Written by Nathan Travell
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a fatty oil that is a great source of healthy fat -healthy because it is ‘polyunsaturated’. This basically just means that it’s a special type of fat which has double bonds which cause the overall shape to not stack up with other fat molecules neatly – resulting in a more liquid state at a given temperature[i]. The polyunsaturated fat of particular interest is known as Omega 3.
Cod liver rich diets are related to improving cognitive function[ii] (thinking power), immunity[iii], inflammation[iv], joint health and reduce certain types of pain[v]. We also have evidence showing that two long chained omega 3 molecules – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can reduce the risk of certain diseases such as coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s[vi].
Population studies on groups such as the Greenland Eskimos show that despite having diets high in fat, ischemic heart disease rates were very low – it is thought that this was due to the high fish oil content[vii]. If it wasn’t for a number of meta-analysis studies done it would be hard to believe just how awesome cod liver oil is for our bodies[viii][ix][x].
So we know that cod liver oil is a pretty good thing to have in our diets, but how do we fit it in – should we take a pure supplement form or just make sure we eat plenty of it from a natural source?
Natural sources of cod liver oil (cod livers) will contain things other than just the oil, obviously, there would be some decent protein content in there too! Meat is also a rich source of creatine. Creatine is a molecule that attaches to ATP (providing energy) which can result in increased cognitive function[xi] and improved workouts[xii].
The negative side of focussing on natural sources is that it can come with high levels of toxic metal such as mercury[xiii]. The good news is that unless you are pregnant, a daily serving of 100 grams of cod shouldn’t result in toxic levels of heavy metal accumulation[xiv]
Supplementation provides numerous benefits of cod liver oil, without any of the additional calories (which, in a surplus relative to how many you burn off, can cause fat/muscle gain). If your diet is already high in protein and your calories are already set to an appropriate level, then the additional protein/calories wouldn’t be of much value.
The bad side is that supplements can come with high levels of vitamin A, which in excessive levels can cause liver toxicity[xv]. We can get around this by choosing a higher quality supplement that has lower vitamin A content, like Myprotein’s Cod Liver Oil. By choosing to consume supplements without the added meat means that your diet will miss out on the additional creatine and taurine. This isn’t much of an issue due to how cheap creatine is.
Supplementation tends to be better when your diet is already pretty good, and you just want the benefits of ingesting cod liver oil. Natural sources tend to be better when you need the extra protein and don’t already supplement with creatine.