Cod Liver Oil or Omega 3?

Which is more valuable - Cod Liver Oil or Omega 3?

Both omega 3 fish oils and cod liver oil contain beneficial levels of essential omega 3 fatty acids. The main difference between the two is that cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D. Many people believe that fats are unhealthy but this is not always the case. Omega 3’s are healthy fats.

The essential fatty acids found in fish oils are polyunsaturated and play important roles in the function of the body. They are vital for the health of every cell and are required for the formation of cell membranes. Two of the most important omega 3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Our bodies can not manufacture essential fatty acids and so they need to be consumed in our diet. Fish oil supplements can offer a simple and affordable way to help top up the body's supply and to boost overall health.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is produced from the livers of fish belonging to the cod family. The oils in these fish tend to build up in the liver and as a result, the oil is also high in vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is vital for the maintenance of healthy skin and the immune system. Vitamin D is important for the body’s absorption and use of calcium, and as a result, helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth. The body naturally manufactures vitamin D when exposed to the suns rays. Many people choose to take cod liver oil supplements during the winter months, when natural sunlight and vitamin D may be in short supply.

These vitamins offer further benefits when combined with the EPA and DHA in fish oils. However, cod liver oil often contains a lower concentration of omega 3’s when compared to omega 3 fish oil.

Fish Oils

Oily fish such as mackerel and herring tend to accumulate oil in fatty layers of flesh rather than the liver. This results in more highly concentrated levels of EPA and DHA. As these oils are not taken from the liver, they do not contain vitamin A or D.

Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

Over the years many different health benefits have been discovered for omega 3’s.

These include: 

  • Healthy Heart – Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies also indicate that they can help to reduce high blood pressure and therefore improve heart health.
  • Joint Pain and Mobility – Numerous studies findings show that EPA may offer anti-inflammatory benefits and therefore contribute to healthy joints and reduce pain such as from arthritis.
  • Stroke – Omega 3’s can help to promote healthy blood circulation which can improve the health of arteries by reducing the build-up of plaque and blood clots and reduce the risk of a stroke.
  • Brain Function – EPA and DHA can help to insulate nerve cells in the brain, which improves their ability to communicate with each other effectively. As a result, they are often referred to as ‘brain food’.
  • Depression and Mood – Numerous studies have looked in detail at the relationship between omega 3's and depression. Results have found that higher levels of EPA and DHA may help to reduce feelings of anxiety and irritability.
  • Hormonal Balance – Omega 3’s are integral for the production of hormones. As a result, they can help to regulate hormone production and offer relief from menstrual cramps or menopausal symptoms.
  • Skin Conditions – If you are deficient in omega 3’s then you may find that your skin is dry and cracked. Omega 3’s may provide anti-inflammatory properties that can be useful in preventing or treating skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis and eczema.

How Much Omega 3 Should I Take? 

The current government recommendation for fish intake is two portions of fresh fish each week. Any more could potentially be dangerous, due to the toxins and pollutants that can be found in fresh fish. Fish oil supplements can be taken in higher doses because the oils undergo a distillation process, which ensures all toxins and pollutants are filtered out of the oil. Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for both adults and children, although different dosages are recommended: 

  • Children between 5 to 14 years – take 500mg each day.
  • Adults under the age of 40 years - if you are under the age 40 years old and fit with no health problems then you may only need around 1000mg each day.
  • Adults over the age of 40 years – if you are over 40 or have a higher risk of heart disease or arthritis then you will require a higher dose of 2000mg per day.
  • Cod liver oil should not be taken in doses above 2000mg due to its vitamin A content. Vitamin A can be toxic when taken in high doses.

Use the infographic above to learn about the key differences between so that you can decide which best suits your needs.


Written by Richard

Richard is a biology graduate and manager of Healthy Life. When he’s not writing new articles for the site he can be found editing, tweaking and improving the content to ensure it is as useful as possible.