Cod Liver Oil: Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits

Codfish is a deep-water species belonging to the Gadidae family. It is found along the continental slope, especially in the northern seas. (1) This fish is famous as the provider of essential fatty acids for the proper functioning of the human body.

Cod liver oil (CLO) is obtained from Gadus morhua or other cod species. This oil is supplied to our body by eating cod liver or consuming supplements.

Cod liver oil is preferred for extraction and consumption because of its nutritional supplements. The presence of vitamins like D, E, retinol, and essential fatty acids makes this oil superior for pharmaceutical and food products.

It is a dietary supplement consumed as a functional food oil, positively affecting human health. (2) 

The high fat-containing liver in mature cod fish is suitable for oil production. (1) Cod liver oil is a pale yellow, thin oily liquid with a fishy and bland taste.

The aroma of CLO varies from a sardine-like flavor to the intense odor of fish. (2) The oil is filled in capsules for easy consumption. (3)

Cod liver oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and has medicinal and food value. The oil is used in the kitchen for dressing salads and making margarine.

This oil is used in industries for lubricating machines and as lamp oil.

Nutritional Facts

Cod liver oil is a nutritious diet with vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants. The oil contains essential fatty acids, including healthy and unhealthy fats. These fatty acids make cod liver oil preferable for healthy lifestyles. 

Fatty AcidsAmounts (per 100 grams)
Saturated fatty acids22.6 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids46.7 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids22.5 g

Cod liver oil has 100 grams of total fat. This oil is high in calories (902 kcal/100 g) and cholesterol (570 mg/100 g). This oil is high in vitamin D (10000 IU/100 g) and vitamin A (100000 IU/100 g). It also contains 30000 mcg of retinol per 100 grams. (4)

Cod live oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like Eicosapentaenoic acid (6.9 g/100 g), Docosahexaenoic acid (11 g/100 g), and Docosapentaenoic acid (0.935 g/100 g), which are beneficial for heart, brain, and nervous health. (4)

Note: g-gram, mg-milligram, mcg-micrograms, IU-international units

EPA-  Eicosapentaenoic acid

DHA- Docosahexaenoic acid

DPA- Docosapentaenoic acid

Health Benefits

Cod liver oil contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. PUFAs like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in this oil, along with EPA, DHA, and DPA, play an essential role in preventing cardiovascular diseases. The oil, high in calories and vitamins, provides energy to our body and protects against infections. (2) This post further discusses the significant health benefits of cod liver oil. 

  1. Can maintain heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids mainly exist in the form of EPA and DHA in fish oil. Cod liver oil has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. The dietary EPA and DHA reduce inflammation in the heart, preventing blood clotting and protecting the heart’s muscular tissue. The PUFAs in this oil lower the cholesterol level in the blood and reduce the risk of Myocardial infarction (a condition where heart muscle dies due to lack of enough blood supply). (5)
  1. Can possess anti-cancer activity: The presence of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil possess anti-cancer activities. This fatty acid inhibits the development of intestinal cancer, which can lead to colon cancer. (2) Excessive weight loss can lead to head and neck cancer which can be prevented by consuming CLO. The presence of EPA and DHA (alone or in combination) can reduce the chance of breast, colon, and lung cancer. (6)
  1. Can possess neuroprotective activities: Cod liver oil, high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, increases brain neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). (2) Cerebral ischemia (a condition with a scarcity of blood in the brain to meet metabolic demand) can lead to neurological injury, where oxidative stress can cause neuronal cell death. The consumption of cod liver oil can prevent this condition. The experiment is performed in rats, and more evidence are required to prove this statement in human. (7)
  1. Can promote brain health: As mentioned above, cod liver oil is high in PUFAs and improves the level of brain neurotransmitters. Prevention of the condition known as cerebral ischemia regulates blood flow in the brain. Circulation of blood in the brain and enhanced neurotransmitters activate the brain’s signaling. Improved brain functioning helps prevent psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease. (8)
  1. Can improve bone health: Cod liver oil contains several nutritional components like vitamin D, E, and omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary components improve bone health by reducing the risk of rheumatism and rickets. In this oil, EPA and DHA improve bone calcium loss, reduce joint inflammation, and relieve stiff muscles. (9)

Cod liver oil, high in nutritional components and essential fatty acids, positively affects human health. However, pregnant women and people with asthma are suggested to avoid it. People taking anticoagulants are also recommended to consult their doctor about the dosage of cod liver oil. (9) 

  1. Bjornsson, Bjorn & Litvak, Matthew & Trippel, E.A. & Suquet, M.. (2010). The codfishes (Family: Gadidae). Finfish Aquaculture Diversification. 290-322. 10.1079/9781845934941.0290. 
  2. Physico-chemical properties, biological activities and … – core [Internet]. [cited 2023Feb26]. Available from: 
  3. Smutna, Miriam & Kruzikova, Kamila & Marsalek, Petr & Kopriva, Vladimir & Svobodova, Zdenka. (2009). Fish oil and cod liver as safe and healthy food supplements. Neuro endocrinology letters. 30 Suppl 1. 156-62. 
  4. Fooddata Central Search Results [Internet]. FoodData Central. [cited 2023Feb26]. Available from: 
  5. Mal M, Kumar A, Meraj A, Devi A, Mañego AM, Anjum Z, et al. Role of cod liver oil in preventing myocardial infarction. Cureus. 2021;  
  6. Hegde, Sanath & Rao, Suresh & D’souza, Rhea & Baliga, Shrinath. (2022). Supplementation with Cod Liver Oil Capsules Reduces Weight Loss and Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer Patients Undergoing Curative Radiotherapy without Affecting the Treatment Response. Asian Journal of Oncology. 10.1055/s-0042-1750019. 
  7. Singh, Sandeep & Kumar, Sunil & Shukla, Sunil & Kumar, Rajesh & Scholar, Mishra & Kulkarni, Anandrao & Mishra, Rajesh & Gupta, Ankita & Kulkarni, V. (2018). A study on neuroprotective effect of cod liver oil in bilateral common carotid artery occlusion induced global cerebral ischemia in rats. 2. 14-19. 
  8. Bazinet, Richard & Layé, Sophie. (2014). Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their metabolites in brain function and disease. Nature reviews. Neuroscience. 15. 10.1038/nrn3820. 
  9. Griffing GT. Mother was right about Cod Liver Oil [Internet]. Medscape journal of medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2008 [cited 2023Feb26]. Available from: 

Diksha Koirala

Diksha Koirala is a recent graduate student in Food Technology. During her study, she developed an interest in the science behind the food used in industries for further product development. Through her writing, she hopes to educate others to create products that not only taste good but also promote a healthy lifestyle.

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