This blog was updated January 2018.
Firstly I would say that I don’t hugely believe in supplementation – I think many supplements out there have been created by an industry that want to sell us products we don’t really need (just my personal opinion).
However, many/most of us do not eat an optimal diet, and if that is the case then some good quality supplements do have a role to play in improving our health. The supplements I take personally are Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics and Magnesium Oil. I also add MCT oil to coffee – you can read why here.
Why Should We Take Cod Liver Oil?
Cod liver oil is a really important supplement for many of us for three reasons:
- It contains the critical omega-3 fatty acids eicosopentanoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA). If you don’t eat much oily fish you will almost certainly be deficient in these fats.
- It contains large amounts of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the immune system, bone growth, night vision, cellular growth, testicular and ovarian function.
- It contains good amounts of Vitamin D. Vitamin D not only prevents rickets but is also important for muscle function and may prevent type 1 diabetes, hypertension, and many common cancers.
Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil vs Fermented Cod Liver Oil
The best option for a top-quality cod liver oil that retains the naturally occurring vitamins is to buy either extra-virgin cod liver oil or fermented cod liver oil.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Cod Liver Oil
Fermented (or unfermented) high-vitamin cod liver oil is probably a good idea for most people, and cod liver oil can be counted as a food rather than a man-made supplement. It has been used by traditional societies for hundreds of years.
If you eat oily fish and liver several times per week, you may not need to take cod liver oil as you will be getting plenty of omega-3 fats and vitamin A already. Many of us do not achieve this and so we could benefit from both the omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) and the vitamins (A and D3) in cod liver oil.
Look for a brand that contains good levels of vitamin A and vitamin D3. According to the Weston Price Foundation you want to aim for 10,000 IU of vitamin A and 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D. This seems high when you look at what most brands contain and the recommendation on most bottles that you only take 1 teaspoon.
The Green Pasture’s brand most likely contains this amount but the recommendation on many websites is to only take ½ tsp. daily of this brand.
*Note: High Vitamin Butter Oil/Ghee
It is a good idea to take high vitamin butter oil or ghee alongside cod liver oil (or eat plenty of butter and clarified butter) because the butter/butter oil will provide vitamins E and K2 to complement the A and D from the cod liver oil.
The best brands are:
- Rosita Real Foods – Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO). This product is relatively new to the market and I believe it to be an excellent product, with a better taste than fermented cod liver oil. This is the cod liver oil we take. It is expensive (~£30 for 150ml). It is now available in the UK from Pure Nutrience or can be bought directly from Amazon or Rosita Real Foods in Norway. Their nutrient analysis is not found on the bottle as it varies from batch to batch but they have the results from a sample here showing it contains 3000-5000 IU of Vitamin A per teaspoon and 400-500 IU of Vitamin D per teaspoon.
- Dropi – Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil. I like Dropi as they offer capsules as well as liquid and are slightly cheaper than the Rosita brand. Dropi’s cod liver oil comes from cod caught in clean Icelandic waters.
- Nutrapro International – Virgin Cod Liver Oil (VCLO). This is another excellent product but is also expensive and not easily available in the UK. Nutrapro also sell a high vitamin butter oil. I have tried it in the past and it is a great product but it has to be shipped from The States and I had to pay a big shipping and then customs duty bill so I haven’t ordered it again.
- UPDATE AUGUST 2015: Please read this article about Green Pasture’s Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
Green Pasture – Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO). This is the brand that is/was most widely recommended in paleo/ancestral health circles. The high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is sold as a food so does not contain vitamin levels on the label. However, after numerous tests, the approximate values of A and D have been ascertained at 1900 IU vitamin A per mL and 390 IU vitamin D per ml. Thus 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil contains 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D, a ratio of about 5:1.
The main problem with this seems to be that it’s pretty horrible to take, but it does come in various flavours and tablet form so you should be able to find one that you can take.
I have read a couple of blog posts claiming this oil is rotten not fermented, but the Weston Price Foundation recently looked into these claims and say that there is no evidence to support them and that it is definitely fermented. (SEE UPDATE AUGUST 2015). I have found the best place to buy this in the UK is www.red23.co.uk where it is about £30 for a 237ml bottle or 120 capsules.
Good options (these brands contain vitamin A and D that have been added after processing, but are in the correct ratio). You should not take a brand of cod liver oil that has Vitamin A but not Vitamin D, or low levels of vitamin D. The ratio needs to be between 10:1 and 5:1 A:D.
- Garden of Life Olde World Icelandic Cod Liver Oil 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 400mg DHA, 447mg EPA, 4500 IU Vitamin A and 450 IU Vitamin D. Molecularly distilled. (£6.57 plus shipping for 200ml at time of writing/16p per serving).
- Nature’s Answer Norwegian Cod Liver Oil 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 460mg DHA, 430mg EPA, 4000 IU Vitamin A and 430 IU Vitamin D. Molecularly distilled. Sealed free of air (nitrogen flushed). (£18.43 for 400ml at time of writing/23p per serving).
- Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 500mg DHA, 400mg EPA, 850 IU Vitamin A and 400 IU Vitamin D. (£26.14 for 500ml at time of writing/26p per serving).
- Sonne’s Old Fashioned Cod Liver Oil 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 440mg DHA, 440mg EPA, 4000 IU Vitamin A and 400 IU Vitamin D. Molecularly distilled. (£16.50 plus shipping for 473ml/17p per serving).
- TwinLab Norwegian Cod Liver Oil 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 369mg DHA, 554mg EPA, 4615 IU Vitamin A and 462 IU Vitamin D. Molecularly distilled. Sealed free of air (nitrogen flushed). (£5.63 plus shipping for 355ml at time of writing/8p per serving).
- Healthspan St Clements Cod Liver Oil Liquid 1 x 5ml teaspoon provides 460mg DHA, 345mg EPA, 3000 IU Vitamin A and 400 IU Vitamin D. (£10.95 plus shipping for 600ml at time of writing/9p per serving).
What we take as a family (Updated August 2015)
I used to take Green Pastures Blue Ice Royal cod liver oil/butter oil blend in capsule form (2 capsules per day), or when funds were a bit tight I used Garden of Life liquid cod liver oil and found the taste (lemon/mint) very palatable and easy to take. I would take 1 tsp. per day.
Since the claims came out about Green Pasture’s FCLO I have switched us all to Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil. I give my children ½ tsp. (2.5ml) per day. I give it to them in a Calpol syringe. My 3yr old daughter takes it no problem (which was a huge surprise to me as she is extremely fussy) and then washes it down with a few sips of apple juice or milk. My 18 month old takes it mixed with ½ tsp. (2.5ml) elderberry syrup. I take 1 tsp. (5ml) per day.
Update: April 2017
As a family we now rotate between Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (liquid for the kids, capsules for me) and Dropi Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (liquid for the kids, capsules for me). So we take one until it runs out, then we take the other. This is working well for us at the moment.
I still give the kids 2.5ml per day and they still take in a Calpol syringe. My kids are now 5, 3 and 1.
They all take CLO without any fuss. If they have a cough or cold I up the dose to 5ml per day for a few days until they are better. They rarely get coughs and colds and none of them have so far needed antibiotics. I am sure regular cod liver oil has helped with this.
For very young children that refuse to take cod liver oil and can’t be reasoned with you can rub it onto their skin – it does stain clothes though so the best place is on to their bare bottoms before putting a clean nappy on. If you are going to do this it should obviously only be with a pure cod liver oil such as Rosita extra virgin cod liver oil and not a flavoured oil.
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