As a parent, you are probably always asking yourself, “Do my children get the necessary nutrients from the food they eat?”
While you cannot keep track of that all the time, you can learn about the different healthy foods that are essential for the child’s healthy growth, and if necessary, add them to their diet. One such ingredient or supplement you should know about is cod liver oil.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the nutritional benefits of cod liver oil for kids and any side-effects it may have.
What is Cod Liver Oil?
As the name suggests, cod liver oil is the oil extracted from the liver of a Cod, a type of fish that belongs to the genus Gadus. It is rich in vital nutrients such as vitamins A and D. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Cod liver oil is categorized based on its extraction.
- Regular cod liver oil: Oil is extracted from the cod’s liver and processed and refined at a very high temperature. It is available in the form of supplements after synthetic vitamins are added to it.
- Fermented cod liver oil: It is extracted without heat and is fermented for 6-12 months. It is a natural product and is taken as food.
But can children take these supplements or consume the fermented oil? Keep reading to know.
Is It Safe To Give Cod Liver Oil To Kids?
Coil liver oil is usually safe for children when taken orally and in the right amounts (1). It can also be used externally to heal wounds, burns, and rashes.
Dosage: There is no recommended cod liver oil dosage for children. So, it is best to take the doctor’s opinion before giving it to them. Doctors usually prescribe cod liver oil for children only if they think that the supplement is required.
Keep reading to learn about the nutritional value of cod liver oil.
Nutritional Value of Cod Liver Oil
The table below lists the various nutrients and their value per 100g of cod liver oil (2).
|Vitamin A, RAE||30000µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||100000 IU|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||250µg|
|Vitamin D||10000 IU|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||22.608g|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||46.711g|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||22.541g|
When taken as directed by the physician, cod liver oil can offer certain benefits to kids.
What Are The Benefits of Cod Liver Oil For Kids?
Cod liver oil offers several benefits to children, some of which are mentioned below.
- Prevents rickets: Rickets is a condition that occurs due to the deficiency of vitamin D in children. Its symptoms include bowed legs, projected breastbone, and thick wrists and ankles. Cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D. A teaspoon of cod liver oil is equivalent to the recommended intake of 400IU of vitamin D/per day. Giving this to your children can prevent vitamin D deficiency and thus, rickets (3).
- Prevents upper respiratory illness: According to a study, intake of cod liver oil decreases the bouts of upper respiratory illnesses that are prevalent during winter and spring (4).
- Reduces ear infections: When taken with a multivitamin supplement, cod liver oil can help reduce ear infections in children (1).
- Good for eyesight: Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamin A, which in turn is good for eyesight. Vitamin A helps in improving night vision and fighting infections (5).
- Reduces ADHD symptoms in children: Cod liver oil is an essential source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in children aged seven to 12 years old (6).
Though it is beneficial, cod liver oil may have a few side-effects that can’t be overlooked.
What Are The Side Effects Of Cod Liver Oil?
The side effects of cod liver oil are usually mild and not to be worried about. Any effects that the child may experience will resolve on their own. Some of the common side-effects of cod liver oil include (1):
- Bad breath
- Burps that smell fishy
- Loose stools
Severe reactions may occur if the child is allergic to seafood or the dosage is inappropriate.
What Are The Risks Of Cod Liver Oil In Kids?
Some kids tend to be allergic to a specific category of foods and cod liver oil supplements could be one among them. So, always check if the child has any reactions after having the supplement. Children who are sensitive to cod liver oil could have (7):
- Urticaria (a kind of rash-causing itchiness, swelling, and red welts) (8)
- A combination of the symptoms mentioned above
Children having eczema and asthma might have their condition aggravated. Besides allergic reactions, the effects of an overdose of vitamins A and D could be seen in children.
- An excess dose of vitamin A (> 1500μg/day) can increase the risk of bone fractures (9).
- An overdose of vitamin D causes hypoglycemia, or increased levels of calcium in the blood serum can lead to bone loss and fractures (10).
All said and done, cod liver oil has a smell and taste that children may not like. Next, we give you a few tips on how to feed cod liver oil to kids.
How To Make Your Child Take Cod Liver Oil?
Cod liver oil has a fishy smell and taste, which makes kids reluctant to take it. Drinking a spoonful of cod liver oil as it is can be difficult. However, you can make it easier to consume.
- Try cod liver oil supplements, which are available in the form of chewable tablets.
- Try the flavored brands of fermented cod liver oil, where the flavor masks the fishy smell and taste.
- Try adding it to their favorite foods or smoothies, or acidic juices made of lemon or grapefruit.
- Blend it with honey or sugar syrup.
Never force the kids to take this oil, as they may throw up or choke on it if they find the smell or flavor repulsive. Consult your doctor immediately in the case of any side-effects.
While cod liver oil is beneficial for children, it is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Talk to your doctor about the possible alternatives to ensure that your child gets the necessary nutrients offered by this supplement. If your child is comfortable taking it, give it to them in the right doses to prevent the risk of overdose.
Do you give cod liver oil to your kids? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Fish oil, cod liver; U.S. Department of Agriculture
3. Carol L. Wagner, Frank R. Greer; Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents; American Academy of Pediatrics
4. Linday LA; Cod liver oil, young children, and upper respiratory tract infections; NCBI
5. Vitamins; The Nemours Foundation
6. E. Derbyshire; Do Omega-3/6 Fatty Acids Have a Therapeutic Role in Children and Young People with ADHD?; NCBI
7. Ray M. Balyeat, Ralph Bowen; Cod Liver Oil Sensitivity In Children; American Medical Association
8. Hives / Urticaria; Columbia University
9. Marleen A.H. Lentjes, Ailsa A. Welch, et al.; Cod Liver Oil Supplement Consumption and Health: Cross-sectional Results from the EPIC-Norfolk Cohort Study; NCBI
10. M G Vogiatzi et al.; Vitamin D Supplementation and Risk of Toxicity in Pediatrics: A Review of Current Literature; Endocrine Society