Rheumatoid arthritis and depression symptoms may be eased with healthy alternatives to cod liver oil
By Andrew Weil
Q: I hate the taste of cod liver oil. Are there any good reasons for me to take it?
A: Yes, but I believe you can obtain similar health benefits more safely and reliably from other sources. Cod liver oil was traditionally used to prevent rickets, a disease in which bones weaken due to a lack of vitamin D. Several studies suggest that people with rheumatoid arthritis who take cod liver oil daily have improvements in stiffness and pain. A recent large study also found that rates of depression were nearly 30 percent lower in people who regularly took cod liver oil, probably because of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids it contains.
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These results are exciting, but I'm hesitant to recommend cod liver oil. Yes, it's rich in vitamin D--about 1,360 IU per tablespoon (most experts now recommend at least 1,000 IU daily). But some brands also contain excessive amounts of vitamin A per daily serving, and higher doses can be toxic, leading to bone and hair loss, mental confusion, and liver damage. In addition, cod liver oil comes from the livers of fish, which may be contaminated with toxins.
Instead, I recommend purified fish oil supplements that are guaranteed to be free of contaminants. Like cod liver oil, they contain omega-3 fats, which studies show reduce depression and high blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, and ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Because it's difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food, consider taking at least 1,000 IU a day in the D3 form.