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Cod Liver Oil

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Cod Liver Oil Safety and Side Effects

Cod liver oil is safe for most people. It can cause side effects including belching, bad breath, heartburn, and nosebleeds. Taking cod liver oil with meals can often decrease these side effects.

High doses might keep blood from clotting and can increase the chance of bleeding. Vitamin A and vitamin D levels might also become too high with high doses of cod liver oil. High doses might also cause nausea and loose stools.

Do not take cod liver oil if:

  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • You are sensitive to aspirin. Cod liver oil might affect your breathing.

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What other names is Cod Liver Oil known by?

Aceite de Higado de Bacalao, Acides Gras Oméga 3, Acides Gras N-3, Acides Gras Polyinsaturés, Cod Oil, Fish Liver Oil, Fish Oil, Halibut Liver Oil, Huile de Foie, Huile de Foie de Flétan, Huile de Foie de Morue, Huile de Foie de Poisson, Huile de Morue, Huile de Poisson, Liver Oil, N-3 Fatty Acids, Omega 3, Oméga 3, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.

What is Cod Liver Oil?

Cod liver oil can be obtained from eating fresh cod liver or by taking supplements.

Cod liver oil is used as a source of vitamin A and vitamin D, and to treat high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels, kidney disease in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glaucoma, and middle ear infections (otitis media). It is also used to prevent respiratory infections, and an age-related eye condition called macular degeneration.

Some people put cod liver oil on their skin to speed healing of wounds, burns, and rashes.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Age-related macular degeneration. People who eat a lot of fish and take cod liver oil don't have a lower risk of developing this condition compared to people who just eat a lot of fish.
  • Irregular heartbeat. Taking cod liver oil by mouth might reduce a specific type of irregular heartbeat in some people. But it's not known if this reduces the risk of heart-related death. Taking cod liver oil by mouth does not seem to reduce irregular heartbeat in men with irregular heartbeat after a heart attack.
  • Depression. Taking cod liver oil has been linked with a 29% lower chance of older adults having depression symptoms.
  • High cholesterol levels in the blood. Taking cod liver oil by mouth doesn't lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. But it might increase "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in people with type 1 diabetes and high cholesterol. Also it might lower blood fats called "triglycerides" in men who have had a heart attack. But cod liver oil doesn't improve these outcomes in people with an inherited form of high cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure. Taking cod liver oil by mouth seems to slightly lower blood pressure in healthy people and those with slightly high blood pressure. But it's not clear if this reduction is clinically meaningful for people with very high cholesterol.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Some people with inflammatory bowel disease have joint pain. Taking cod liver oil might reduce joint pain in some people with this condition.
  • Osteoarthritis. Taking cod liver oil along with an NSAID doesn't reduce swelling in people with osteoarthritis better than taking an NSAID alone.
  • Ear infections in young children. Taking cod liver oil and a multivitamin might reduce the need to use medicine to treat ear infections in young children by about 12%.
  • Airway infections. Giving young children cod liver oil and a multivitamin seems to reduce the number of doctor's office visits for airway infections.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Taking cod liver oil might decrease pain, morning stiffness, and swelling in some patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Also, taking cod liver oil and fish oil seems to reduce the need to use medicine to treat joint swelling in people with this condition.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Taking cod liver oil seems to increase blood levels of vitamin D in some people. But it's not clear if cod liver oil increases vitamin D to normal levels in people with low levels of vitamin D.
  • Wound healing.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate cod liver oil for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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