Cod liver oil is an extract from Atlantic cod livers. Such supplements are packed with numerous benefits, due to their wide variety of vitamins and beneficial nutrients — vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.
Cod liver oil has numerous benefits, and a truly wide range of people who want to supplement their health can take it for a variety of different reasons.
Best Cod Liver Oil
1Carlson Cod Liver Oil
Carlson Cod Liver Oil is our number 1 pick and for good reason. It gives your body the omega-3s that you need to support your brain, vision, heart, and joint health. This cod liver oil comes in multiple delicious all-natural flavors like lemon and fruit splash.
Carlson Cod Liver Oil is sustainably sourced; with the fish being caught and transported for purification all in the same day for the highest level of freshness.
Carlson Cod Liver Oil avoids the use of heat, moisture, and other solvents to ensure that the nutrient content is not compromised during the process. This option has added antioxidants to get you an extra boost of nutrients so that you get the best health benefits possible.
2Athelas Nutraceuticals Cod Liver Oil
Athelas Nutraceuticals cod liver oil contains a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids to promote and support a healthy body.
This cod liver oil supplement is manufactured with the highest standards and is proudly made in the USA. It’s also third-party tested and comes free of unwanted sulfates, artificial ingredients, and laurates.
Athelas Nutraceuticals cod liver oil t gives you the health boost you want with a taste you’ll love.
3Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil
Nordic Naturals cod liver oil supplement comes with a delicious natural lemon flavoring so you don’t get fish burps when you have it. This product is sustainably sourced and managed carefully from the first step to the last.
Nordic Naturals ensures that their fish are caught from clean waters and do not affect the fragile ocean ecosystem. Nordic Naturals cod liver oil also tastes delicious.
With this safe and eco-friendly option, you get the health benefits you need without harming the earth.
4Dropi Pure Icelandic Cod Liver Oil
Dropi cod liver oil is made in a small Icelandic fishing village that only uses the freshest caught cod for manufacturing. This ensures that you get the purest product from one of the cleanest ocean areas in the world.
Dropi uses a fishing management system that makes sure the marine ecosystem isn’t harmed. The oil is specially processed so that it retains its natural properties and helps to preserve the state of the omega-3s.
Dropi abides by strict rules and regulations to ensure that the product is up to the highest standards. Every batch of their cod liver oil products are third-party tested to ensure the highest standards before it’s put on the market.
5Tropical Oasis Cod Liver Oil
Tropical Oasis cod liver oil pills are made to have maximum strength; with 1144mg of omega-3 fish oils. This cod oil helps promote a healthy heart, brain, and immune system to keep your body functioning at its highest rate.
Tropical Oasis cod liver oil will also help your hair to grow in soft and silky and your skin to remain supple.
It’s sustainably sourced from Icelandic waters so that you get the freshest product without making a large impact on the environment. Every batch is third-party tested to ensure that the quality is the highest possible and to ensure that there are no artificial additives or flavors.
6NOW Supplements Cod Liver Oil
NOW brand’s cod liver oil provides excellent cardiovascular support for all of your most important bodily functions.
This oil is a great source of vitamin A and D-3 that will help your body to be the healthiest it can be.
NOW has an A-rated GMP certification ensuring that every step of the manufacturing process has been inspected. This means that all lab and potency testing is assured for quality and reliability.
7Carlyle Cod Liver Oil
Carlyle cod liver oil is a clean fish oil that is bottled and tested in the USA. This oil is sourced from cold seawater codfish in Norway. Carlyle cod liver oil is filled with essential nutrients that include vitamin D, omega-3s, EPA, and DHA to give your body everything that it needs to function properly.
It also helps to support proper brain, heart, and immune function to keep you happy and healthy.
8Dr. Marten’s Cod Liver Oil
This premium cod liver oil from Dr Marten is made from the freshest Nordic fish which are never frozen.
With pure ingredients, this option is non-toxic and eco-friendly so you can give it the whole family.
This cod liver oil may help reduce joint pain for those suffering from an accident or advanced age and can help improve skin conditions like eczema and acne.
9Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil
Rosita extra virgin cod liver oil has a variety of 100% naturally occurring nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin D, and the omega fatty acids EPA and DHA. There are also no synthetic additives or artificial flavors added.
This brand uses sustainable practices when catching their fish and use the best techniques to retain the optimum freshness during manufacturing. This means that there is no heat, chemicals, or mechanics used in making this product.
10Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Blue Ice cod liver oil is filled with the nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to function at its highest. With high levels of vitamin A and D, as well as omega-3s, this oil will help support your body’s major functions.
Blue Ice cod liver oil is fermented and helps to aid in digestion and is also filled with EPA and DHA to support your body’s overall health and wellness.
It also comes in a delicious orange flavor which masks the fishy taste.
How We Rank
The first thing we looked at, when ranking our fish oil, was the purity of the products. Products that included a ton of fillers, colouring, additives or preservatives were immediately axed. Others who remained as close to natural as possible, like Dropi Pure Icelandic and Tropical Oasis, were rewarded.
We then looked at the omega-3 content of each product. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are what provide the vapours health benefits of fish oil including heart health, lower inflammation, better skin, more energy and lowered blood pressure. As such, we preferred cod liver oil supplements that maximized the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in their product. Companies like Athelas Nutraceuticals scored high here.
Leading off this, we also looked at how the fish oil was delivered. There are 2 main forms of delivery: capsules or liquid. Liquid tends to give better and value and be purer, while capsules are more convent and were better for proper dosing. We did give an edge to liquid supplements, like Nordic Naturals over capsule products like NOW because of the freedom it gave in regards to dosing as well as the purity.
Thirdly, we looked at how the fish oil was sourced. We preferred companies and products that sourced their product without impacting the environment and ecosystem that they got their fish from (or at least being as minimally invasive as possible). While it wasn’t a deal breaker, we did give bonus points to companies that care about the environment, like our number 1 pick, Carlson Cod Liver Oil.
After all this, we ranked the top 10 best cod liver oil supplements on the market.
1Cod liver oil helps to reduce joint pain and arthritis. Cod liver oil can dramatically reduce joint pain and inflammation in patients who suffer from it. It’s even an effective supplement for those who have serious medical conditions related to their joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis. A 2013 double-blind study showed that supplementing patients with cod liver oil dramatically reduced their painkiller usage on a regular basis (2).
In another 9 month study, 39% of people who took the cod liver oil supplements were able to reduce their painkiller intake compared to only 10% who took a placebo (3).
Such results are incredibly promising; they show that even though cod liver oil might not have immediate benefits for everybody who takes it, in some cases it can dramatically impact pain management for those who suffer from arthritis.
That’s a huge benefit, especially because many painkillers, though they may be a necessary part of someone’s treatment plan, come with unpleasant side effects. NSAIDs, for instance, or Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, often have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems of people who regularly take them, even as they relieve pain at the same time (4).
2Cod liver oil may help improve your cardiovascular system functioning. Daily, regular intake of cod liver oil (in moderate, not extreme amounts) might help prevent atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular condition wherein arteries narrow and get harder because plaque builds up on the insides of the artery walls (5).
The benefits also don’t simply stop at atherosclerosis, either. Science has long supported the intake of omega-3 fatty acids as a factor for lower mortality rates and fewer occurrences of heart failure (6).
Moreover, fish consumption in general has been linked to a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease in all forms (7).
3Cod liver oil is a great source of important vitamins your body needs to function. Besides the omega-3 fatty acids which are responsible for many of cod liver oil’s benefits to the body, it’s also particularly rich in both Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
That’s because unlike normal fatty fish oil supplements, cod liver oil is extracted from, as you might have guessed, the liver. Normal fish oil supplements are taken from the body or the skin of the fish, meaning they’re not quite as nutritious.
As it turns out, that addition of Vitamin A and Vitamin D is quite beneficial. Vitamin A, for instance, can help with everything from healthy teeth to healthy skin. It can also help with vision problems (8).
Vitamin D, on the other hand, helps keep your immune system in shape, regulates blood insulin levels and maintains your skeletal system (i.e., your bones and teeth) (9).
4Cod liver oil helps fight off inflammation in the body. Cod liver oil supplements are a potent source of EPA and DHA – fatty acids shown to have some serious anti-inflammatory benefits (10).
Many chronic conditions, like cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and cancer are actually conditions that involve inflammatory processes, and cod liver oil could help treat them (11).
The omega 3-fatty acids in cod liver oil may reduce chronic inflammation by suppressing the proteins that promote it (12).
5Cod liver oil could help your eyes stay functional as you age. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a disease that affects your retinas. As you age, your eyes naturally start to see worse and worse: things that were once sharp, like small text and faraway objects, may appear blurry. Colors may be dimmer than they used to be, and overall vision just deteriorates at a slow rate, though total blindness is unlikely.
This is a normal condition and nothing to be ashamed of, but the fatty acids in cod liver oil could help in a big way. Research involving over 600 participants found that those who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids had a 17% lower risk of early AMD and 41% lower risk of late AMD (15).
In one study in 3,502 people aged 55 and over, researchers found that people who consumed the most vitamin A had a much lower risk of glaucoma than those who ate the least vitamin A (18).
There’s also evidence to support that cod liver oil, and other fatty acid supplements could help not only with age-related macular degeneration but also with dry eye disease (19).
6Cod liver oil may fight off cancer. In a study that interviewed 2107 subjects, women who took the most cod liver oil between ages 10-19 were least likely to develop breast cancer. However, the likelihood was not reduced as much with cod liver oil taken between ages 20-29, and not at all with cod liver oil taken between ages 45-54 (20).
7Cod liver oil may help strengthen bones. While cod liver oil and other omega-3 fatty acid supplements are perhaps best known for their role in helping with rheumatoid arthritis, cod liver oil, in particular, can help your skeletal system as well.
That’s mostly due to its status as a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for maintaining proper bone health, especially as one ages. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to everything from rickets to stress fractures to osteoarthritis (21).
In fact, studies show that when accompanied by a diet high in calcium, taking a vitamin D supplement like cod liver oil can reduce bone loss among adults and strengthen fragile bones in children (22, 23).
Getting enough vitamin D from foods and supplements like cod liver oil is especially important for people who live far from the equator, as their skin doesn’t get enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D for up to six months of the year (24).
In fact, there are a number of different ways Vitamin D might help regulate bone health, whether through the way it strengthens muscles around bones or through the way it interfaces with your immune system (25).
8Cod liver oil helps combat depression and other mental health issues. If you’re suffering from an inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis, for example, there’s a very good chance that the inflammatory cytokines that characterize that condition are also having an effect on your mental health (26).
Moreover, many studies have also found a link between increased blood levels of vitamin D and a reduction in symptoms of depression. And since cod liver oil is packed with vitamin D, this supplement becomes yet another effective tool in protecting your mental health (29, 30).
There could also be something about cod liver oil that directly treats depression, though the science to date is inconclusive on what exactly that might be. In one study, high levels of depression were negatively associated with cod liver oil intake (31).
In other words, taking cod liver oil either prevented depression in some parts of the study population, or their depressive symptoms abated at least partially after using cod liver oil for a period.
9Cod liver oil may help stomach issues, like ulcers, heal more quickly. It seems likely that this is due, at least in part, to their nature as anti-inflammatory supplements. In one animal study, cod liver oil supplements both increased the healing of pre-existing gastric ulcers in rats and prevented their occurrence altogether (32).
Another animal study found that cod liver oil suppressed genes that are linked with gut inflammation and reduced inflammation and ulceration in the gut (33).
While we haven’t gotten to human trials yet, there’s at least some animal trial evidence for cod liver oil as a stomach ulcer treatment. Further research is necessary to determine whether a suitable treatment for humans can be adapted.
10Cod liver oil can fight off infections and fortify the immune system. In a study of 94 infants and children (6 months to 5 years old) given cod liver oil had fewer pediatric visits for upper respiratory tract infections (1 tsp cod liver oil/day). Children given cod liver oil and a multivitamin also had fewer visits for sinus issues (4 male children with a history of sinus issues) (34).
11Cod liver oil has been shown to protect your organs from damage. One rat study found that cod liver oil reduced liver damage (caused by nitrates) by acting as an antioxidant (35).
This is not only seen in animals but has also been seen to be true with human subjects as well. In one study, there were patients who received liver transplants and were given cod liver oil to help speed up the healing time. This study found that the amount of damage that was healed was significantly reduced by adding cod liver oil pills (36).
The oil was found to help so much, that the length of the patient’s hospital stay for those who were administered cod liver oil pills was significantly reduced (37).
1Excess amounts of vitamin D aren’t good for you. Too much vitamin D in your system can actually be toxic; It can impact everything from your weight and eating habits to your cognitive function (38).
Anorexia, inexplicable weight loss, and irregular heart rhythms are all possible side effects of taking too much vitamin D (39).
So as long as you don’t abuse your supplements, this side effect shouldn’t apply.
2Cod liver oil can cause an imbalance of the vitamin A to vitamin D ratio. Some researchers oppose the use of cod liver oil due to a risk of vitamin A overdose with vitamin D deficiency. While this ratio imbalance may explain the discrepancy between data on cod liver oil’s effect on bone mineral density, the vitamin A content in cod liver oil was recently reduced by 75% in Norway (40).
3Eating fish comes with a risk of contaminants. Due to pollution and environmental waste, eating too much fish can actually expose you to environmental toxins, like mercury (41).
Unfortunately, that’s sometimes true for products derived from fish, like fish oil and cod liver oil supplements, as well. When choosing a cod liver oil supplement, make sure to research where and how the supplement is sourced, as well as how it’s processed. That’ll give you a clue as to whether or not it’s sustainably sourced and healthy to consume.
4Cod liver oil may increase the risk of thyroid cancer. A study of 60,000 Norwegians found that consumption of fish and cod liver oil may increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Since thyroid follicle cells are sensitive to vitamin D, the improper ratio of vitamin A to D is a possible factor (42).
5Cod liver oil may increase blood pressure during pregnancy. A study of 549 pregnant women found that slightly higher intakes of the omega-3 fatty acids found in cod liver oil (more than 0.87 g/day or 1 tsp/5 mL of cod liver oil) in the early stages of pregnancy increased incidence of high blood pressure. The dosage associated with the lowest risk was 0.6-5.0 mL of cod liver oil (43).
6Cod liver oil can increase acid reflux. If you are taking too high of a dose of cod liver oil then you could end up increasing your acid reflux. This can you to belch more often or even experience some stomach discomfort due to the increase of stomach acid. This may be due to the oil’s high-fat content which has been known to trigger issues with indigestion in patients who have dealt with acid reflux at some point in their life (44).
7Cod liver oil can increase the risk of a stroke. This little-known side effect is something that is rare but could cause issues with some people who take cod liver oil supplements. Strokes are usually caused by the rupturing of weakened blood vessels that end up causing bleeding in the brain. Some animal studies have found that taking cod liver oil supplements increases your omega-3s which could cause a decrease in the blood’s ability to clot properly (45).
8Cod liver oil can increase insomnia. Natural sleep patterns are an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and though cod liver oil helps many functions in the body, it may have a hand in causing insomnia in some users. Studies show that those who have had a history of anxiety, depression, or insomnia may have higher risks of worsening symptoms if too much oil is taken (46).
9Cod liver oil can cause IBS like symptoms. Some small doses of cod liver oil can be very beneficial for your digestive system, but higher doses may have the opposite effect. When taking high doses of cod liver oil, many people have seen an increase in diarrhea (47).
10Cod liver oil may affect blood sugar negatively. Cod liver oil has been shown to increase blood sugar levels in those with diabetes because of the increase of omega-3 fatty acids (48).
This increase happens because omega-3s signal the production of glucose in the body, which contributes to high levels of sugar in the blood (49).
As stated above, too much cod liver oil really can be a bad thing for you. That’s not a result of the omega-3 fatty acids that it’s often touted for, however; it’s actually a result of cod liver oil’s high vitamin D content. For that reason, daily dosage should focus on the EPA/DHA and Vitamin A/D dosage, not necessarily the liver oil itself.
A proper dosage of EPA/DHA is around 300-500mg per day, while a proper dosage of Vitamin D is around 500 IU, not to exceed 1000 IU. Again, different cod liver oil supplements will vary in the exact amount of either EPA/DHA or Vitamins A/D they have per pill or per mL, so this is one time when reading the label will be your best bet.
Is cod liver oil safe? Yes! As far as dietary supplements go, cod liver oil is relatively safe and well-researched. In normal daily amounts, it’s totally safe to take, even for children. That said, it can be dangerous if abused because of its high Vitamin D content, so don’t overprescribe yourself and be careful when measuring dosages for children or young adults.
Can pregnant women take cod liver oil? Unfortunately, no. Pregnant women should abstain from taking cod liver oil while they’re pregnant, though they can certainly start back up again once they give birth. That’s because cod liver oil contains high levels of Vitamin A in the form of retinol, which can be dangerous to your unborn baby. If you’re concerned about getting the proper amount of omega-3 fatty acids while pregnant, it’s best to simply eat fish.
Are cod liver oil and fish oil supplements the same thing? No! Cod liver oil and fish oil are actually pretty different, even though they sound quite similar. Both offer omega-3 fatty acids, with all of the associated benefits listed above. But while fish oil supplements are extracted from whole fish, cod liver oil is made using only the liver. This gives cod liver oil a higher Vitamin A and Vitamin D content, making it more nutritious.
Is cod liver oil better than a normal fish oil supplement? That depends upon your needs. If you only want omega-3 fatty acids, then either would suffice. However, if you want to get a proper Vitamin A or Vitamin D supplement at the same time that you’re getting those fatty acids, then cod liver oil would be a better choice.
Can I take both cod liver oil and fish oil supplements at the same time? Technically, yes, you could, though it might not necessarily make much sense to do so. Cod liver oil will give you much the same benefits as a fish oil supplement, but with the added benefits of Vitamin A and Vitamin D supplementation.
Where does cod liver oil come from? Cod liver oil is extracted specifically from the livers of Atlantic cod. It doesn’t come from other types of fish or other parts of fish. If a label says so, then you’re probably looking at a more general type of fish oil supplement.
Are there any drug interactions I should know about? While there aren’t any serious, totally threatening drug interactions associated with cod liver oil, users who take it along with a blood thinner like Aspirin or other blood pressure medications should exercise caution. That’s because cod liver oil may lower blood pressure or prevent clotting, leading to either low blood pressure or to bruising.
Can I take cod liver oil as a medication for mental illness? Cod liver oil should not be seen as a standalone solution for mental health conditions. If you suffer from depression or another serious mental health issue, talking with your doctor or psychiatrist is your best bet. That said, if you’re already on medication or seeking some other kind of therapy, then cod liver oil may be able to supplement said treatment.
Can taking cod liver oil supplements help with my insomnia? Cod liver oil supplements can be part of a healthy lifestyle that promotes healthy sleeping habits. Because this oil is full of omega-3s, it will likely help you to develop healthy sleep patterns that often arise from cognitive and poor health conditions. Keeping yourself healthy in other ways will make the oil go much further, but it can be an important part of getting a good night’s sleep.
Is it safe to take if I have diabetes? Cod liver oil is relatively safe for many users with diabetes, but it is important not to take too high of a dose. Higher doses have been linked with a spike in blood sugar which could be a potential danger for those suffering from diabetes because it could cause the level to go too high.
However, it is effective in preventing diabetes in children if taken from a young age. In fact, if used for the first year of life, it can reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes by up to 26% (45).
Can taking cod liver oil supplements help you to lose weight? The medical community is a bit split on whether or not cod liver oil pills actually help you lose weight, or if it is simply because those who are trying to be healthier are already doing other things to promote a healthy weight. However, it can be seen to suppress appetite and reduce hunger. Though this is not a key part of losing weight healthily, it can lead to weight loss in the long run.
Another benefit is that it can help boost your metabolism. This can be a major part of the process of losing weight, and it can aid in this function by providing your body with the essential fatty acids that keep you healthy. However, this increases metabolism is not something that has been seen in every study, so the verdict is inconclusive.
Can cod liver oils pills help me improve my focus? Taking these supplements can affect the function of your brain significantly. With the omega-3 fatty acids, your brain gets what it needs to function at its highest level. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the exact cause. Some studies have shown that brain function in those suffering from depression or insomnia can improve dramatically, however, it is not proved to affect the function of those with already healthy functioning. This makes the study inconclusive at best, with no clear answer.
That being said, there are many brain functions that seem to benefit from cod liver oil that could help indirectly improve focus along with living a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting a full night’s sleep is important to your brain function and taking a supplement that aids those functions could increase your ability to focus.
Can cod liver oil pills help elderly who suffer from memory loss? Although it has been shown to improve short term memory in healthy patients, there is no sign of improvement in those who are advanced in age and who suffer from major memory loss. There are many ways that this supplement could help their brain function, which could indirectly improve other functions like memory. But there is no direct link to incorporating cod liver oil into an elderly person’s diet and an increase in memory functions.
That being said, taking cod liver oil from a young age can be seen to have some effects on memory retainment later in life. So, taking it early could help your brain function in the long run, although it will not improve the memory of someone who is already advanced in age.
As far as dietary supplements go, cod liver oil is one of the best bets you can make. It has a whole host of benefits associated with the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, that it carries, helping patients with everything from rheumatoid arthritis to age-related macular degeneration. It can even help with certain cardiovascular diseases and may have a positive impact on mental health. Whether you’re concerned with aging joints or heart health, cod liver oil may be a good supplement to add to your daily routine.
As always, consult with your doctor or physician before starting a new supplement to see if it’ll interfere with any current course of treatment you may be going through.