Cod Liver Oil: More Than Just a Fad
Cod liver oil is commonly taken as a supplement or through the ingestion of cod fish. It’s an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D, all of which have numerous therapeutic potential. Its first recorded use as medicine was in 1789, when it was used to treat rheumatism, an inflammatory disease of the joint, muscle or fibrous tissue. Ingesting cod liver oil has since been found to prevent other chronic diseases such as diabetes in people of all ages.
Numerous studies have been conducted supporting cod liver oil as more than just another health fad. Here are some reasons to give cod liver oil a try.
It Helps Control and Prevent Inflammatory Diseases
Inflammation can be a good thing when it helps to get rid of foreign substances in the body. However, too much inflammation can be harmful and may result in chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressively disabling disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, destroying the joints and other parts of the body. Studies have shown that rheumatoid arthritis patients who take cod liver oil daily experienced a significant decrease in their symptoms, including stiffness, pain and swelling.
Diabetes, on the other hand, is a disease characterized by the lack of insulin (Type 1) or inability to use insulin (Type 2). Both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are marked by high levels of inflammation. A 2013 study found using cod liver oil in the first year of life was associated with a lower risk of Type 1 Diabetes. The fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) found exclusively in fish oils may help to control inflammatory diseases by suppressing the immune system’s inflammatory response.
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It Helps Reduce Risk of Heart Disease and Heart Attacks
Perhaps one of the best studied roles of omega-3 fatty acids is in the prevention of heart disease. These fats are known to be beneficial by raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lowering blood pressure and triglycerides (a type of fat). They also help slow down the formation of plaque and blood clots, which can clog arteries. Additionally, vitamins A and D are found in cod liver oil and assist with absorbing minerals which improves the elasticity of the blood vessel. Since heart disease also has an inflammatory response associated with it, cod liver oil can help prevent it by balancing the immune response. Clearly, these effects are all beneficial to your heart’s health.
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It Helps to Improve Cognitive Performance and Mental Health
You’ve probably heard that fish and eggs are considered “brain foods.” This is because the grey matter of the human brain has a high omega-3 fatty acid content, both of which are found in these food products. Specifically, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is found within the cell membranes of the brain. Since cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it helps to support the brain’s functioning.
A study done in 2007 demonstrated that the intake of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may slow down the decrease of cognitive functioning in elderly men. There have also been many other studies with similar results.
Additionally, cod liver oil has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, the results for this have been mixed. It’s not recommended that individuals with depression try to treat their illness on their own, but combining anti-depressants with cod liver oil may be a better solution, according to several studies.
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It May Slow the Progression of Cancer
A few recent studies have also found that cod liver oil may reduce the risk of death among cancer patients. In particular, one 2009 study found that taking cod liver oil every day for a year reduced the risk of death in women with solid tumors and lung cancer. The mechanism may have to do with the anti-inflammatory properties of cod liver oil, since cancer is now widely considered an inflammatory disease. Again, more research needs to be done but the role of cod liver oil in preventing and treating diseases is promising.
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