Why I Get Midday Sun AND Take Cod Liver Oil

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist August 3, 2010

I have noticed that in recent years, confusion abounds when the topic of cod liver oil comes up.    On the one hand, you have highly respected and reputable organizations like The Weston A. Price Foundation that urges a daily supplement of cod liver oil as necessary for health.

On the other hand, you have Dr. Mercola and his very popular alternative health website which urges people not to take cod liver oil.  His primary reason?   He maintains that the vitamin A in the cod liver oil works antagonistically with the vitamin D in the oil preventing its optimal absorption.

Cod Liver Oil Still the Number One Superfood

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to read all sides of an argument before coming to any conclusions.   My conclusion after doing so is that Dr. Mercola is offbase on this one.    I have concluded that, without a doubt, a daily cod liver oil supplement is necessary for optimal health and that the vitamin A and D work synergistically, not antagonistically!  

But, not just any cod liver oil will do!   Oh no.  Like any supplement, how the oil is processed makes all the difference in the world!

To help clear up the confusion, Dr. Michael Teplitsky write a very clear, concise article about the benefits of cod liver oil that should set your mind at ease.    The article also explains the difference between 99% of the cod liver oils on the market that are high heat industrialized oils (this is manufacturing word-speak for DEAD) and the fermented cod liver oil purified with no heat from Green Pasture Products, a health giving supplement used for many centuries.

Incidentally, all the fish oils on the market are high heat industrialized oils too.    Green Pasture Products is the only fish oil – cod liver oil or otherwise – that I know of that is purified and extracted with absolutely no heat thereby preserving the delicate nutritional cofactors and the fragile, heat sensitive omega 3 fatty acids.

Bottom line?   If you agree that a daily fish oil supplement is important to health, Green Pasture Products’ cod liver oil or skate oil is really the only brand on the radar screen.  

What about Dr. Mercola’s krill oil that he markets on his website?   It is my understanding that he has not been completely forthcoming about how much vitamin A and D (if any) are in this product and, more importantly, the details of how it is processed.   Until then, this product is not an option for the savvy, health conscious consumer.

Ok, back to the main premise of this blog.   After all, the title of this blog is not whether or not to take cod liver oil, but why I get midday sun AND take a daily dose of it!

Sorry for the digression, I just thought it would be helpful to have a brief discussion of why this supplement is important in the first place.

Cod Liver Oil Recommendations Were Very Different Just a Few Years Ago

So, why do I take a daily dose of cod liver oil (Green Pasture Products brand, of course) AND get frequent doses of midday sun?  

To answer that question with any degree of sanity, I need to go back to when I first started taking cod liver oil in 2002.  At that time, the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) was recommending only a teaspoon of high vitamin cod liver oil on a daily basis.  The WAPF was the only organization out there at that time recommending cod liver oil – almost everyone else in alternative health related fields was on the fish oil bandwagon.

I had been taking fish oil since 1999, so it was an easy switch for me to start taking cod liver oil instead.    After all, cod liver oil offers the same valuable omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), but it also offers natural vitamins A and D which plain fish oil does not.

Green Pasture Products didn’t even exist then and the only high vitamin cod liver oil on the market was from Radiant Life in California.   This is the brand I took and I only consumed 1 tsp a day which for the Radiant Life brand, is only 1000 IU of vitamin D.

What’s more, I was careful to skip my dose of cod liver oil on days that I got midday sun.  This pattern of behavior on my part was based on an article on the WAPF website by Krispin Sullivan called Cod Liver Oil: The Number One Superfood.    In this article, Krispin Sullivan warns against getting sun and taking cod liver oil.   At that time, there just wasn’t much research out there about what happens to vitamin D levels when a person gets sun and takes cod liver oil, so I was cautious to not mix the two.

Cod Liver Oil AND Midday Sun:  Clearly the Way to Go


Fast forward to to this past Saturday where I got about 3 hours of late morning/midday Florida sun with NO sunscreen while doing a bunch of yard work.    Did I skip my dose of fermented cod liver oil for the day?

Nope.   I still took my daily dose of 1.5 tsp as usual which is about 4500 IU of vitamin D.

Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, that is a lot of vitamin D in a single day!”  That is true considering that I got about 20,000 IU of vitamin D from the sun exposure on my skin alone!  But, is it too much?   I don’t think so – not by a longshot.

Since 2002, much more has been learned about vitamin D and its optimal levels.   A lot of evidence has been gathered that getting sun and taking cod liver oil at the same time is not only not dangerous, but extremely beneficial.

For example, back in 2002, the optimal blood level of vitamin D using the 25(OH)D test was considered to be just 30-35 ng/ml.

This level has been shown to be far too low.    Current thinking is that anything less than 50 ng/ml is deficient! Optimal levels are currently considered to be 50-70 ng/ml and for those with cancer and heart disease (or any other autoimmune disorder), the levels should really be at 70-100 ng/ml.  

Why?  Because vitamin D essentially acts as a natural steroid hormone in the body and reduces inflammation in the body wherever it may be.  


Who needs to reduce inflammation?   Uh, that would be everyone.

These vitamin D ranges would have been considered dangerous just a few years ago just because so little was known about the incredibly powerful, health giving benefits of higher vitamin D levels.   We now know that higher is better and that to get into “overdose” range (above 100 ng/ml), you really would have to be taking prescription strength vitamin D drops or synthetic D2.

It seems virtually impossible to get into overdose levels using a whole food like cod liver oil.  In fact, such a case has never been reported the last time I searched for such an instance.

Getting vitamin D from the sun and from cod liver oil on a daily basis appears to have no downside whatsoever based on current research.

In fact, it seems a rather dangerous proposition to health to not get sun and take cod liver oil!

Research Shows Vitamin D from Food Not Enough

I know from years of taking cod liver oil that I personally have absolutely no chance of getting my blood levels into optimal range unless I get frequent doses of sun AND take fermented cod liver oil on a daily basis.

Cod liver oil on its own won’t cut it in most cases.   You need the sun too.

Dr. Reinhold Vieth of the Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto cites 3 studies in a letter to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that show that maintaining even a deficiency vitamin D blood level of 32 ng/ml requires 4000 IU of vitamin D per day!

4000 IU vitamin D is about 1.5 tsp of fermented cod liver oil per day!   That amount will only maintain your vitamin D at deficiency levels?   If that doesn’t tell you to get some sun along with your daily CLO dose, I’m not sure what will!  

It seems Nature knows what She is doing.    20,000 IU of vitamin D from a safe, sensible interlude in the midday sun with no sunscreen doesn’t really seem like too much after all!   It’s exactly what we need for vibrant health!

If you think about it, this approach makes perfect sense.   Traditional peoples in the tropics got plenty of sun on a daily basis and still ate plenty of vitamin D rich foods.    It seems that building up vitamin D levels quite high in the warm months to take you through the winter months when you don’t get much or any sun (but still consume cod liver oil and other vitamin D rich foods) is the way to go.  

An ebb and flow in your vitamin D levels seems natural and to stay in optimal range (50-70 ng/ml) all year round requires building to the upper end of the spectrum (70 ng/ml) in the summer and then falling back to around 50 ng/ml in the winter when sun exposure is minimal.

If you have any concern about taking cod liver oil and sensible, nonburning sun exposure (midday is best when the vitamin D rays are at their peak), I would strongly advise investing in the inexpensive, home vitamin D test after 90 days of actively seeking midday sun exposure and continue taking your daily fermented cod liver oil supplement.     It takes a few months for vitamin D levels to rise which is why you need to wait awhile to take the test after you start getting sun exposure along with your daily cod liver oil.

Hopefully, I have convinced you in this post that it is really best to get sensible, midday sun exposure during the warm summer months while still consuming your daily cod liver oil supplement.

If you have any doubts, do both for 90 days and then order this inexpensive, finger pin prick  home vitamin D test (you don’t even need a prescription to order one).   I have yet to see or hear of anyone getting above 70 ng/ml (or anywhere close) with regular sun exposure and cod liver oil together.    The danger of not getting your vitamin D levels into this optimal range are far more serious!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

*This post is shared at Real Food WednesdaysSlightly Indulgent Tuesdays, $5 Dinners, and  Two for Tuesdays

Picture Credit

 

Comments (42)

  1. I as just listening to Green Pasture’s description of the levels of D in FCLO (http://www.greenpasture.org/public/FAQ/). Mr. Wetzel describes that many types of Vit D are present, but mostly D2. For those of us who are D3 deficient, wouldn’t it be necessary to increase D3 via supplements or other means versus by FCLO?
    Thank you!

    Reply
  2. It’s been a few years since you write this article and I was curious to see if anything has changed regarding your routine. Just how much cod liver oil do you take now? What are are your thoughts on taking it with butter oil? I ask because I am using it in my homemade raw milk formula and will be adding butter oil (as soon as it arrives). Fortunately, I have been using Green Pasture’s. It happened to be one of those choices in life where you only end up finding out later that is was the best choice. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Welcome to the Primal Backpacker | The Primal Backpacker

  4. Sarah, Can you tell me if you know of a site to buy the recommended Home test for Vitamin D? The links you have provided go no where now, as this article was posted nearly 2./2 years ago. Any follow up links? Thanks, Janet

    Reply
  5. If you are going to cite someone’s research please give references for those that you are citing so we may verify your data. As far as I can see you haven’t done any of your own research and haven’t given the information necessary to verify any of your sources. So basically with out any documented reputable proof there is absolutely no basis for anything you are stating.

    Reply
  6. Hi Sarah,

    Our pediatrician strongly recommends giving our son a vitamin D supplement. He’s three months old. Is this necessary? How can I ensure that he gets enough vitamin D without exposing him to too much sun? We live in Virginia and typically go for a walk outside everyday, with him in a front carrier. I’m also breastfeeding.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Excellant article, I recently purchased the Green Pastures combo of fermented CLO + butter oil and the dosage is 1/2 teaspooon but what is the proper daily dosage for an adult?

    Reply
  8. Thanks for the great info.nim curious would you recommend taking clo to someone who lives in the tropics where it is sunny year round?

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Yes, I personally would take it even if I lived in the tropics (I am subtropical as it is and get vitamin D and sun pretty much year round anyway) because Dr. Price found that even tropical cultures consumed vitamin D at levels 10X Americans of his day (1920′s and 1930′s). It would be very hard to consume vitamin D at the levels of traditional cultures without cod liver oil UNLESS you eat liver a few times each week in which case, you don’t really need it.
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist\’s last post: Monday Mania 5-30-2011

      Reply
  9. Hi Sarah,
    Great post that I completely agree with.

    I have the same question as Karen Homer posted above. What about those of us who live in the far north(I’m in Alaska)? How can we keep our D levels up when up here sun exposure really doesn’t help boost levels. Last summer even with as much sun exposure as I could get(we did have a fairly wet summer) I still had low Vitamin D levels(18 in August). So for those of us that aren’t down south, what do you suggest? 4,000IU’s a day from cod liver oil is not going to sufficiently keep our levels high enough.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Sam, not easy where you are. You will have to eat a lot if D in the diet as the Eskimos did who ate about 80% of their diet as animal fat. Fish eggs are loaded with D (17,000 IU per teaspoon) which is a bit less than a good dose of midday sun here in FL. I would add roe to your diet as well as liver which is also very high in D.

      Reply
  10. Thank you so much for the advice on the vitamin D home test. I have been supplementing for about a year and have been on and off because it is hard for me to get to the Doc regularly for testing with my lack of insurance. Yay! I will get some today for my family, and am now convinced that fermented oil would be better than our beta-carotene and D3. Thanks again!
    Heather

    Reply
  11. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist September 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Hi Teresa, I take the liquid for 2 reasons. It is more cheaper per dose and also because to get a decent dose with capsules you would have to take about 8 capsules per day. It's much easier to just take it off the spoon. Glad you are enjoying the videos!! I owe my figure to one thing and that is ample amount of BUTTER in my diet. Without my beloved butter, I would eat far too much sugar and, at my age, would put on 20 lbs before I could even blink.

    Reply
  12. Sarah,
    I noticed on video that you take the liquid instead of capsules, Not sure if my husband would take that. Is there a difference in price or strength? i would like to save money but not if my husband won't take it. i probably could..i am new to all this and absolutly love your site. I did your kombucha by your video. can't wait. I love all your videos.(you are so thin like I want to be)Thanks, teresa

    Reply
  13. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist September 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Hi Anonymous … I haven't seen Kelly's blog but she could be talking about another brand OR Green Pastures OLD Blue Ice that was NON fermented where 1 tsp DID have only 500 IU of Vit D. The Fermented is much stronger, hence the numbers I discuss above. I myself take 1.3 tsp a day to get 4000 IU of vit D which is maintence level. Please see my CLO 101 video posted today that shows you how much to take visually.

    Reply
  14. Hi Sarah-At KellytheKitchenKop, she has an article on FCLO that states that 1/2 tsp contains 500 IU of Vitamin D, but in your blog above, you state that 1 1/2 tsp contains 4000 IU Vitamin D…??? Just wondering about the difference there and wanting to ask your opinion on how much to actually take. Green Pastures recommends 1/2 tsp, but I've been taking 1 tsp, as I have had some anxiety/OCD issues I've dealt with recently. I actually can tell a difference, as it seems to have a "calming" effect, but now I'm wondering if I should be taking even more? What do you think?

    Reply
  15. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist August 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Kari, glad you found me! All the FCLO flavors take some getting used to, but my family and most others in my experience seem to go for the cinnamon as the best.

    Reply
  16. Hi Sarah! I just stumbled onto your blog from Pennywise Platter. I am learning so much! Do you have any advice on which CLO flavor would be easiest to get my picky kids to take? I might be able to reason with my 9 year old, but I have a very obstinate 3 year old and I can only imagine the battles I might face.

    Thanks!
    Kari

    Reply
  17. rebecca (cauldrons and crockpots) August 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    Since I moved to Southern California a decade ago, I've notice a huge difference from taking CLO– I no longer BURN!!! So I actually take more during the summer because I just go this lovely brown colour instead of the lobster red I used to :).

    By the way I heard a lecture by a naturopath who said he never uses krill oil anymore, because he's just seen it to be so ineffective so many times.

    Reply
  18. Hi Sarah, maybe you can clear something up. I live in the UK where we only get enough sun for vitamin D production for about 4 months of the year. I KNOW I am Vit D deficient as was diagnosed by my doctor who recommended supplements. I take Green Pastures cod-liver oil or clo/butter oil blend, 2 caps per day as bottle suggests but am still breast-feeding my daughter (2 and months) and presume she is vit d deficient too. Obv we go in sun when it DOES come out! Should I take more caps?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Ok, thanks Sarah. I am going to get some cod liver oil (the brand you recommended) and get more midday sun being careful not to burn. After a few months I'll get my level checked again. I'll let you know the result! Thnaks again!

    Reply
  20. Sarah! This is a wonderful article and I will be sharing it on my Thoughts on Friday link love post! Very cool! Thanks for sharing it on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! :) alex@amoderatelife

    Reply
  21. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist August 4, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Beth, sun early and late in the day is ineffective at raising vitamin D levels. You need it from 10am – 3pm to get the best benefits (in Florida – the window is smaller the further north you go). Melanoma is not linked to sun exposure – this if a fallacy. The melanoma rate is higher the further north you go!! The more sun you get the LOWER your chances of melanoma. Other skin cancers are mild and easily treated and really are related to SUNBURN. If you get midday sun without burning (very short if you are fairskinned – even 5-10 minutes is fine if that's all you can take) you do not have to worry about skin cancer.

    Diet is really more related to skin cancer than anything else. If you eat healthy fats then your skin cells are composed of saturated fat in the cell membranes. If the skin cells are composed of factory fats like most Americans who eat processed foods, then skin cancer is much more likely even with NO sunburning!

    Reply
    • I know this entry is from awhile ago, but would you share your sources on this? (Aside from the WAPF) I’d love to read more from a variety of sources, as I’ve always burned easily, recently learned not to use chemical-laden sunblocks, but am still not convinced about the safety of sitting in the sun.

      Reply
  22. Hi Sarah,
    I have been a reader for awhile and just came over to get some information about vitamin D. I am pregnant and had my vitamin D levels checked mostly out of curiosity. I thought they would be high since like you I live in Florida and make an effort to get ouside daily but it came back at just 35. What I have not been able to find any conversation about or information on is how to balance the risk of skin cancer and the benefit of vitamin D. Can I ask you what your take on this is? I stick to early or late sun just for this reason and stay covered during the middle of the day. My children are yound and very very fair skinned so I worry about them too. Any thoughts on this would be helpful!
    Thanks for putting this information out here.
    Beth

    Reply
  23. Butterpoweredbike August 4, 2010 at 3:59 am

    This breaks my heart a little because just this week, they are pumping my mother, who has osteoporosis, with Reclast and are telling her to take doses of synthetic vitamin D. They have her so convinced that she can get what she needs from pills that I can't even get her to consider spending 10 minutes in the sun to up her vit D. Thank you for bringing this informative post to Two for Tuesday.

    Reply
  24. Hooray for the glorious sun! Whenever a conversation turns to what's the best sunscreen, I always boast that I use an all-natural sunscreen, and that it's a traditional one used effectively for thousands of years, at least. When I have people's attention, and they're ready to hear about whatever magic herbal ointment I'm going to describe, I let it out: "It's called a hat."

    Reply
  25. What an informative, thoughtful post! This is something I've never looked into…thanks so much for sharing with us at Two for Tuesdays this week =)

    Reply
  26. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist August 3, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Welcome Jean! So glad you clicked over from Katie's space – hope you find the info here helpful in your wellness adventure!

    Reply
  27. I just stumbled upon your website while reading kitchen stewardship! The article on vitamin D and cod liver oil could not be more welcome! I, too have been concerned about Dr Mercola's recent comments as to whether to go on taking Cod Liver Oil. I belong to WAPF and so I have continued to take CLO while spending at least 20 minutes in the sun here in Calif in the summer. I spend time in Fl in the winter and stay brown but my D levels were still low. I am taking D3 at 4000 a day hoping to get levels up
    It is so great to find your site and I will look forward to lots of good info from you Jean

    Reply
  28. I loved this post – I am always promoting sun without sunscreen and I get all sorts of flack. I ordered some of the CLO from Green Pastures today! Thanks for linking it to Two for Tuesdays.

    Reply
  29. Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist August 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Great question .. I think Dr. Mercola pushes his own product at the exclusion of reason sometimes. I think his stance on cod liver oil is primarily to boost the sales of his competing product krill oil. Why doesn't he promote Green Pastures brand? He says he is also concerned about sustainability for cod as one of the reasons, then why not promote Green Pastures brand skate oil instead? Because he doesn't make any money on it.

    I agree with him on so many things and it seems the things we agree on are the same things that he doesn't make a buck on. I could be completely wrong here, but I am dubious of his opinion where he has a product involved. Selling product in and of itself is no problem, but I have seen a pattern over the years with him that where he sells a product – it seems to skew his opinion.

    Reply
  30. Hi, Sarah. I've been following your blog for a while now, and I've got a question for you. Why do you trust Dr. Mercola on so many things even though he has not been "completely forthcoming" on this front? Do you ever worry that he may not be sharing the full picture on other topics as well?

    Reply
  31. Paul, The Uber Noob August 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Good post, Sarah.
    That Green Pasture's combo of fermented CLO + butter oil with a little cinnamon flavor is actually tolerable.

    Reply
  32. Sarah,
    thanks so much for this post!!! I've been wondering about this question myself and have actually skipped my CLO on days I'm going to be in the sun very much. I really didn't know how to go about researching it, so I appreciate you taking the time to research it and report. I do have a question–do you ever take or what are your thoughts about Flax seed oil and Evening Primrose Oil? I know they are different from Cod Liver oil. Do they have a needed place in our diets too?

    Reply
  33. Sarah – I totally agree with all you have said here, great post and there is so much useful information here. I believe that most of mainstream information about Vitamin D is so short sighted because most of what we eat is synthetic, and medical authorities are always cautioning against taking too much Vitamin D because those synthetic versions are dangerous, period.

    Synthetic Vitamin D is prescribed or recommended for patients because their natural Vitamin D sources are either so low or completely non-existent. Anyone who takes the synthetic version of any nutrient is going to run into problems sooner or later.

    It is very common for people to try and quantify how much of this or that we should be getting daily – such as in fat, calories, or cholesterol, but for some reason there is much less emphasis on how much of various vitamins and minerals we should get daily, and everything we read in the media is always on the "minimum requirement" scale, which as you pointed out is way too low.

    So yes, like you, I take my fermented cod liver oil daily, whether I am getting sun or not, because it's natural and won't cause toxic reactions in my body like synthetic vitamin supplements and foods that are fortified with Vitamin D like pasteurized milk. I only learned this about 3 years ago, so I think I'm still building up stores in my body from years of neglect.

    I actually know someone who never burns when she is out in the sun and eats a very processed diet, and on more than one occasion she has pointed out that I eat healthy food most of the time and I still do burn on occasion, but she is the opposite. Although I cannot explain this phenomenon, I still believe it is much better to receive nutrients from natural sources than to be deficient and hope for the best with processed foods.

    Reply

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