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Is Cod Liver Oil safe?

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Anna Smith is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in content that informs, entertains and engages online audiences. More from this expert.

Cod Liver Oil is oil from the liver of a cod. It contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have benefits for joint and brain health, as well as Vitamin D3 for bone health and Vitamin A for eyes. It is most commonly taken in supplement form.

Who can take Cod Liver Oil?

Cod Liver Oil supplements are safe for the majority of users, but there are exceptions, including those with a fish allergy. You should not take Cod Liver Oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as not enough is known about the possible side effects. Some Cod Liver Oil supplements contain Vitamin A, which could be harmful to a developing baby. It is always advisable to ensure supplements are age appropriate before giving them to children.

Studies have shown Cod Liver Oil may decrease blood pressure (i) and slow blood clotting (ii). People with low blood pressure, those taking medication to lower blood pressure or those taking medication to slow blood clotting should seek advice from their doctor before taking Cod Liver Oil supplements. 

What is the recommended dosage?

A typical adult daily dose of Cod Liver Oil would be 0.5-1g. Within that, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) advises a dose of no more than 450mg of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) and 1.5mg of Vitamin A. The European Food Safety Authority suggests taking no more than 100mcg of Vitamin D per day (iii). These are the suggested total upper intake levels from supplements and food combined. If you are taking additional supplements, make sure your total daily dose of the active ingredients is within the recommended levels.

Side effects of taking Cod Liver Oil supplements

Cod Liver Oil supplements can cause minor side effects including belching, bad breath, heartburn and nosebleeds. Taking Cod Liver Oil with meals or in capsule form can help reduce the risk.

Taken in high doses possible risks include lowered blood pressure and blood not clotting properly. You also increase the associated risks of taking too high a dose of Vitamin A and D. As with all supplements, if you are in any doubt as to whether Cod Liver Oil is safe for you to take, check with your doctor first.

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No statement or article should be understood as providing treatment advice. If you have a health problem consult your GP and check compatibility of new supplements with your GP or Pharmacist if you are taking any prescription medication.

Nutrition Expert sources the latest information and advice from a range of qualified doctors, nutritionists and coaches. We always endeavour to have the most up to date information possible and publish new content weekly. However with the constant research in this field sometimes some of our older articles can become out of date. If you see anything that you believe needs to be updated please let us know via our Contact Us page