Has Iceland Found the Fountain of Youth? (October 2017)
Over the summer, I spent three weeks traveling through the Nordic countries Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. Something they all have in common is that smoked fish are staples in their diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Being Jewish, and going to my fair share of delis, I thought I knew about smoked fish, however the Nordic culture taught me a thing or two! My biggest surprise was seeing the exact same bottle of “LYSI Icelandic Cod liver Oil” at every breakfast buffet in Iceland! At first I walked past it without a second glance, thinking it was olive oil or vegetable oil.
My curiosity peaked as I noticed a “shot” glass next to it. People would take their shot of Cod Liver Oil as if they were adding ketchup to their eggs! On our cycling and hiking trip, people began to ask me about the nutritional benefits of cod liver oil and I found it so interesting to research I wanted to share it with you all!
The Icelandic people consistently rank at the top among countries with high life expectancies according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The 2015 WHO report ranks Iceland’s life expectancy rates as the 6th highest with the average age of being 82.7. I spoke with many local Icelandic people regarding their high life expectancy and the popularity of cod liver oil and found they all had the same belief: that cod liver oil has contributed to the better quality of life and higher lifespan of Icelandic people.
Cod liver oil is extracted solely from the livers of cod fish. Cod liver oil contains lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than regular fish oils, but larger amounts of vitamins A and D.
People have been taking cod liver oil for hundreds of years and it is rumored to have been used by ancient Scandinavian Vikings. People have continued to use it due to the medical challenges that it reports to assist such as joint difficulties such as rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, coronary artery disease, and wound healing. It also purportedly assists with cognitive function. Additionally, in the 1930’s, cod liver oil’s optimal amounts of Vitamin D made it a popular supplement used to combat Rickets.
There are various studies to support the claims that have been made regarding cod liver oil. One completed in Germany included 43 patients who all had rheumatoid arthritis. These patients ingested 1 gram of cod liver oil daily for three months and researchers determined that the outcome was a reduction in participant’s joint stiffness.
Another study demonstrated that cod liver oil may be beneficial for those struggling with osteoarthritis. In this study, cod liver oil helped to reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis and was shown to be so helpful that some participants ended up not needing joint replacement. The study also showed that cod liver oil was able to reduce the amount of enzymes linked to pain and cartilage which was caused by osteoarthritis.
Cod liver oil provides an increase in Vitamin D, which is known to assist in fighting autoimmune disease, cancer, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and dental cavities, to name a few. It is also known to assist in combatting mood disorders. Vitamin D is included in most multivitamins and has a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 600 international Units (IU) for those 1-70 years of age and women that are pregnant or breastfeeding. The National Institute of Health suggests less than 10,000 IU to prevent Vitamin D toxicity. This is necessary to be aware of since cod liver oil is high in Vitamin D. To learn whether or not increasing your Vitamin D intake would be helpful for you, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
The people from Iceland have clearly been doing something right, to have the longevity and lifespan that they have demonstrated by including cod liver oil into their diet. As I traveled through Iceland, I also noticed that fish is the main protein source offered on menus. This doesn’t mean that other animal protein sources are not included, but between this, the mindfulness of diet, hot springs, and hiking, the people of Iceland have created a culture that support living a healthful life for their mind, body and soul.
- Wales Online (2014). Gran was right about cod liver oil. Wales Online, Retrieved on 07/28/2017 from http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/gran-right-cod-liver-oil-2449611
- Author Unknown (2002). Cod liver oil benefits confirmed. BBC News, Retrieved on 07/28/2017 from www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health.