Five Things You Need to Know to Choose the Right Supplement for You

Omega-3 fatty acids are well known to fight cardiovascular disease, age-related memory loss, the spread of colon cancer, and depression.

While our bodies can make the DHA and EPA we need from cold-pressed, minimally processed plant oils, it's easier to get DHA and EPA from cod liver oil or fish oil (unless you are a pregnant woman or nursing mother, in which case you do better with DHA from microalgae. See dha and pregnancy). But which is better of cod liver oil vs fish oil? Let's consider the pros and cons for each.

  1. Taste: Cod liver oil tastes terrible. Fish oil doesn't taste very good, either, but at least it comes in capsules. Some companies, such as Nordic Naturals, flavor the capsules so they leave no fishy aftertaste.
  2. Both fish oil and cod liver oil are high in DHA and EPA, but cod liver oil is also high in vitamins A and D. If you live north of the arctic circle, cod liver oil is a good idea unless you take both fish oil and supplemental vitamin D.
  3. If you have gallbladder problems, stick to fish oil. Your liver has to produce bile salts to emulsify cod liver oil in a quick "dump," and if your gallbladder is not letting them pass through, then you may get diarrhea (passing all the cod liver oil quickly out of your system before it does any good) or fishy burps.
  4. Vitamin D Overdose: It's actually possible to overdose on vitamin D, causing hardening of the arteries and osteoporosis as a side effect. This can happen if you use cod liver oil, but it won't happen if you use fish oil.
  5. Fish oil is easier to use than cod liver oil, because it is encapsulated. If you buy a high-DHA brand of fish oil, it's also easier on your stomach. Look for brands of fish oil that contain at least 600 mg of DHA + EPA (total of both) in each capsule. That doesn't leave any room for impurities!

If you live in an extreme, arctic climate, chances are you will do better if you use cod liver oil. But if you live in a sunny climate and you have lots of access to vitamin A-rich vegetables, you will probably find it easier to use fish oil capsules.

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