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Cod liver oil contains several omega-3 fatty acids, which may provide several health benefits. EPA and DHA are the main omega-3 fatty acids in it and may help to lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation, decrease blood pressure, and prevent blood clots. Although it is a "natural" substance, cod liver oil may not be suitable for everyone and could cause side effects such as nausea, heartburn, and loose stools.

What Is Cod Liver Oil?

Cod liver oil, as you might guess, is oil from cod livers. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and may provide numerous health benefits.
 
(Click Benefits of Cod Liver Oil for more information.)
 

How Does It Work?

It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids are the main active compounds in cod liver oil. The most important fatty acids in it include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids have many different effects in the body, such as:
 
  • Lowering triglycerides -- Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels by several different mechanisms.
     
  • Reducing inflammation -- Omega-3 fatty acids seem to decrease inflammation in the body by suppressing a specific enzyme (COX-2) and inflammatory chemicals, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF).
     
  • Decreasing blood clots and blood pressure -- Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of a chemical called thromboxane A2. This chemical causes blood platelets to stick together, which encourages blood clots, and increases blood pressure. Because omega-3 fatty acids decrease thromboxane A2, they can "thin" the blood, perhaps preventing blood clots, and lower blood pressure.
     
Cod liver oil also contains quite a bit of vitamins A and D. Some of its effects may be attributed to these vitamins.
 
These are just a few of the ways that researchers think cod liver oil may work for treating a variety of conditions. As more studies are done, more information will become available.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
List of references (click here):
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