PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Cod liver oil good source of vitamin D?

Q: I took cod-liver oil in the late 1930s and early 1940s when I was a kid. In the ’40s, a new form of cod-liver oil was introduced that my father called “the sunshine pill.” I guess that even then there must have been an understanding of the need for sunshine.

A: Many people your age have memories of being dosed with cod-liver oil for their health when they were children. Most make a face at the recollection!

Cod-liver oil in those days was rich in vitamin D, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Nowadays, cod-liver oil is much easier to take, but the vitamin D and some of the vitamin A may be removed during the purification process.

Brief sun exposure is an excellent way to maintain good blood levels of vitamin D. In the winter, however, sun exposure is neither practical nor effective, so vitamin D supplements are advisable. An intake between 1,000 and 2,000 IU daily usually provides most people with enough of this crucial nutrient.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy

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4 comments Add your comment


November 25th, 2009
11:48 am

Cod liver oil contains massive amounts of vitamin A which can deactivate vitamin D. Research has found that more than 6000 i.u. per day of vitamin A causes problems in the body. You are much better off getting your vitamin D from a supplement with only this as an active ingredient. Vitamin D is available everywhere for a few dollars a bottle.


November 25th, 2009
1:39 pm

You should really get your vitamin A as carotene, that way you body still has control of your vitamin A levels and you cannot overdose.

Get your vitamin d on its own.


December 1st, 2009
6:33 pm

This is a question. Are cod liver oil tablets for kids still available if so where can I find them.


March 30th, 2010
8:08 pm

Dose cod liver oil reduce fatty tissues around the immune system?