to find at least one of the above in your local health food store -- maybe even your better grocery store.
For growing children, and for almost every disease condition, cod liver oil is the number one superfood, the supplement of choice. Dr. Price found that the combination of cod liver oil with high-vitamin butter, from cows eating rapidly growing green grass, was nothing short of miraculous, reversing tooth decay and bringing patients back from the brink of death.
Short-gut Syndrome: Fish Oil is saves 90% of the lives of children suffering from short gut syndrome. Indeed, they are not only surviving but thriving because of Fish Oil therapy. Many of them were in very poor shape when treatment commenced and they were given little hope for long-term survival. This treatment is now available at 70 hospitals around the world. Click here for info
Brain development: Researchers from Australia's Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital found that administering over-the-counter fish oil supplements to boost omega-3 levels helped premature baby girls score better on cognitive tests at 18 months of age. This benefit was not seen in premature boys, but the researchers believe that's because boys and girls have differing rates of development. Study leader Maria Makrides had 272 nursing mothers of premature children take six omega-3 supplement pills a day. This was meant to replicate the amount of omega-3 that full-term babies usually receive in the womb during the third trimester of pregnancy. Eighteen months later, they found that female babies of moms taking the placebo scored slightly lower than the moms taking the omega-3s.
What makes Cod Liver Oil nutritionally so valuable:
Cod liver oil contains more preformed vitamin A and more of the sunlight vitamin D per unit weight than any other common food. One hundred grams of regular cod liver oil provides 100,000 IU of vitamin A, almost three times more than beef liver, the next richest source; and 10,000 IU vitamin D, almost four times more than lard, the next richest source. Of course, cod liver oil is only consumed in small amounts, but even a tablespoon (about 15 grams) provides well over the recommended daily allowance for both nutrients. Samples may also naturally contain small amounts of the important bone- and blood-maintainer vitamin K.
In addition, cod liver oil contains 7 percent each of the elongated omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA is the precursor of important prostaglandins, localized tissue hormones that help the body deal with inflammation; and DHA is extremely important for the development and function of the brain and nervous system. So it's no surprise that in numerous studies cod liver oil has proven to be a powerhouse in fighting disease.
Studies have shown that cod liver oil is very effective against arthritis too. "Scientists at Cardiff University (Wales, UK) have confirmed what thousands of people with arthritis have believed for years. Cod liver oil is effective in treating joint pain and can slow, even reverse the destruction of joint cartilage."
"Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to cod liver oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the derogative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue."
Laboratory research has shown that not only can cod liver oil treat arthritis, but actually reverse the damage that has been done. A new study shows that vitamin D in cod liver oil will not allow your immune system to attack your joints. Study participants who got the most vitamin D from the oil had the lowest risk of arthritis.
And as a bonus, cod liver oil will also normalize your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and keep your arteries open.
:(Below information adapted from several natural health newsletters):
Treatment for Arthritis:
Cod liver oil has been a documented remedy for joint pain, rheumatism and even gout for over 200 years. It's even the classic treatment for rickets! Recently, scientists at Cardiff University started testing cod liver oil. Their press release states: 'Scientists at Cardiff University (Wales, UK) have confirmed what thousands of people with arthritis have believed for years. Cod liver oil is effective in treating joint pain and can slow, even reverse the destruction of joint cartilage.' The head researcher, Professor Bruce Caterson, stated: 'Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to cod liver oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the derogative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue.'
Cod liver oil is packed with EPA and other omega-3 fatty acids! That means cod liver oil can not only reverse your arthritis, but also normalize your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and keep your arteries open.
The benefits of cod liver oil over regular fish oil is that it's loaded with natural Vitamin D, and a hot-off-the-press scientific study shows that: the Vitamin D in cod liver oil keeps your immune system from attacking your joints; and people in this study who got the most Vitamin D had the lowest risk of arthritis.
Many people who may not be able to tolerate the taste of Cod Liver Oil no longer have an excuse not to take it as there is now a lemon-flavored variety that's quite palatable (not all brands succeed here, but the one to the right is what I am using and it may be available in your local health food store.
Researchers funded by Great Britain's Arthritis Research Campaign found that the elongated omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil reduce both pain and damage in inflamed joints.56
Professor Caterson explains that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil work by switching off the aggrecan- and collagen-degrading enzymes that break down joint cartilage. This, in effect, slows the progress of cartilage destruction that occurs in arthritis, reduces inflammation and thus lessens pain. He goes on to say, "Two years ago, research teams led by Professor John Harwood and myself at Cardiff University reported findings suggesting that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil can reduce cartilage degradation and inflammation in arthritic disease. Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to Cod Liver Oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the degradative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue".
Other Diseases It May Be Effective for:
Heart disease after a heart attack and after heart surgery. Cod liver oil alters the linings of the arteries in such a way as to improve healing after damage. This is attributed to the omega-3 fatty acids but vitamin A, D and K all have important roles to play in facilitating mineral absorption, improving muscle function and supporting elasticity of the blood vessels. The inflammation-reducing prostaglandins made from EPA help mediate the inflammatory response in the arteries. In other studies the heart-protective effect was associated with changes in the muscle response to serotonin, increasing the heart's ability to "relax."1-15 In a study with rats, treatment with cod liver oil actually caused artery-blocking atheromas to become smaller and blood vessel diameter to enlarge.55 Weston Price noted that heart attack deaths increased during periods when the vitamin A content of the diet was low. Cod liver oil can provide vitamin A on a continuous basis throughout the year.
Cancer. All the nutrients in cod liver oil help prevent cancer. Vitamin A has been part of every successful alternative cancer therapy so far. In a study in China, use of cod liver oil was found to be protective against childhood leukemia.57 In a study of Norwegian men and women, consumption of cod liver oil was found to protect against lung cancer.58
In numerous studies, the elongated omega-3 fats found in cod liver oil have been shown to improve brain function, memory, stress response, immune response, allergies, asthma, learning and behavioral disorders, including bipolar syndrome and manic-depression. "If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children," said David Horrobin, distinguished medical and biochemical researcher, "feed them cod liver oil."
Obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and stroke. Evidence is accumulating that these diseases of civilization are the result of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids along with deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.
Cod liver oil is most famous for contributing to bone health, preventing and reversing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.16, 17 Before the discovery of cod liver oil as a source of vitamin D, many children suffered greatly with deformed bones. Osteoporosis responds to vitamin D and to cod liver oil. Sufficient elongated omega-3 oils found in cod liver oil are one of the keys to keeping and rebuilding bone.18, 19 In women, higher levels of vitamin D from cod liver oil improve bone mineral density.20
Diabetes: Cod liver oil has been used in a number of trials with both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. In both conditions cod liver oil improved glucose response and other markers of the disease.1 Vitamin A in cod liver oil helps promote healing and protects the retina, both problem areas in the diabetic patient. Cod liver oil has lowered blood pressure induced by stress-elevated levels of cortisol.32-35 Cod liver oil given to rats reduced intraocular pressure suggesting a use in prevention and treatment of glaucoma.36 Vitamin D in cod liver oil promotes absorption of calcium and magnesium, thereby lowering blood pressure. Colitis responds more effectively to the type of omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil than to medication.37-38 Cod liver oil should be the first protocol for this condition as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Two of the symptoms of low levels of vitamin D are bone pain and muscle pain. This may manifest as pain in the legs, muscle weakness and difficulty climbing stairs. Numerous studies have shown improvement in muscle pain, muscle strength and bone pain scores with cod liver oil.40, 41
Pregnant women using cod liver oil have infants with a lower risk for juvenile type 1 diabetes.21 This effect was found only in mothers taking cod liver oil, not in mothers taking multivitamin supplements. Cod liver oil taken by nursing mothers improves the fatty acid profile in breast milk to promote optimal brain development and also increases levels of vitamin A to prevent infections. Interestingly, cod liver oil does not provide increased vitamin D in breast milk.23,24
Cod liver oil given to infants after birth and during the first year had no protective effect against type 1 diabetes but it nevertheless is an important source of nutrients for optimal infant health.22 In more than forty trials, vitamin A has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality of children.25 Cod liver oil was the supplement of choice in many of these trials. Books on feeding infants published in the 1930s and 1940s routinely recommended cod liver oil, starting with 1 teaspoon at the age of three weeks. It was Dr. Spock who threw this wisdom out the window by recommending vaccinations instead of the powerful nutritional support of cod liver oil.
Topically applied, cod liver oil contributes to faster wound healing and improvement in skin quality, An excellent treatment for diaper rash and other skin conditions is cod liver oil mixed with zinc oxide. Cod liver oil taken orally helps maintain soft skin and minimize wrinkles.
Cavities: Secondary dentine, a less well-organized form of tubular dentine, is produced throughout life as a patching material where cavities have begun, where the overlying enamel has been worn away, and within the pulp chamber as part of the aging process. Sometimes when cavities occur, production of secondary dentine can "heal" the decayed spot or rebuild portions of the tooth that have worn away. If vitamin D is adequate, secondary dentine will be well calcified. If vitamin D is lacking, dentine will be of poor quality or not present at all.
There is some evidence that the mineralization of dentine may depend on calcium derived from saliva rather than blood; in other words, it is deposited from the exterior rather than the interior of the tooth. Calcium content of saliva doubled or even tripled when the diet contained adequate vitamin D from cod liver oil. (Ref.: Newmediaexplorer)
Eating fish will not provide the levels of nutrients that are found in cod liver oil. Even in heavy fish-eating populations, the addition of cod liver oil improves health.42-43 And taking fish oils is not the same as taking cod liver oil. One tablespoon of regular cod liver oil and one-half tablespoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil provide the amount of elongated omega-3 fatty acids found in twelve 1,000 mg fish oil capsules.
As for vitamin D, body oils of fish can be good sources as long as you are willing to eat a lot of them. One-half pound of fatty herring or sardines gives a dose of vitamin D equal to that of about one tablespoon of cod liver oil. But salmon oil has one-fifth the potency of cod liver oil.
Virtually all cod liver oil imported into the US comes from Norway, and while all of it is safe, there are different grades, depending on vitamin levels. The lighter oil from the "top of the barrel" has a lower molecular weight, goes rancid more quickly and has lower levels of vitamins, while the heavier oil, which sinks, is richer in vitamins. The heavier oil is what Dr. Price referred to as high-vitamin cod liver oil. It contains double the amounts of vitamin A and D as regular cod liver oil. Virtually all cod liver oil imported into the US is the lighter, "top of the barrel" variety. The Norwegians keep the best for themselves!
I do not find it hard to take Carlson's cod liver oil on a spoon, but for many, the big challenge is how to get this oily substance down. One technique is to add cod liver oil to a small amount of water or fresh juice, stir and then quickly send it down the hatch. If you can't bring yourself to take cod liver oil on a spoon or in water, then use the capsules. For babies and small children, use an eye dropper.
If pregnant or pregnancy is possible, limit cod liver oil intake to not more than 30,000 IU A per day. Two tablespoons of regular cod liver oil, one tablespoon high-vitamin cod liver oil is a dose that is safe and adequate for pregnant women and, in fact, all adults. There is no indication that anyone needs a dose of cod liver oil exceeding two tablespoons except in certain special circumstances. More is not better.
Infants and growing children can tolerate higher-per-pound doses of vitamin D and cod liver oil. Recommended dosages are as follows: one teaspoon from birth to six months, two teaspoons from six months to three years, one tablespoon from 4-10 years and two tablespoons thereafter during winter months or when not sunning.
Never combine sources of vitamin A. Vitamin A and its derivatives are found in skin lotions and creams, oral medications and vitamin supplements. The 30,000 IU limit is from all sources.
If you sun regularly and spend winter months in the South, you need to find another way to get elongated fatty acids (such as organ meats). You really do not want too much vitamin D. High doses of cod liver oil are used to promote atherosclerosis in animal studies.
When using a UV-B meter and sunning to raise vitamin D, you will need the Vitamin D and Sunlight protocol. Cod liver oil can be reduced or eliminated depending on your location and exposure times.
Cod liver oil mixed with zinc oxide is better for the skin than any of the prescription medications, and safer.
Many brands of cod liver oil are processed to remove all the vitamins A and D and then have synthetic vitamins A and D added back in. These products should be completely avoided as the synthetic versions of A and D are toxic. If in doubt, it's best to contact the manufacturer and inquire whether the A and D in their cod liver oil is naturally occurring or synthetic.
One concern about taking cod liver oil is the presence of contaminants—heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium and lead), PCBs and so forth. Fortunately, consumers need not worry when it comes to cod liver oil. All cod liver oils in the US must be tested according to protocols of the Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC) and approved free of detectable levels of 32 contaminants before they can be imported into this country. Furthermore, mercury is water soluble. It may be present in the flesh of fish, but it is not present in the oil.
Another concern is rancidity. Cod liver oil can become rancid if improperly handled. In a 1988 study, peroxide values (indicating rancidity) ranged from a low of 2 to a high of 44.7. Nevertheless, properly handled cod liver oil is relatively stable. It contains 21 percent saturated fatty acids and 57 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, which provide stability. The fishy smell of cod liver oil is due to the presence of small amounts of fish protein and is not a sign of rancidity. To ensure that your cod liver oil is fresh, avoid buying the large economy size or the end-of-season sale item. Buy cod liver oil in small dark bottles and keep them in a cool dark place. Cod liver oil need not be refrigerated after opening if it is used up quickly—within two months.
There is some research surrounding the possible toxicity of Cod Liver Oil. Over-elevated serum levels of vitamin D are a possibility if you combine summer or southern sun and cod liver oil. So if you are spending a lot of time out in the sun during the summer months, it's probably best to cut back on the dose. If you are unsure, you should test your blood levels of vitamin D. Cod liver oil use is safe in most of the US and all of Canada in winter but it should not be combined with other sources of vitamin D without careful testing and monitoring.
Cod liver oil is no longer recommended in Great Britain and in the US pregnant women are advised to avoid most vitamin A and vitamin A-containing foods, including cod liver oil. Both countries have adopted this policy because of the recognized teratogenicity (may cause birth defects) of retinoic acid, a synthetic form of vitamin A. But low vitamin A also causes birth defects. In the developing countries, such as Brazil, Pakistan and India, vitamin A deficiency is widespread, afflicting millions. A 1992 survey of the US population determined that 50 percent of Americans consume 19 percent or less of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) or 400 IU.
The original study showing birth defects associated with intake of mostly synthetic vitamin A exceeding 5,000 IU daily was published November 23, 1995 in the New England Journal of Medicine.46 Other studies showing an association of birth defects with vitamin A concerned topical creams containing vitamin A derivatives such as Accutane, or extremely high doses of A used in animal studies.47-52
A later study, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), found no association with birth defects in women who took up to 10,000 IU of vitamin A during pregnancy. Because few women took more than 10,000 IU, researchers could not determine whether higher doses were a problem. Later Mills and others continued their research and determined that after serum testing and determining safe serum levels, women taking 30,000 IU of preformed vitamin A from animal foods (not beta-carotene) daily had the same blood levels of A as healthy pregnant women in the first trimester who had healthy babies. The conclusion is that a dosage over 30,000 IU vitamin A daily may be teratogenic for a certain few, but anything up to that amount is safe.53-54
Thus if you are or may become pregnant, limit cod liver oil intake to not more than a total vitamin A value of 30,000 IU. If using my favorite brand, Carlson Labs cod liver oil, that would equal the amount of vitamin A found in 12 teaspoons or 4 tablespoons, more than anyone would ever take. If using high-vitamin cod liver oil, the limit would be 2 tablespoons. Two tablespoons of regular cod liver oil provide 15,000 IU vitamin A, 2600 IU vitamin D and 6 grams of mixed omega-3 fatty acids, safe for pregnancy and good for mom and baby.
The most likely culprits for production of birth defects in humans are topical and oral vitamin A analogs, not cod liver oil. Researchers have criticized the original 1995 study, from which governmental policy has been derived, for overstating the negative effect. Only 1.4 percent took supplements exceeding 10,000 IU a day, not a large enough sample from which to draw conclusions. However, it is important to never combine cod liver oil or vitamin A from supplements with oral or topical medications for acne or other skin disorders treated with retinoic acid derivatives.
High levels of vitamin A are not recommended for certain types of liver disease in which there is altered vitamin A metabolism. This is frequently the case with alcoholism. Alcoholics should not take high doses (not more than 1-1.5 tablespoons of regular cod liver oil) and what they do take should be accompanied by zinc supplements. The enzymes needed for vitamin A metabolism in the liver are zinc dependent.
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