Norwegian Cod Liver Oil - Nutritional and Immune System Benefits

Did your mom give you Norwegian cod liver oil when you were a child? It's no wonder if she did! It's packed with powerful nutrients that supply numerous health advantages for anyone that takes it regularly.

Most fish oils contain omega 3 fats, but CLO offers so much more! Perhaps its time to take another look at what it can do for you!





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Books published in the 1930's and 1940's routinely recommended Norwegian cod liver oil, starting with 1 teaspoon at the age of three weeks. Dr. Spock, author of the book 'Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care' started recommending vaccinations instead of giving cod liver oil. (You can read an article about How Dr. Spock Destroyed America here. Its interesting and does have a LOT of legitimate points!)

Before that time, cod liver oil was given to children at an early age because it prevented and treated so many different conditions! However, as societies became modernized, many parents were persuaded to vaccinate their children. After all, many supplements weren’t available at that time, and giving a child liquid cod liver oil was a tremendous task for parents because it tasted so awful!

As society has strayed away from older practices, more diseases are prevalent today than at any other time. Maybe we should reconsider the many complexities of modern times and find our way back to simpler ‘natural’ ways of handling our health problems!

At the beginning of the last century, it was standard practice to give breastfed infants a teaspoon of Norwegian cod liver oil, which averaged 440 IU of vitamin D3 per day. When the use of using baby formula became popular, vitamin D was added to formula to prevent a deficiency. Since the 1970’s, women went back to breast feeding, but never resumed the practice of giving their babies dietary supplements.

Sections on This Page

Benefits of CLO

Concerns about Taking CLO

Proper Dosages

History of Fish Oil

How to Make Cod Liver Salad

Dr. Westin Price


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The Benefits of Norwegian Cod Liver Oil




  • Cod liver oil helps prevent rickets in children and osteo-malacia in adults, improves; osteoporosis (at any stage), bone mineral density (in women especially), muscle pains, muscle strength and bone pains.

  • The omega fats found in Norwegian cod liver oil help develop the brain and nervous system. If you want to help prevent learning disabilities in your children, give them CLO at an early age. You can disguise it in juice or baby foods. Remember, children aren’t born not liking the different tastes of different foods. Instead they develop dislikes for certain foods by their surroundings, which reflect your attitudes.

    What makes cod liver oil so unique is that it contains an elongated form of omega 3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. EPA helps form prostaglandins, (localized tissue hormones) that assist inflammation of the body, and DHA assists in the development and function of the brain and nervous system.

    Researchers funded by Great Britain's Arthritis Research Campaign found that the elongated omega 3 fatty acids in CLO reduced both pain and damage from arthritis in inflamed joints.

    In numerous other studies, the elongated omega 3 fats were shown to improve brain function, memory, stress response, immune response, allergies, asthma, learning and behavioral disorders, including bipolar syndrome and even manic depression.

  • Cod liver oil improves heart function and helps prevent heart disease. It can also be taken in advanced stages of many heart conditions, like after a heart attack and after heart surgery.

    Omega fatty acids improve the structure of artery walls and vitamin A, D and K improve the elasticity of blood vessels. They also increase seratonin levels, which helps relax heart muscles. In a study with rats, treatment with CLO decreased atheroma's (plague build up) and enlarged blood vessel diameter. Dr. Weston Price noted that heart attack deaths increased during periods when the vitamin A content of the diet was low.

  • Many of the conditions helped by taking Norwegian cod liver oil are considered to be related to what's called Syndrome X. These include obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Evidence is accumulating that these diseases of modern times are the result of higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids and lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids, along with deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins. You can find a good article about Syndrome X here.

  • Another of the benefits of cod liver oil is that it can be used as a purgative, to help to maintain regular bowel movements.

  • CLO helps maintain synovial fluids which lubricate joints between bones and tissues.

  • CLO was used to treat a variety of skin diseases including psoriasis in the 1930s.

  • Use Norwegian cod liver oil to help prevent colds and builds immunity. CLO helps your body resist bacterial and viral infections. In a 2002 study in children (Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2002 Jul;111(7 Pt 1):642-52), CLO plus selenium supplements proved to decrease the amount of antibiotics necessary to treat ear infections in children as compared to results before supplementation.

    Another study in 2004 (Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2004 Nov;113(11):891-901) showed that children supplemented with CLO had fewer upper respiratory infections, resulting in fewer pediatric visits over time.

    Cod liver oil, which was inexpensive, was considered to have tremendous value in saving millions of dollars in lost working days and lost productivity to American industry.

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  • Women who take Norwegian cod liver oil during pregnancy, bear children with a lower the risk of for Type I diabetes. This benefit was found only in mothers taking Norwegian cod liver oil, not in mothers taking multi-vitamin supplements. CLO 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 help prevent infections. Oddly, cod liver oil does not increase the vitamin D found in breast milk.


  • Norwegian cod liver oil given to infants after birth and during the first year had no protection against Type I diabetes but it is an important source of nutrients for optimal infant health. In more than forty trials, vitamin A has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality of children. CLO was the supplement of choice in many of these trials.

    Maternal supplementation with long chain fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age.

    cod liver oil chart image
    Fig. 1. Scores on the K-ABC for children whose mothers had taken cod liver oil or corn oil during pregnancy and lactation. Values for the different subtests are shown. MPCOMP, Mental Processing Composite; SEQPROC, Sequential Processing; SIMPROC, Simultaneous Processing; NONVERB, Nonverbal Abilities.

  • Cod liver oil may help decrease gastrointestinal cancer risks.

  • CLO has been used in a number of trials with both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes in adults. In both conditions, Norwegian cod liver oil improved glucose response and other markers of the disease.

  • Cod liver oil helps lower blood pressure rates induced by stress-elevated levels of cortisol. Cod liver oil given to rats reduced intraocular pressure suggesting a use in prevention and treatment of glaucoma.

  • Colitis responds more effectively to the elongated type of omega 3 fatty acids found in Norwegian cod liver oil than to medication. Cod liver oil can be the first protocol for colitis as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease.

  • Topically applied, Norwegian cod liver oil promotes faster wound healing and improvement in skin quality. An excellent treatment for diaper rash and other skin problems is cod liver oil mixed with zinc oxide. And cod liver oil helps maintain soft skin and minimizes wrinkles.

  • Preventing or curing cavities is yet another of the many benefits of CLO.

  • The nutrients found in cod liver oil may help prevent cancer. In a recent study in China, cod liver oil consumption was found to protect against childhood leukemia. In a study of Norwegian men and women, consumption of Norwegian cod liver oil was found to protect against lung cancer.

    Consuming more fish will not provide as many beneficial nutrients as consuming cod liver oil. Even in heavy fish eating populations, the addition of cod liver oil was shown to improve overall health and simply taking fish oil supplements is not the same. One tablespoon of high quality Norwegian cod liver oil provides the same amount of elongated omega 3 fatty acids as are found in twelve 1,000 milligrams of regular fish oil capsules. cod liver oil and vitamin a image


    The vitamin D found in one tablespoon of Norwegian cod liver oil, is equal to one-half pound of fatty herring or sardines. Salmon oil has one-fifth the potency of cod liver oil.

    Cod Liver Oil Concerns

    One concern about taking Norwegian cod liver oil is the presence of contaminants of heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium and lead), PCB’s etc. All supplements in the US must be tested according to protocols laid out by the Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC) and be approved free of detectable levels of 32 contaminants before they can be imported into the US. Furthermore, mercury is water soluble and although it may be present in the flesh of fish, it is not present in the oil.

    cod liver oil 1910 mollers ad image 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 percent to a high of 44.7 percent. However, properly handled cod liver oil is relatively stable. It contains 21 percent saturated fatty acids and 57 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, which provides stability.

    The fishy smell of Norwegian 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 large economy sizes or on-sale supplements.


    Instead, purchase pure Norwegian cod liver oil in small quantities in dark bottles. Keep cod liver oil in a cool dark place, such as your refrigerator. Cod liver oil need not be refrigerated after opening if it is used up quickly or within two months.

    Because CLO is so rich in fat-soluble vitamins, caution should be used when taking it. If you use a Norwegian cod liver oil regularly, so be sure to keep track of how much you’re taking.

    Norwegian Cod Liver Oil Dosage

    Virtually all cod liver oil imported into the US comes from Norway. There are different grades of the oil, 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 is darker in color, sinks and is richer in vitamin content.

    The heavier oil is 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 version, "top of the barrel" variety. The Norwegians are very smart and keep the best for themselves!

    For most people, a safe dosage of Norwegian cod liver oil is approximately one teaspoon per 50 pounds of body weight per day. If you have concerns about taking CLO, please consult your physician before starting on it.

    Nutrients in 2 Tsp. Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

    DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid) 1000 to 1180 mg
    EPA (EicosaPentaenoic Acid) 680 to 1000 mg
    ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) 80 to 100 mg
    Vitamin A 1600 IU
    Vitamin D 800 IU
    Vitamin E (natural d-alpha tocopherol and mixed tocopherols) 20 IU


    The History of Fish Oil Use

    1890 - Cod liver oil is used as a home remedy to treat rickets, rheumatism, tuberculosis and other ailments.

    1930 - Fish oil is used as a key ingredient in shortening.

    1950 - Dale Alexander publishes a book touting cod liver oil as an elixir for arthritis, earning him the nickname "The Codfather."

    1970 - Researchers find that Greenland's Inuit have low levels of heart disease, likely because of diets rich in fish. It is one of the first associations between omega 3 fatty acids and good health.

    1990 - As studies increase on the benefits of omega 3's, more consumers start taking fish oil supplements made from a variety of fish.

    2000 - Aquaculture demands more and more fish oil. Today fish oil is injected into bread and tamales, among other foods.

    Cod Liver Salad (Tursamaksasalat)

    1 can of cod liver chunks, drained (reserve the oil), 1 small shallot, (chopped), one pickled cucumber, one finely chopped boiled egg chopped, salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix all the ingredients, add some of the reserved oil to make it moister if you want.

    Whenever you think about the benefits of consuming Norwegian cod liver oil, remember the findings of Dr. Weston Price. He noted that he did not get good results from cod liver oil unless it was also taken with butter. Why this is so is a matter of speculation, but it is known that the unsaturated fatty acids found in cod liver oil cannot be effectively assimilated and stored in the tissues without the presence of adequate saturated fatty acids. (the kind that butter would provide). The consumption of butter helps support cod liver oil therapy, but Dr. Price found that the combination of cod liver oil with vitamin-rich butter, (from cows who graze on green grass), was nothing short of miraculous, reversing tooth decay and in some cases, bringing patients back from the brink of death.

    Dr. Weston A. Price DDS was a Cleveland dentist, who has been called the "Charles Darwin of Nutrition". Searching for the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration he observed daily in his dental practice, he turned from test tubes and microscopes to study "people with fine teeth" – the isolated "primitives."

    Traveling worldwide, Dr. Price found that straight teeth, freedom from tooth decay, stalwart bodies, resistance to disease, and fine characters were typical of primitives eating traditional diets.

    Dr. Price's classic volume Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects (1939) is available online. Its photographs illustrate in an unforgettable way that physical degeneration occurs when human groups abandon nourishing traditional diets in favor of modern convenience foods. You can find out more about Dr. Weston Price and his studies here.


    Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.





    Related Pages on This Site

    Healthy Heart Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle

    Omega 3 Oils Health Benefits

    Saturated Fats are Good or Bad for Health? You Decide!

    Are Adrenal Problems Making You Tired and Zapping Your Energy?

    Non GMO Foods Versus GMO Foods – Facts, Pros and Cons

    How to Decrease Inflammation to Improve Your Health

    Resources

    11 Benefits of Cod Liver Oil: The Anti-Inflammatory Disease Fighter

    Back to Cod Liver Oil?

    12 Amazing Benefits of Cod Liver Oil

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