Cod Liver Oil vs Omega 3: Is there a Difference?

Cod Liver Oil vs Fish Oil: What's the Difference?

Fish oil and cod liver oil are derived from different fish sources and have unique benefits. Fish oil is usually derived from fatty fish like herring, tuna, salmon and mackerels. Cod liver oil comes from the liver of codfish.

Both have omega-3 fatty acids, but cod liver oil has the added vitamins A and D. It’s safer to take only fish oil or cod liver oil, but not both. This is because cod liver oil contains very high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D, thus taking too much could be toxic. For the purpose of treating arthritis, fish oil is the safer choice. However, if you want the added benefits of Vitamin A and D, cod liver oil may be a better choice.

The health benefits of both types of oil are their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which support many body functions and may prevent certain ailments. Our body can’t make Omega 3 on its own, which is why we need to get it externally.

These fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are the “good oils” that everyone needs to include in their diet.

Related: Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

Here are some of the best fish oil and cod liver oils you can find in the market.

A. Best Fish Oil Supplements

1. Mav Nutrition Fish Oil

The Omega 3 found in Fish Oil contains unique essential fats including EPA and DHA, known to decrease inflammation and support overall health and wellness. Omega 3 fatty acids are widely considered one of the most critical supplements you can put in your body.

- 100% natural and pure with no additives
- Contains 3,600mg Fish Oil Fatty Acids, including 864 mg DHA, 1,296 mg EPA per serving.
- Burpless : No fishy aftertaste. 
- Our Fish Oil is burpless and won't cause stomach upset, so don’t have to worry about indigestion or an unpleasant after taste staying with you all day!
- Ultra-pure, refined fish oil : Our fish oil is purified with molecular distillation, one of the few current methods that can purify from heavy metals, PCB's and other toxins to below detectable limits for human consumption. Fast method. Minimal temperature. No toxins.
- 100% Pure sea-harvested pelagic fish oil. Get all the health benefits of pure Sea-Harvested fish oil. - - - Supports a healthy heart, brain health, healthy joints, mood & mental state, skin & hair.*

I've had T2 diabetes (non insulin dependent) for 12 years and have maintain my BG with diet and exercise. Supplements are also helpful to prevent diseases that T2 diabetics have to be aware of, like high triglycerides and fatty liver. I see a T2 diabetic nutritionists regularly and she evaluates supplements (her office doesn't sell or advertise them). My last fish oil was a generic CVS version and my nutritionist did not recommend the source. She did, however, highly approve of this brand. Because I'm at risk for heart disease and liver function issues, she recommended double the dose on the bottle, but researched the source of oil and distribution of fish oil, DHA and Omega 3s and approves of MAV Nutrition's fish oil.

4.6 out of 5 - 14,262 global ratings

2. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

- Essential fatty acids EPA & DHA in fish oil support heart, brain, eye & immune health. 
- Omega-3s may also help support a healthy mood.
- Features high concentration omega-3 fish oil in soft gels. 
- This formula meets the daily recommended dose suggested by the American Heart Association to support a healthy heart.
- All of our omega-3 fish oil concentrates are in the triglyceride molecular form (the form naturally found in fish) for optimal absorption. Ultimate Omega has a great lemon taste.
- Every batch of Nordic Naturals fish oil is crafted from fresh, wild-caught, omega-rich fish. 
- Non-GMO, gluten- & dairy-free ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
- 650 mg EPA, 450 mg DHA, 180 mg other Omega-3s

In 8 weeks my triglycerides went from 997 to 183. I took 4-6 of these daily. Doctor had said she was putting me on statins ASAP. I said, no, I'll do it naturally. I also added more leafy greens to diet. I absolutely attribute this fish oil to my success. My triglycerides used to be as high as 2,400. Doctor put me on Fenofibrate.. That brought numbers down but messed up other indicators such as liver, kidney and BUN. I took myself off Fenofibrate. My cholesterol went from 298 to 243.

4.8 out of 5 - 26,174 global ratings

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3. Nature's Bounty Fish Oil

- 200-count, 1200 milligram
- 360 milligram of Omega-3, Fish Oil Softgels. 
- Omega-3 Fish Oil may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease".
- OMEGA-3 EPA & DHA: Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil Softgels contain the two most studied Omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential nutrients that help support the health of your cardiovascular system".
- Contains no shellfish. 
- They are non-GMO, gluten- and sugar-free, and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners.

This is going to get a little personal, but you need to know that "that time of the month" just started, and it took me completely by surprise. Why is this good news? Because every month prior to this one, my aches, pains and bordering on severely depressed mood were harbingers that it was about to start. Even though I knew the cause, that depression was pervasive and crippling. This has been affecting me for years.

About a month ago it was so bad that I was desperate to find a solution. I searched online and read on multiple credible sources that fish oil can help with menstrual depression, in addition to cleaning up one's diet, abstaining from alcohol and getting more exercise. (I've read and heard this for years elsewhere as well.) I threw everything at the problem, including buying these supplements and taking them three times each day as directed, but in the past two weeks I've fallen off the wagon a bit as junk food and happy hours have crept back into my lifestyle (working on it!). After a couple days of exercise three or four weeks ago, I only did my first run today (sorry for the detail, but likely just as my "time of the month" was starting). The only thing that has been consistent has been my taking fish oil three times daily.

It was only after I finished running that I realized "she" was here. I was elated to be so taken aback, and that was because all of those horrible tell-tale signs I've been suffering from for years were nowhere to be found.

Ladies, menstrual depression is a horrible feeling. I'm not sure this remedy will work for everyone, but it is widely recommended by medical professionals and it worked for me in just one cycle. If you have trouble with menstrual depression, please give this a try and take your month back! Between this and the positive effects on heart health, looks like I'll be taking these supplements until the wheels fall off. Hope this review is helpful.

4.8 out of 5 - 29,652 global ratings

4. Arazo Nutrition

- Made in USA
- 4,080mg Omega 3 fish oil; high EPA and DHA levels / 2,250mg Omega 3 fatty acid content
- Ultra pure and refined; purified with molecular distillation at minimal temperatures to remove all heavy metals, mercury and PCB's
- 100% wild ocean catch; from fresh, deep sea sourced, omega-rich fish; 
- Special extraction method for the highest volume of EPA and DHA
- Sustainable and traceable
- Triple certified by Marin Trust, Friend of the Seas and Dolphin Safe
- Burpless, natural lemon flavor
- Odorless & easy to swallow without fishy burps
- Low oxidation (Totox) values less than 5 meq/kg 
- Made in a GMP certified facility in America and heavy metal tested for purity; we use a superior patented oil extraction method that results in extremely low levels of contaminants, oxidation and pollutants

I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt mentally in a very long time!! I’ve been struggling with severe depression and anxiety for about 3 to 4 years. I’ve always had a low level of depression and anxiety for quit some some time. However from the beginning of 2017 until now it has become severe to the point where I’ve sougt out professional help. I’ve tried to read books, I’ve been put on medication but I just couldn’t seem to shake this depression. I’ve done EVERYTHING. So I came across and article that stated the chemical EPA and DHA found in fish oil when taken in higher concentrations helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. So I gave it a go and when I say I was amazed at the results after only taking this supplement for 4 days I instantly noticed a difference. It’s almost like the mental black veil I struggled with for so long had been lifted. I’m only 10 days into taking this supplement and I feel AMAZING. I hope this feeling never goes away.

4.7 out of 5 - 17,785 global ratings

5. Orthomega 820 Capsules

- Molecularly Distilled, High-Concentration, Triglyceride Omega-3 Fish oil
- 0% more absorption with Truglyceride for superior bioavailability
- 430 mg EPA, 390 mg DHA
- Recommended serving is just one softgel per day. 
- Just uses anchovy for its fish oil while all other brands have some combination of fish; it also contains rosemary extract in its antioxidant blend.

4.7 out of 5 - 252 global ratings

B. Best Cod Liver Oil Supplements

1. Rosita Cod Liver Oil

- Contains 100% naturally occurring nutrients, like vitamins A and D, and a full spectrum of omega fatty acids, including omega 3 EPA and DHA
- No synthetic vitamins added in.
- Authentic cod (gadus morhua) are sustainably caught; hook and line on Rosita’s own fishing boat off the coast of Norway.
- Cod Liver Oil is quickly and naturally released using a rare, generations-old technique ensuring the utmost freshness; no heat, chemicals or mechanics are ever used.
- Each batch is 3rd-party tested in a microbiological laboratory and certified to meet strict European and WHO regulations for potency and purity (including heavy metals testing). 
- Tastes like robust, wild caught fish from the icy clean seas of Norway! Nothing added to mask all-natural taste.
- Gluten Free
- 443 mg EPA, 605 mg DHA

Ok now I'm not saying that this taste like honey or anything but for Cod Liver Oil it is better than the one I remember as a child! I braced myself for the bad smell and taste but neither was there! I am a Registered Nurse of 2 years and I have been getting more and more into preventive and holistic care. We don't need more medicine! We need discipline, exercise and nutrients! Please, please do NOT take supplements that you haven't researched and throw away anything with Magnesium Sterate. These companies do not always care about us the way we care about ourselves and loved ones. This is a quality product. Do you know how hard it is to seek to have morals over seeking more money? This product is expensive but think of how pollution has affected our world, land and water. If someone is offering a great product with a higher price but evener higher quality.... That's hard to find. If you don't like it don't buy it again but don't discourage good companies and good people trying to find a healthier solution in this unhealthy world.

4.5 out of 5 - 615 global ratings

2. Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil, Lemon

- Supports the heart, brain and nervous system, and promotes optimal immune system function. 
- It is made exclusively from 100% wild Arctic cod.
- This fish oil supplement is the winner of numerous awards, including Clean Eating Magazine's Clean Choice Award.
- All of our omega-3 fish oil products are in the triglyceride molecular form (the form naturally found in fish) for optimal absorption. 
- Arctic Cod Liver Oil has a great lemon taste.
- Nordic Naturals fish oils are third-party tested, surpassing the strictest international standards for purity & freshness, Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified, and sustainably made in a zero waste facility powered by biofuel.

I use this product as an anti inflammatory. I have the E-coli toxin which has been giving me a lot of gastric discomfort. My problem has been improving gradually since August, when I got sick. I take Aloe Vera and probiotics along with the cod liver oil. Besides the improvement I feel in my gastric system I also sleep better and also noticed it works for inflammation all over my body and as a good nose decongestant.

4.8 out of 5 - 898 global ratings

3. Garden of Life Olde World Icelandic Cod Liver Oil

- 750mg of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids
- Lemon mint flavor
- The Vitamin A in Olde World Icelandic Cod Liver Oil supports eye health, normal skin and hair structure, and healthy immune function
- Climate Pledge Friendly uses sustainability certifications to highlight products that support our commitment to help preserve the natural world. 

I decided to try this bc I heard it was good for acne and PCOS. I had 3 large cysts on my left ovary and they are completely gone. My skin is also looking really healthy and my acne is almost gone. My pores are smaller than they have ever been. I had stopped using acne meds and my skin broke out horribly and I really didn’t want to start finding other meds to use but my skin was so bad it was depressing. I decided to try this along w/ zinc and I feel like it’s made the difference in my skin and PCOS health.

4.7 out of 5 - 942 global ratings

4. Now Foods Cod Liver Oil

- High Vitamin A and D-3 content
- Soy Free, Kosher Contains Gelatin, Keto Friendly, Halal
- GMP Quality Assured
- Packaged in the USA by a family owned and operated company since 1968.

I bought it as help with my psoriasis and from the very beginning I feel that it is helping me to contain it. For some time I have been putting cream with cod liver on my skin and discovered a great improvement in redness, so taking it as well in pills should enhance this improvement. Vitamins D and A, DHA and EPA all together are a powerful mix against psoriasis

4.7 out of 5 - 600 global ratings

5. 365 Everyday Value, Cod Liver Oil

- From pure Norwegian cold water cod.
- Does not contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, or artificial preservatives.
- High in Vitamins A & D.
- With Omega-3s, EPA & DHA.

I bought this for arthritis relief for my hands when other supplements and meds were failing me. Before use, arthritis pain in my hand would wake me in the middle of night. After a week using cod liver oil supplements, the pain is much reduced and I am resting much better.

4.7 out of 5 - 120 global ratings


1. Fish Oil and Omega-3s

The two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

For the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil to work against arthritis, it’s necessary to consume a fairly large quantity of it each day. Fish oil — or cod liver oil — enclosed in capsules makes this fairly easy.


EPA and DHA can reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain. Research has indicated that both acids might suppress the body’s immune system. However, a 2016 study suggests that DHA might enhance immune function instead. DHA is more effective at reducing inflammation than EPA, but both have a role.

All of these effects makes fish oil potentially beneficial for people with arthritis.

In one study, people said their pain levels decreased after taking fish oil supplements.

Those who reported the improvement had taken a low dose rather than a high dose. They saw the improvement after 2 years. After 1 year, there was no significant improvement.

Commenting on this study, other scientists expressed further concerns. They noted that consuming more than 3 grams of fish oil a day could be hazardous.

Potential hazards include increased mercury consumption and bruising and bleeding. 

EPA and DHA come with other health benefits: They can help prevent heart attacks by making it harder for blood to clot. They help lower blood triglyceride levels and blood pressure. As well, EPA taken with statin medication is more effective in reducing the inflammation of arteriosclerosis than medication alone.

For the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil to work against arthritis, it’s necessary to consume a fairly large quantity of it each day. Fish oil — or cod liver oil — enclosed in capsules makes this fairly easy.

On the other hand, because cod liver oil contains very high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D, taking too much can be toxic. For the purpose of treating arthritis, fish oil is the safer choice as compared to cod liver oil.

2. What does fish oil do for your face?

The Omega 3 Acids found in fish oil has many benefits to your skin.  They help regulate the skin's oil production, improve balanced hydration, reduce breakouts and reduce signs of aging. They can also help soften dry skin and may help soothe irritation and dermatitis.

3. Can fish oil reduce belly fat?

The Omega 3 in fish oil may help people lose weight in several ways. 
- It may help reduce hunger and appetite
- It may increase your metabolism speed. This can help you burn more calories and potentially lose weight.
- It may help increase the number of calories burned during exercise.

4. What is Cod Liver Oil Good For?

Cod liver oil has been historically used as a preventative measure against rickets, which comes from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to bone fractures in the elderly and abnormal brain development in offspring. It may also lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, which involves the combination of high blood pressure, high glucose levels, and high cholesterol. This can contribute to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

It also contains vitamin A, a vital nutrient for immune system function, cellular growth, eye health, and reproduction. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease blood clot formation and reduce inflammation in the body. 

5. Who Should Not Take Cod Liver Oil?

High doses of cod liver oil are POSSIBLY UNSAFE (MedlinePlus). They might keep blood from clotting and can increase the chance of bleeding. Vitamin A and vitamin D levels might also become too high with high doses of cod liver oil.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take cod liver oil that provides more than about 3000 mcg of vitamin A and 100 mcg of vitamin D.

Those who are taking medications or herbs to lower blood sugar, blood pressure or slow blood clotting.

Cod liver oil side effects: Cod Liver Oil may lower blood sugar, blood pressure or slow blood clotting. Taking cod liver oil with medication related to these health issues may make your blood sugar, blood pressure or blood clotting drop too low. 

Consult your doctor to adjust your medicine's dosage if you plan on taking cod fish oil with your medication.




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