Cod Liver Oil Vs Fish Oil: Benefits and Nutrition Values

Cod Liver Oil Vs Fish Oil Benefits and Nutrition Values

When it is about increasing the omega-3 fatty acids in the body, the two common options that come to mind are cod liver oil and fish oil. Both are enriched in omega-3 fatty acid yet their source is different. 

If you want to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement and are wondering what to choose between cod liver oil and fish oil, the article will give a detailed insight. By the end of the article, you will learn the source of these supplements, their benefits, and their side effects. 

Comparing cod liver oil vs. fish oil will help you understand what the right choice for your health is. 

Difference Between Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oil

Difference between cod liver oil and fish oil

Cod liver oil and fish oil are wonderful sources of omega-3 fatty acids (1). This fatty acid offers multiple health benefits and prevents different ailments since the body doesn’t make omega-3 fatty acids, including certain foods that are rich in it or taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements. 

Both the supplements we are talking about come from fish. As the name indicates, fish oil comes from different varieties of fish, whereas cod liver oil is sourced from a particular type of fish’s liver.  

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids obtained from fish (2)-

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Even though nuts, seeds and vegetable oils also provide a type of omega-3 fatty acid, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), they are not as beneficial as the one sourced from fish. 

This is the reason why including fish in the diet or omega-3 fatty acids supplements are recommended. 

Oil Sources

Cod liver oil is sourced from codfish’s liver. These fish are-

  • Atlantic cod
  • Pacific cod

On the contrary, fish oil is sourced from the flesh of fish like-

  • herring
  • tuna
  • anchovies
  • mackerel
  • salmon

Benefits of Cod Liver Oil Vs Fish Oil

Cod liver oil has anti-inflammatory properties (4). It contains high levels of the following-

  • EPA
  • DHA
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D

Due to its unique nutritional constitution, it helps in reducing inflammation, pain, anxiety, risk of diabetes, triglycerides, blood pressure and plaque buildup. Moreover, a regular intake of cod liver oil is believed to promote good cholesterol, bone density, fetal brain and support the immune system (3).

Fish oil supplements also offer almost the same health benefits. They are recommended for pregnant women and lactating mothers as well. People with adequate omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies have better mental and physical health. 

Additionally, fish oil supports skin health and liver health and reduces the symptoms of mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar.  

Below is the table differentiating cod liver oil and fish oil under different categories-

AspectCod Liver OilFish Oil
SourceDerived specifically from the liver of cod fish.Extracted from the body tissues of oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, or tuna.
Nutrient ContentRich in vitamins A and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).Primarily contains omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). May contain some vitamins, but in smaller amounts compared to cod liver oil.
Vitamin A and D ContentContains significant amounts of vitamins A and D, which are fat-soluble vitamins.Generally lower in vitamins A and D compared to cod liver oil.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsContains omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), although levels may vary.Contains omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) as the primary component.
Dosage FormTypically available in liquid or capsule form.Available in liquid, capsule, or softgel form.
Taste and SmellOften has a distinctive fishy taste and odor.May have a milder taste and odor compared to cod liver oil.
UsageHistorically used as a dietary supplement and as a source of vitamins in regions with limited sun exposure.Commonly used as a dietary supplement for overall health and specific conditions such as heart disease and arthritis.
Potential Side EffectsPossible vitamin A or D toxicity if consumed in excessive amounts.May cause gastrointestinal discomfort or fishy aftertaste.

Which Is Safe: Cod Liver Oil Vs. Fish Oil

Both these supplements of omega-3 fatty acids are safe. However, it is better to consult a doctor before starting them. 

Usually, they do not cause any adverse effects but it is essential to talk to a paediatrician if you are starting it for your child. At the same time, people with fish allergy, heart and blood condition need to take it with caution. 

Below are a few side effects that people encounter after taking supplements of cod liver oil or fish oil-

  • Heartburn
  • Nosebleed
  • Belching 
  • Nausea 
  • Loose stool
  • Skin rashes 

They may also interact with certain medications; therefore, consulting with the doctor prior to their consumption is essential. 


Whenever you want to increase the omega-3 fatty acid content in your body, fish oil and cod liver oil supplements are the two best options. They are healthy and help protect the body from a number of diseases, including mental and physical. 

However, consulting a doctor and not overdosing is essential to achieve maximum benefits from them. It becomes imperative for pregnant and lactating mothers as the list of their side effects is also not less. 

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