One of the few things that most scientists and nutritionists seem to agree upon is that fish oils are good for you. Fish oil can be consumed by eating fish or by taking supplements such as cod liver oil pills. But do you really need these supplements? Let’s find out.

What is Cod Liver Oil?

As the name suggests, this oil is a nutritional supplement derived from the liver of codfish. The supplement contains several types of Omega-3 fatty acids and is also enriched with Vitamins A and D. Most pills contain a fermented form of cod liver oil, which has been further enhanced by the addition of vitamins.

Health Benefits

Traditionally, cod liver oil pills have been taken to alleviate arthritis-related pain and joint stiffness. In fact, it is considered to be a way of preventing arthritis. Due to the presence of Vitamin D, it can also be effective in reducing muscular pain. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be heart-friendly and taking cod liver oil supplements can prevent heart diseases to an extent. It is also given to children to overcome vitamin deficiencies. Other benefits include reduced risk of Type 1 Diabetes and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections. Suggested dosage is in the range of 20 to 30 ml per day.

Side Effects

Cod liver oil is generally safe for most people within the recommended dosage. Minor side effects include bad breath, belching, heartburn and nosebleeds. However, these can be countered by taking the supplements with meals instead of on an empty stomach. High dosage of these pills can cause various problems such as nausea and stomach upsets. In some cases it can also delay blood clotting and increase the chance of bleeding. Since its effects on pregnant women are not entirely known, it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid these supplements during pregnancy. Cod liver oil is known to lower blood pressure and if you’re taking any blood pressure regulating medicines, it’s better to skip cod liver oil pills.

In Conclusion

Cod liver oil capsules contain several beneficial oils but they also contain added Vitamins A and D. For these vitamins to work properly, they must be present in an optimum ratio. Some recent studies have found that most of these pills have very high levels of Vitamin A and not enough of Vitamin D. Neither of the vitamins, therefore, performs the way it should. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to get all your nutrition from vegetable and animal sources rather than relying on supplements. Consuming oily fish and vitamin-rich vegetables as well as getting enough exposure to sunlight can, in most cases, fulfill your requirement of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. If you must take supplements, ensure that you do not exceed the suggested dosage.

As with any medication, please consult your doctor before starting any supplements.Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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