Iron Addicts Forums  

Go Back   Iron Addicts Forums > Iron Addict's > Iron Addict's and Verified Members Q & A

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-16-2008, 10:12 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 2,180
Siberian is an unknown quantity at this point
Dangers of Cod Liver Oil

I know a LOT of people take this product, so I put this in the main forum in order to get more views. It is an important issue, whether you heed the advice or not. This was taken from, and presumably written by Dr. Mercola. All credit/questions/etc. should be directed accordingly. Original link:

Important Cod Liver Oil Update

For years, I have recommended cod liver oil as a dietary supplement to support healthy vitamin D levels. However, based on more recent findings, I am updating my recommendations regarding cod liver oil, as it may not serve you as well as previously believed.

My previous recommendation was based on the fact that cod liver oil contains vitamins D and A in addition to healthy omega-3 fats. These vitamins are essential for most everyone who cannot get regular sun exposure year-round.

But more recent research has discovered that the ratios of these two vitamins may be of paramount importance in order to extract optimal health benefits, and unfortunately, modern cod liver oil does not supply these vitamins in healthy ratios to each other.

What You Need to Know About Vitamins A and D in Cod Liver Oil

At least 2,000 genes, or nearly 10% of your genes, have been identified that are directly influenced by vitamin D, which in turn impact a wide variety of health issues, from preventing the common cold and flu to inhibiting at least 16 different types of cancer. There’s even evidence linking vitamin D to the process of brain detoxification of heavy metals such as mercury.

Widespread vitamin D deficiency has also been strongly linked to the childhood epidemics of autism, asthma, and diabetes, both type 1 and 2.

Vitamin A, which is essential for your immune system just like vitamin D, is also a precursor to active hormones that regulate the expression of your genes, and they work in tandem.

For example, there is evidence that without vitamin D, vitamin A can be ineffective or even toxic. But if you’re deficient in vitamin A, vitamin D cannot function properly either.

There are many problems with modern cod liver oil but one of the primary ones is that there is no standard definition of what constitutes cod liver oil. Manufacturers are free to add or subtract as much vitamin A or D as they see fit. In fact cod liver oil was discovered in the sewers of England several hundred years ago by starving children who drank it and scientists noticed they did not get rickets. Cod liver oil is in fact a highly processed food that was never consumed by humans prior to this.

Primary Justification Why You Should AVOID Cod Liver Oil

There have been two recent meta-analyses done. The first one showed that people who took vitamin A supplements in cod liver oil, or in supplements, had an 18 percent increase in death rates. The other study showed that unlike third world countries where vitamin A supplementation appears to decrease infections, vitamin A supplementation in developed countries like the US actually increases infections.

The researchers believe this is due to massive nutritional deficiencies in the third world because most of their calories are from grains and they simply don’t have an opportunity to consume as many fresh fruits, vegetables, butter, eggs and other vitamin A containing foods that those in the developed world do.

In fact current research could not find any vitamin A deficiency at all, but approximately 5% had vitamin A toxicity. The converse is true in the third world where vitamin A toxicity is virtually unheard of yet vitamin A deficiency is pervasive.

Additionally new research has shown that vitamin D protects against cancer. But a paradox was found as those with higher vitamin D levels did not seem to have this benefit. A bright Harvard researcher carefully analyzed the data in the study that showed this and found that when he removed the people with high vitamin A and vitamin D levels those with normal vitamin A levels and high vitamin D levels continued to have reduced risk of colon cancer. So those that did not take vitamin A had the protective effect from higher levels of vitamin D.

Other research is now showing a connection between high levels of vitamin A and osteoporosis. In fact many Scandinavian countries that regularly supplement with cod liver oil have rampant osteoporosis even though they are getting adequate amounts of oral vitamin D.

Dr. John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, along with 15 other researchers, recently released an article “Cod Liver Oil, Vitamin A Toxicity, Frequent Respiratory Infections, and the Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic" in the November issue of Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology. In this paper Dr. Cannell raised questions about the efficacy of cod liver oil due to its highly variable and frequently excessive amount of vitamin A. Typically modern cod liver oil contains far less vitamin D than it used to, due to the deodorization process used today which removes much of this essential nutrient.

Dr. Cannell and other prominent researchers believe the vitamin A contained in most cod liver oil is excessive, and can reduce the effectiveness of vitamin D by inhibiting the binding of its active form to your DNA, effectively preventing its ability to regulate the expression of your vitamin D-responsive genes.

The Weston Price Foundation, of which I am an advisory member, holds a contradictory view. They believe vitamin D can only effectively target genes when its “partner receptor” is activated by vitamin A. If vitamin A is absent, certain molecules called co-repressors bind to the receptors and prevent vitamin D from functioning. It is their position that cod liver oil is still a highly recommended supplement.

After reviewing the evidence, I am personally convinced that there is sufficient vitamin A in the current American diet to facilitate sufficient vitamin D activation. This does not appear to be the case in third world countries, where cod liver oil, or some other preformed retinol supplement, would still be useful.

Most Cod Liver Oils Have Excessive Vitamin A (Preformed Retinol)

However even the Weston Price Foundation acknowledges that there are dangerous versions of cod liver oil out there, even from some highly reputable companies, like Nordic Naturals, which produces a cod liver oil that is clearly excessive in vitamin A as it only has 3 to 60 units of vitamin D per tablespoon but between 150 and 12,000 times as much vitamin A.

It’s a delicate balance.

Both vitamins are essential to obtain optimal health benefits, however, the ratios of the can become dangerously unbalanced -- much like the omega-3/omega-6 balance, which has become inversed in our modern diet.

Nearly all brands of cod liver oil provide a token amount of vitamin D, typically a mere 400 to 1,200 IU of vitamin D per tablespoon but anywhere between 4,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin A. This is clearly inappropriate. About the lowest ratio I have seen is ten times as much vitamin A as vitamin D but, as I stated above, it can be as high as 12,000 times as much vitamin A.

First of all, this is clearly an insufficient amount of vitamin D for even the smallest child. This is in part due to the government recommendations, which are FAR too low to offer any health benefits; the recommended daily dosage being no more than 200 to 600 IU, depending on age. Meanwhile, researchers have since established that the therapeutic dosage is anywhere between 2,000 to 10,000 IU per day, depending on your weight and other factors, such as skin color and level of regular sun exposure. (Some people may require, and can safely take, as much as 20,000 IU daily.)

Consuming such high amounts of vitamin A as contained in cod liver oil and most multi-vitamins, while not getting nearly enough vitamin D, combined with the fact that most people are deficient in vitamin D to begin with, could potentially cause vitamin A to become toxic.

The concern Dr. Cannell and the other researchers have is that vitamin A in cod liver oil is excessive and actually antagonizes vitamin D by inhibiting the binding of its active form to DNA and thus preventing its ability to regulate the expression of vitamin D-responsive genes.

The Weston Price Foundation’s strong belief is that vitamin A is not at all toxic but is necessary for optimal vitamin D function. However they believe there is sufficient vitamin A in the diet of most Americans, especially if they are taking a multivitamin. In the third world this is not the case and they would likely benefit from vitamin A supplementation.

The Weston Price Foundation does not agree with Dr. Cannell’s conclusion that cod liver oil itself may cause vitamin A toxicity, however they also do not recommend taking any cod liver oil that is low in vitamin D. Yet even their recommendations, in my opinion have far too low amounts of vitamin D to be clinically useful. But more importantly it appears that the high amounts of vitamin A may limit the effectiveness of vitamin D even if more is taken in addition to that received in the cod liver oil.

Although it’s still unclear exactly what the balance should be, Dr. Cannell and most of the prominent expert researchers in this area believe that the ratios of these two essential nutrients likely should be reversed from those typically seen in cod liver oil, as you need far greater amounts of vitamin D as opposed to vitamin A.

After carefully reviewing the arguments on both sides of the issue I am convinced that Dr. Cannell’s approach is far more likely to be consistent with producing high levels of health and decreased illness.

My Revised Cod Liver Oil Recommendations

As the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (which would benefit from cod liver oil) in the U. S. is much lower than the prevalence of subclinical vitamin A toxicity, while most everyone suffers from vitamin D deficiency, I no longer recommend taking cod liver oil for either adults or children.

You’re likely getting the vitamin A you need if you regularly consume fresh vegetables high in this nutrient, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, and other colorful fruits and vegetables, and butter especially, if obtained from grass fed cows.

Although you can obtain Vitamin D, from your diet it is very difficult, and I believe it is very unnatural. It is my strong belief that we were designed to obtain virtually all of our vitamin D from exposing appropriate areas of our skin to sunshine. If this is not possible, the next best choice would be UVB from safe tanning beds, and if that is not possible then one should resort to a high quality vitamin D3 supplement.

As it stands, it is my strong belief that you’re simply not getting the appropriate balance of vitamin A to vitamin D from cod liver oil, which is why I believe it is best to avoid it.

Please note that this new recommendation does NOT apply to either fish oil or krill oil, as neither of them contain the vitamins A or D, but rather are excellent sources of essential omega-3 fats. EVERYONE still needs a regular high quality source of these absolutely essential and vital nutrients.

Another potential point of confusion is that beta carotene is not a concern, as that is PRE vitamin A. Your body will simply not over convert beta carotene to excessive levels of vitamin A. So taking beta carotene supplements is not going to interfere with vitamin D.
Siberian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-16-2008, 03:51 PM   #2
Strength Verified
Dobermann's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Safe in a no judgement zone!
Posts: 7,103
Dobermann is on a distinguished road
Great News!
An individual with an arm length under 24 inches long has a significant advantage over those with arms 27 inches or longer. An individual with 24-inch arms with a 300-pound maximum bench press completes 7200 inch-pounds of work. An individual with 27-inch arms only has to have a maximum bench press of 266 pounds to create 7200 inch-pounds of work.

R.I.P Wesley Silveira (Gone but never forgotten)
Dobermann is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-16-2008, 06:28 PM   #3
Senior Member
whoalon's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 1,042
whoalon is an unknown quantity at this point
damnit, I just ordered 5 bottles of Cod liver oil from vitacost.
whoalon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-17-2008, 12:48 AM   #4
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Detroit
Posts: 52
The article seems a little fishy (no pun) to me.

Remember, Mercola does sell his own brand of fish oil.

So he has a financial incentive to find fault with cod liver oil (and then steer you towards his own brand of fish oil.)

Calling Cod Liver Oil "dangerous" is a huge stretch, IMO. Remember, Vitamin A toxicity is extremely rare and hard-training athletes need more Vitamin A than your average joe.
Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light?
poopmonkey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-17-2008, 09:55 AM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 2,180
Siberian is an unknown quantity at this point
He does have his own products, but profits are directed towards maintenance/upkeeping of the site as opposed to his pockets.

Also, keep in mind he has recommended and sold products not his own for as long as I have been reading his site (~5 years). This includes cod liver oil as one of his most highly recommended products (he recommended Carlson's - and still recommends their fish oil).

Also, I do not believe the article is saying that if you take cod liver oil you will have Vitamin A toxicity. Rather, a suggestion seems to be that high amounts of vitamin A in the product significantly reduces the protective effects of Vitamin D (the number and significance of these effects are very significant, making this a huge consideration).

I don't think one article should force everyone to ditch their cod liver oil. Without question it has value. There are clearly some issues to consider before taking large doses of it though.
Siberian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-17-2008, 01:46 PM   #6
Strength Verified
dbcb314's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Pinellas County, Florida
Posts: 10,610
dbcb314 will become famous soon enough
Send a message via AIM to dbcb314
Interesting, good post Siberian

I usually only take Cod Liver oil in spurts so I doubt it is a big deal for me, but it is good info to have.
dbcb314 is offline   Reply With Quote

cod, dangers, liver, oil

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 08:22 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.