Is Cod Liver Oil Safe?

There is a lot of information to be aware of before starting a supplement like cod liver oil. Safety concerns include watching out for potential allergic reactions, avoiding the supplement if you have certain health conditions, and letting your healthcare provider know if you are taking other medications, supplements, or vitamins. It's also important to buy a supplement that is made by a reputable manufacturer.

How Safe Is Cod Liver Oil?

Cod liver oil is a dietary supplement that is used for treating high triglycerides, arthritis, and a variety of other medical conditions. You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking it if you have:
 
  • A bleeding disorder
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Any allergies, including allergies to foods (especially fish), dyes, or preservatives.
     
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
 
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
     
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
 

Specific Cod Liver Oil Safety Precautions and Warnings

Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of cod liver oil include the following:
 
  • Cod liver oil contains quite a bit of vitamin A and vitamin D. Even a normal cod liver oil dosage can result in toxicity due to these vitamins.
     
  • There is some concern that cod liver oil may contain toxins such as heavy metals (like mercury) or dioxin. Look for a product that has been purified and tested for such toxins and that is made by a reputable manufacturer. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for drugs. It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are the most reputable.
     
  • Cod liver oil can "thin" the blood, possibly increasing the risk of bleeding. If you have a bleeding disorder, or if you take medications that "thin" the blood, do not take cod liver oil without first talking to your healthcare provider.
     
  • Cod liver oil can modestly decrease blood pressure. While this is not typically a problem for most people, it can cause problems if you already have low blood pressure.
     
  • Cod liver oil can interact with some medications (see Cod Liver Oil Drug Interactions).
     
  • It is not known if cod liver oil is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Cod Liver Oil and Pregnancy and Cod Liver Oil and Breastfeeding).
     
  • People who are allergic to fish may also be allergic to cod liver oil supplements.
     
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Cod Liver Oil Capsules

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