Understanding the Controversy of Cod Liver Oil

Not all cod liver oil is made from cod livers! 

Many brands use fish such as pollock and haddock (sourced from Alaska and/or Russia) or other fish species, both wild-caught and farmed, as a less expensive source of oil. The oil,regardless of the country of origin, is then bottled and sold as "true Norwegian" or "Arctic cod liver oil". So, after doing a quick Google search you find that Alaskan Pollock is in the cod family and figure that that must be the same quality oil? Think again!  A house cat and a lion are also in the same family, yet I don’t think there is much argument with how different they both are.

So Why Is This Allowed?

This is allowed because the international production of cod liver oil is regulated by only one rule—the final product must match the specific EPA ratio (EPA to DHA) found in cod liver oil.

Naturally Occurring Vitamin A & D in Cod Liver Oil vs. Synthetically Added Vitamins to Fish Oil

To add further insult, many brands use the fish body and flesh rather than the liver oil. It is the liver that contains the naturally occurring vitamin A and D, which is not found in the flesh of the fish. The oil is then supplemented with synthetic or natural vitamin A, which is why many have high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity is greatly misunderstood. While some forms of synthetic vitamin A may be toxic at moderate doses, natural, fat-soluble vitamin A, found in foods like cod liver oil, is safe at much higher amounts.

Buyer Beware! Read The Label of Your Cod Liver Oil 

Read the labels and know what you are purchasing! Does the Vitamin A content state an exact amount or is it in a measured within a certain range? If the level of Vitamin A is shown in a range (such as 200-900IU) this is usually a good indicator of whether it is from the naturally occurring Vitamin A levels in the cod liver, rather than being added afterwards. Secondly, turn the bottle around and make sure the ingredients list actually says ‘arctic cod liver oil’. Remember, it may very well say ‘Arctic Cod Liver Oil’ on the front of the label, but without reading the ingredients list – you can take that with a pinch of salt!

Transparency = Trust  

Finally, the biggest tip to make sure you are getting the genuine product is to find out the manufacturing steps to make the product. Are these clear and transparent? Or do you feel you need to part of an underground cod liver oil spy ring with a secret handshake to get the information you need? 

Ask the company for a certificate of analysis and question them about:

✦ Where the fish was sourced from?
✦ Is it sustainably caught arctic cod? 
✦ How they process the oil?

Straight To The Source  

Perhaps we forget that cod liver oil is essentially a functional food.  Consumers are increasingly more concerned about where their food comes from and how it is processed is important.  Afterall you wouldn’t want to eat something that was labelled to be chicken with a beautiful label of a country farm and then find out it was in fact an Ibis! I mean, they are both birds but could you see the deceit in doing this? The same can be said for cod liver oil. 

Always question the source and the quality and where possible get a certificate of analysis. Better yet, have a look at the company from boat to bottle

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