Cod liver oil is a rich natural source of vitamin A and D and as a result offers numerous health benefits. As its name suggests, Cod Liver Oil is derived from the livers of cod fish. Unlike fish oil, which is derived from whole fish, Cod Liver Oil contains only trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, whereas fish oil contains virtually undetectable quantities of vitamins A and D.
The term vitamin A encompasses a family of fat-soluble compounds that include retinol and related chemicals. Aside from being consumed in foods and supplements, vitamin A can also be made in the body from betacarotene and some other carotenoids from our diet.
Dietary sources of preformed vitamin A include liver, kidney, egg yolks, some types of seafood, butter and whole milk. As most people don’t often eat large quantities of these foods, Cod Liver Oil can be a valuable supplementary source of vitamin A.
Important functions of vitamin A include:
- Helping to maintain healthy eyes and vision.
- Supporting healthy immune system function, in particular by helping to maintain the health of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts, where they act as the body’s first line of defence against infection. For this reason, vitamin A is often included in nutritional supplements for the relief of hayfever and sinusitis.
- Supporting healthy reproductive function.
- Supporting collagen repair and the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, cartilage, teeth and bones.
- Antioxidant activity.
Vitamin A deficiency may occur if dietary intake of either vitamin A or the carotenoids that it can be synthesised from is inadequate. Deficiency may also arise if there are problems with vitamin A storage, absorption or transportation in the body. Among other health problems, low levels of vitamin A have been linked with:
- Eye problems such as dry eyes and night blindness.
- Increased susceptibility to infection.
- Poor dental health.
- Dry skin and hair.
- Impaired fertility.
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D functions in the body as both a fat-soluble vitamin and a steroid hormone. Most of the vitamin D in our bodies is produced via the action of sunlight on the skin. In comparison, relatively small quantities come from dietary sources such as liver, oily fish, butter and eggs. Since research now shows that many Australians may have low levels of vitamin D, Cod Liver Oil can be a valuable supplement of this vital nutrient.
Functions of vitamin D:
Although best known for its important role in aiding calcium absorption, and therefore supporting bone mineralisation and helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, vitamin D also performs many other roles in the body. For example, it is involved in:
- Healthy functioning of the thyroid, immune system and nervous system.
- Helping to maintain muscle strength.
- Cellular reproduction.
- The formation of blood cells.
- Healthy moods and brain function (cognition).
As a result of its widespread roles in the body, the consequences of not getting enough vitamin D can be far-reaching. Sub-optimal and deficient levels of vitamin D have been linked to:
- Osteoporosis and osteopaenia (low bone mineral density).
- Increased susceptibility to fractures and falls in the elderly.
- Muscle weakness and non-specific musculoskeletal pain.
- Reduced immune function.