We need different types of nutrients to keep our bodies healthy. Usually, we get all our nutrients from different food groups such as grains, vegetables, pulses and legumes, milk and milk products, fats, nuts and seeds, fruits, etc.

However, sometimes, our food alone is not sufficient to help us avoid nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes, our body needs more nutrients—like during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. People recovering from some illnesses may also need more of some nutrients.

In these situations, our body needs supplementation. A doctor may suggest that we take supplements to meet our (additional) needs. Or you may ask your doctor if it’s safe and advisable to go on certain supplements for a time period.

Cod liver oil is one of the dietary supplements which is rich in different types of nutrients. It is a fish oil supplement that is easily available in the market in both liquid and capsule form. 

Cod liver oil has hundreds of years of history to treat different types of disease. It was first used in medicine in 1789 to treat rheumatism-related disease. After that, it was used in 1824, to treat rickets. In 1930, it was often given to children to treat rickets and vitamin D deficiency. (Read more: Familial Hypophosphatemia)

In this article, we will explain what is cod liver oil, how to use it, and its benefits and side effects:

  1. What is cod liver oil?
  2. Cod liver oil nutritional values
  3. Benefits of cod liver oil
  4. Cod liver oil dosage
  5. Cod liver oil side effects
Doctors for Cod liver oil benefits and side effects

Cod liver oil is extracted from the livers of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). As with most fatty fish oil, it naturally contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids—called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—which contribute to brain development and also help boost immunity. It also contains vitamin A and vitamin D which are essential for healthy vision and bones and muscles, respectively.

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As per the US Department of Agriculture, one teaspoon or 4.5 grams of cod liver oil contains:



Vitamin A

4500 international units (IU)

Vitamin D

450 IU

Saturated fatty acid

1.017 grams

Monounsaturated fatty acids

2.102 grams

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

1.014 grams


26 ml


41 calories

Cod liver oil has different types of essential nutrients and medicinal properties which are beneficial for different types of health conditions and diseases such as gout and inflammation.

Cod liver oil for hair

It is not only good for health but also beneficial for our hair. If you are suffering from an itchy scalp and dandruff, you must take cod liver oil as a supplement because it contains omega-3 fatty acids which work as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. The oil suppresses the itching sensation and improves blood circulation which is helpful for hair growth.

It also contains vitamin A which helps to develop new hair follicles and give a new shine to the hair.

Read more: Home remedies for itchy scalp

Cod liver oil for skin

Let’s discuss the benefits for skin now. Cod liver oil is helpful for the skin as well because of its anti-ageing properties.

You might have heard the term oxidative stress in relation to signs of ageing. Oxidative stress is caused by the presence of too many reactive oxygen species (ROS), including superoxide radicals and singlet oxygen, in the body. ROS are released as a byproduct of bodily functions like cell-signalling and the proper functioning of the immune system. But when the production of ROS increases beyond a point or if the body is unable to remove these free radicals properly, it can lead to oxidative stress—the free radicals can cause damage to the tissues and organs of the body.

The results include some signs of ageing which are clearly visible on the face and body. Cod liver oil slows down the ageing process. It also helps to reduce acne or pimples. It contains vitamin A which reduces the production of sebum (a type of oil) which helps to reduce acne and pimple formation and helps to open up the pores of the skin. (Read more: Open pores: causes, treatment, home remedies)

Cod liver oil for weight loss

Cod liver oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which suppress hunger and help in weight loss. When you consume this fatty acid, the satiety centre of the brain (present inside the hypothalamus and concerned with the regulation of food intake) sends a signal to the feeding centre—your stomach feels full faster and for longer. (The hypothalamus in the brain is responsible for controlling appetite, among its many other functions.)

If you take this supplement with your food, it slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates which helps to control your blood sugar.

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Cod liver oil during pregnancy

During pregnancy, our body needs essential fatty acids to develop the brain, nervous system, eyes, and heart of the fetus. Taking cod liver oil can be beneficial in this. According to a report published in the journal Diabetologia in 2000, taking cod liver oil during pregnancy can reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes in the fetus. The study was done on 85 diabetic and 1,071 non-diabetic pregnant women and found that consumption of cod liver oil lowers the risk of diabetes in their newborn.

Cod liver oil for PCOS

Cod liver oil contains vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids which help to regulate the menstrual cycle and help to burn belly fat which improves polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) related symptoms. If you are suffering from PCOS, there is a higher risk of heart disease and in this situation, cod liver oil can be a beneficial supplement because it contains omega-3 fatty acid which decreases the absorption of cholesterol and improves the LDL (bad cholesterol) receptor activity.

Cod liver oil for vitamin D

Our body makes most of the vitamin D we need in our skin, through the action of sunlight. Very little vitamin D is actually available to us in food products—that is why we are not able to fulfil our vitamin D requirement through dietary sources alone. We need vitamin D to maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in our body and these two minerals are important for our bone health and other bodily functions. If you have a deficiency of this vitamin in your body, you could become at-risk for diseases like osteoporosis and osteomalacia.

Cod liver oil is one of the richest sources of vitamin D available. Cod liver oil is incredibly nutritious, with a single teaspoon providing 90% of your daily requirements for vitamin A and 113% of your daily requirements for vitamin D.

One population study showed that increased daily intake of a cod liver oil supplement is associated with higher serum levels of vitamin D. And another study on postmenopausal women showed that those taking a daily cod liver oil supplement are less likely to be vitamin D deficient during the winter and spring than those not taking a supplement. (Read more: Menopause: age, causes, symptoms, management)

Cod liver oil for rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by damage to different joints of the body. Currently, there's no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are studies that show that cod liver oil helps to suppress symptoms such as joint painjoint stiffness, and swelling.

A study in which 43 people took a cod liver oil capsule daily for three months found that it improves symptoms such as morning stiffness in the body, pain, and swelling in the body. Omega-3 which is found in cod liver oil helps to reduce inflammation and internal swelling which protects against damage.

Cod liver oil for eyes

Foods and supplements containing vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help to protect our eyes from different types of eye-related diseases. There are different types of eye-related problems but glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are two main reasons for vision loss. Studies in animals have found that omega-3 fatty acids reduce risk factors for glaucoma, such as build up of eye pressure and nerve damage. Another study with 666 people found those who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids had a 17% lower risk of early AMD and 41% lower risk of late AMD.

Cod liver oil for heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Studies have shown that those who eat fish regularly have a much lower risk of heart disease. Omega 3 fatty acids which are commonly found in fish, are responsible for it. Omega 3 fatty acids have shown different health benefits including benefits for the heart, such as:

  • Reduces triglyceride level: Omega 3 fatty acids reduce triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood by 15-30%.
  • Lowers the blood pressure: Many studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids may lower blood pressure, especially in people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Increases the HDL level: Omega 3 also increases HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Prevents plaque formation: There is a study on animals which has found that cod liver oil reduces the risk of cholesterol plaques forming in the arteries. Plaque buildup can narrow the arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Cod liver oil for depression

Anxiety and depression are very common health conditions these days. There are a lot of studies that show a link between chronic inflammation, anxiety and depression. Many studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil can lower inflammation and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is a large study on 21,835 people, which says that people who consume cod liver oil regularly have lower symptoms of depression.

Many studies have shown a link between increased blood levels of vitamin D and a reduction in symptoms of depression.

Why it reduces symptoms of depression is still not clear, but some studies suggest that vitamin D can bind to receptors in the brain and stimulate the release of mood-improving hormones like serotonin.

There is no standard dose for cod liver oil. There are different studies that show different values for the usage of cod liver oil. The right dosages for you depends on your age, gender, and health conditions. Discuss your dosage with your doctor before starting the supplement. If you are taking it in liquid form, a common dose is 1-2 teaspoons per day. You can also try the capsule form, try to take one capsule after your breakfast.

The following doses have been studied in research:


Dosage studied

To lower triglyceride

20 mL cod liver oil daily

To reduce high cholesterol

30 mL cod liver oil daily

To lower blood pressure

20 mL cod liver oil daily

Pregnant and lactating women should not use cod liver oil supplements that contain more than 3000 micrograms (mcg) vitamin A and more than 100 mcg of vitamin D.

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Mostly adults take cod liver oil orally or by mouth only. It is safe to use if you are using it as a supplement but there are some side effects:

  • It can cause burping, bad breathheartburnnausea, and loose stool.
  • Vitamin A and vitamin D levels can also become too high with high doses of cod liver oil.
  • High doses of cod liver oil can prevent blood clotting (read more: blood clotting disorders).
  • Cod liver oil also interacts with a few medicines. If you are taking any medicine for hypertension or blood clotting, please discuss it with your doctor first and then start this supplement.
Dr. Dhanamjaya D

Dr. Dhanamjaya D

15 Years of Experience

Dt. Surbhi Upadhyay

Dt. Surbhi Upadhyay

3 Years of Experience

Dt. Manjari Purwar

Dt. Manjari Purwar

11 Years of Experience

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

8 Years of Experience

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