The world of supplements has grown in large ways over the last few years, and today millions of people rely on vitamins and minerals to help realize their fullest health potential.
One of the most effective supplements still continues to be fish oils, like cod liver oil, which have been proven to provide a wide range of benefits to those that use them, including alleviating inflammation and symptoms of depression as well as promoting heart health.
A closer look at fish oil
As the name might suggest, fish oil is found naturally in fish, and those with a diet rich in this source of protein are likely getting large quantities of it already. Oily fish like tuna, salmon, and herring are the best options to receive the most potent amounts, but dietary supplements also exist to provide a boost since even those that eat fish regularly may not be getting enough, and are therefore missing out on the significant health benefits.
In particular, fish oil has been found to have a profound effect on heart health while the brain, kidneys, and other organs can be impacted in the following ways:
- Lowers triglyceride levels: These are the ‘bad’ kinds of fats, and reducing their concentration in the body can clear arteries and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, thus improving the overall health of the heart and cardiovascular system. Fish oil is so effective at this task that it’s one of the few supplements that has actually been approved by the FDA for use in improving heart health.
- Fights kidney disease: Preliminary research points to the fact that fish oils can help reduce kidney problems and fight against kidney disease, though studies are still ongoing into just how effective it is.
- Improves brain functionality: By boosting neurotransmitters, fish oil can be a huge help in batting symptoms of depression and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Supports weight loss: There is some evidence that fish oil can help promote better weight loss and also increase physical performance during exercise and other endurance activities.
- Lowers blood pressure: Clinical studies have found that fish oils can actually lower blood pressure readings. At least three grams of fish oil a day can do the trick, but higher dosages should only be taken if your doctor approves.
One of the key reasons that fish oil is so effective at promoting better overall health and wellness is that it contains high levels of something known as omega-3 fatty acids.
More about omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are naturally-existing compounds found primarily in fish, but are also seen in trace amounts in some nuts and seeds. These fatty acids are vital for prime health, particularly development and metabolism, but are a substance that the human body can’t create on its own, so they have to be obtained through food. Because they’re found in abundance in fish oils, it’s one of the theories why these supplements tend to have such payoff.
In addition to omega-3’s there are also omega-6 fatty acids, which are found largely in vegetable oils and animal meats like beef and chicken. Experts agree that a good balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important; in fact, some scientists believe the unbalance between the two is what has caused a growing number of health problems linked to the standard American diet.
Researchers have estimated that human diets used to have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2:1, but have found it has increased anywhere from 10:1 to 20:1 in Western diets in modern times due to increased meat consumption.
What is understood is that both of these fatty acids are converted into different hormones that are responsible for a wide variety of bodily functions. Unfortunately, throwing off the ratio can also throw off the balance of necessary hormones in the body. This is why it’s so important to increase a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids to promote an ideal balance. Cod liver oil has one of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids available, which helps level out the intake of omega-6’s and positively impacts the body.
One important thing to note is that while research has shown numerous benefits with the consumption of fatty acids, too much can increase the chances for bleeding. As such, it’s important to always take fish oil supplements as directed on the label or as directed by a medical professional. If you have diabetes, liver disease, pancreatic problems, or consume more than two alcoholic drinks a day, always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
The incredible benefits of cod liver oil
Like the name implies, cod liver oil is derived from the livers of cod, a mild and flaky white fish that has separate species native to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In addition to the varied benefits that every fish oil provides, cod liver oil also has a special set of qualifications. Here are just some of the ways your body will be impacted when taking cod liver oil supplements on a regular basis:
The healthy fats that cod liver oil provides can make it easier for the body to manage glucose levels and control insulin resistance, which is an important facet for diabetics and anyone watching blood sugar. Studies done on diabetic rats have shown that certain insulin deficiencies were completely prevented with cod liver oil use.
One of the biggest differences between cod liver oil and other fish oils is that the former provides greater reduction in the joint pain and stiffness brought on by arthritis or similar inflammatory responses. Research has shown that cod liver oil can actually mimic the effects of anti-inflammatory medicines, offering a safe way to help gain relief from arthritis. However, be sure to check with your doctor before making any adjustments to medications.
Recent studies conducted in Norway pointed out that those that used cod liver oil every day felt less depressed than the general population. In fact, there was a 1.3 percent reduction in the prevalence of anxiety and depression thanks to cod liver oil, hinting that this important supplement can help promote a healthier mood and better overall brain function. This could partly be attributed to the very high levels of vitamin D in cod liver oil. This vitamin actually works more like a hormone than a vitamin, and one of its key functions is promoting brain health.
The higher levels of vitamin D found in cod liver oil can also promote stronger bones. Vitamin D is vital for bone health, and therefore cod liver oil supplements help fortify the skeletal structure of the human body and can reduce the risk of fractures and breaks.
Reduced cancer risk
The potent combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in cod liver oil supplements may also help to prevent cancer. While studies are still ongoing, one in particular found that increased vitamin D levels are linked to a lower risk of breast cancer in women.
Prevent stomach ulcers
Digestive ulcers are painful and can bring immense stress to the body. Studies have been done that show that cod liver oil can help promote gastric healing and contribute to better overall digestive health.
Fatty acids and fats in general are important for optimal reproductive health; cod liver oil in particular has been linked to improved ovarian and testicular function thanks to the high levels of vitamin A and omega-3s. A good intake of fatty acids helps the body create estrogen and progesterone, two essential sex hormones. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of cod liver oil helps to support the different glands that impact reproductive health.
So, while cod liver oil does share several benefits with other classifications of fish oils, the increased levels of vitamins A and D provides additional health benefits throughout the body. Studies continue to look into the supplements’ many effects on health, but the research so far is undeniable.
Determining the best omega-3 amounts
According to guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the appropriate amount of consumable omega-3 fatty acids per day is as follows:
- 500mg for kids between 5 and 14
- 1000mg for adults under the age of 40 with no health problems
- 2000mg for those over the age of 40
Again, though, it’s important to remember that talking to a doctor is always a good idea before adding any supplement to your daily routine, especially if you have any kind of ongoing medical issue. Also, cod liver oil should never be taken in doses above 2000mg without professional consent. This is because the high levels of vitamin A can be dangerous at that level.
Here are a couple of options for getting the best cod liver oil possible into your diet:
This fermented cod liver oil supplement delivers high levels of vitamins and fatty acids, with 500mg in every two-capsule serving.
Those who want to get higher doses of fish oil at a competitive price will find that this option is ideal. There are 250 capsules in each bottle, and each one delivers 300 percent more cod liver oil than other soft gels on the market.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho