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When I first began implementing the principles of traditional diets in my home nearly 15 years ago, it was not something that was on very many people’s radar. Since that time, interest has exploded across the globe with a growing number of people ecstatically rediscovering the power of ancestral foods and preparation methods to support health and wellness in a fashion unequaled by any other dietary approach.
The one glaring drawback with the traditional foods renaissance is the limited amount of testing that has been done to date to reinforce the historical and anecdotal evidence of benefits that devotees claim to experience when consuming these foods.
This has sometimes caused confusion regarding which traditional foods are most optimal or even truly authentic. The recent controversy surrounding fermented cod liver oil is a prime example. A single group of limited tests has the potential to upset a lot of people causing them to jump to conclusions that are clarified when further and more comprehensive testing is conducted.
Such is the case with the claim that testing found trans fat in fermented cod liver oil leading to unfounded speculation that it was being diluted with rancid, cheap vegetable oil.
What Exactly are Trans Fats?
Trans fat is a term that strikes fear in the hearts of many health-conscious people.
Beginning in January 2008, the FDA required that trans fats be included on food labels based on the conclusion of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2005 that there is no safe level of trans fats in the diet.
Trans fats are artificially synthesized, aka factory fats, created by the highly industrialized, chemical process of partial hydrogenation. This is why trans fats are sometimes referred to as partially hydrogenated fats.
The list of ailments associated with consumption of man-made trans fats are many:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Auto-Immune Disorders
- Degeneration of bones and tendons
- Heart Disease
While the FDA was spot on to require labeling of trans fats in processed foods which has encouraged a rapid reduction in the amount people consume, there is one caveat that most people do not know about trans fats: Not all are created equal.
Natural Trans Fats in Traditional Foods
It is not well known that there are small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in healthy, traditional foods like butter, cream, and grass-fed meat.
Unfortunately, federal labeling and some lab testing for trans fats do not distinguish between a naturally occurring trans fat and the artificially synthesized, factory fat kind.
The fact is that the trans fat in animal foods is completely different chemically speaking than the factory produced trans fats in processed foods.
Naturally occurring trans fat is actually trans vaccenic acid (VA) and is used by humans to synthesize conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is highly beneficial for losing weight and building muscle mass.
CLA can reduce risk factors for the Big Three of degenerative disease: obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Trans Fat in Cod Liver Oil
Recent testing of fermented cod liver oil along with several other brands of regular cod liver oil revealed the truth surrounding this controversy. The results of these independent tests were revealed at the Wise Traditions International Conference.
The labs selected by the Weston A. Price Foundation to conduct its traditional food testing qualify as independent given that the following are true:
- The lab has been accredited for various types of testing by an official accreditation body such as the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) or the American Association of Clinical Chemists (AACC).
- The lab can be a private or research lab associated with a university.
- Uses testing procedures are approved by the AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Chemists).
- The lab provides an official report of the test results that include the name and logo of the lab, the name of the person or organization requesting the test, the name of the product tested, and the date and the person responsible for the testing. The official testing report is a legal document that can hold up in a court of law.
Independent lab tests have now revealed that there is naturally occurring trans fat in every single cod liver oil brand that was tested, not just fermented cod liver oil as incorrectly claimed.
Further, the trans fat found in cod liver oil is not the factory synthesized kind which would indicate some sort of product tampering, but instead, the beneficial type also found in butter, cream, and meat fats. Naturally occurring trans fat is used metabolically by the human body to synthesize beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
The cod liver oil brands independently tested that all contained small amounts of natural trans fats included:
- Nature’s Answer Liquid Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
- Nordic Naturals
- Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil
- Nutra Pro Virgin Cod Liver Oil
- Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil
These natural trans fats present in all these cod liver oil brands are created by the bacteria and fungi that the fish eat (1). The process is similar to the small amounts of trans fats found in butter, cream, and grass-fed meat that are created by the grazing animal’s gut flora (2).
So, should you be concerned that there is a small amount of trans fat in your cod liver oil?
No, in fact, you should be excited, because the beneficial isomers of natural trans fat can be used metabolically by your body to help you lose weight and build muscle mass. Of course, this good news is not permission to overdo. A naturopath friend of mine recommends a teaspoon a day for adults and a half teaspoon per day for children under 12.
Click here to check out the full line of cod liver oil that my family took with great results from 2007-2015.
Since 2015, we’ve taken this brand of high vitamin cod liver oil as it is sourced from cleaner waters in Iceland.
Hook, Line, and THINKER: Adding Context to the Negative Report on Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Response to Dr. Daniel’s Report on Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Guess What? You’re Likely Still Eating Trans Fats (the Bad Kind)
Questions and Answers about Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Weighing in on Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Doctor’s Orders: Why Your Family Needs Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Fermented Cod Liver Oil: Myths and Truths of an Ancient Superfood
Fermented Cod Liver Oil 101 (plus Video How-to)
The Best Way to Swallow Cod Liver Oil
Sarah (and readers) – You might find this Youtube documentary on the whole FCLO scandal issue useful. It covers a lot of information in a relatively short time (30mins) and explains things pretty well. It covers a whole host of lab report and research, and is pretty thorough.
Sarah, just because a science or study can back up the safety of a certain area in a product, it does not mean that every component in the product has been carefully studied and shown to be safe for consumption. In addition, if there are people being negatively affected by a product, then we need to look deeper into all areas of that product to find out why the product is not doing well for certain people. Also, there is science to back up the safety of a lot of things even to the point where there are contradictions to different studies regarding the safety for a certain product, like GMOs and vaccines, depending on which labs the research and study is being done in and what are the motives behind the research and study.
I feel like the concerns of those of us who have not done well with the fermented cod liver oil are being swept under the rug very quickly. And according to what I have read in the comments of various articles and posts regarding the fermented cod liver oil issue, it does not sound like only very few have concerns with the fermented cod liver oil. Also, not every person has voiced their concerns regarding the fermented cod liver oil on the internet for fear of being trampled on and their experience being counted as rubbish or nothing among other reasons.
My husband has had negative experiences with the fermented cod liver oil, such as burping nearly every time he took it and almost to the point of vomiting as well as a burning sensation in his throat, and one time very severe burning in his throat for at least an hour to where we were wondering whether or not he would need to go to the emergency room. I would like to know why he did not do well on the fermented cod liver oil just as others would like to know why they had their own negative experiences with the fermented cod liver oil as well. If there can be further research and study to find out the full safety of the fermented cod liver oil, then that would be wonderful.
A lot of people don’t do well on fermented foods in general due to gut issues that need to be resolved first. There isn’t a rampage and accusations that fermented foods are dangerous and that they should be banned is there? No, if something doesn’t work for you, don’t take it … there are four other brands listed under the “Best” category by the Weston Price Foundation … just choose another.
My husband does not have histamine intolerances or seafood/fish allergies that we are aware of. He does fine on foods high histamines, such as sardines and sauerkraut. He also does well on seafood and fish. I would like for the WAPF to do extensive study in regards to why a lot of people have not done well on the fermented cod liver oil rather than to guess and assume without fully knowing for sure and to waste a lot of time and money trying to defend the safety of the fermented cod liver oil when clearly there have been a lot of people who have not done well on it.
Great post! When I was transitioning into a traditional diet I had some fall backs. If I ate chips or something with factory trans fats, I would feel sick in a particular and consistent manner. I never felt that way after taking appropriate amounts of FCLO and I continue to take it!
Your effort to resurrect the reputation FCLO seems almost obsessive. What is the root of your vehemence?
I wouldn’t call addressing rumors with facts “vehemence” 🙂 It’s called “setting the record straight” for a company that deserves better than what it’s been getting from Dr. Daniel and others. Fortunately, most people appear to have not taken the report to heart especially once one article after another which seriously questioned Dr. Daniel’s shaky conclusions starting coming out from Chris Masterjohn, Chris Kresser, and others (links above).
Resurrect the reputation? Green Pastures was subjected to a SMEAR campaign. Are you part of the smear? Or are you interested in paying attention to the facts as presented by WAPF and others who are knowledgeable and able to find the truth concealed in Daniel’s diatribe. Those of us who are users of FCLO are not going to sit idly by as obsessive detractors destroy a company’s reputation and push its products out of the marketplace.
What were the amounts in the different oils? How much is typically found in butter, meat, etc?
The exact test results are in the process of being loaded onto the Weston Price website. When they are available, I will post a link and you can review the findings with the exact lab report (without the name blacked out!).
Thanks for this post! I like how simply and directly you were able to address concerns that have been floating around lately. I knew there were some naturally occurring trans fats and your post made it clear that my hunch was right. Thanks again!
Thank you for this good information on the CFLO. IT seems to me that Dr Daniels is on some sort of witch hunt. Since she was let go from WAPF she seems to be trying to discount everything and also the people surrounding WAPF. I am not longer reading her articles and wont listen to her lies. I appreciate that you are clear and state facts and do not get defensive or angry. Thank you very much!!
What proof do we have to say that Dr. Kaayla Daniel has intentions to lie and that she is on a witch hunt? How can we simply accuse people of being such and such or doing such and such, throwing around condescending remarks and accusations on the internet, without going to the actual person personally in the first place, understanding their intentions, and looking at both sides of the issue with an open mind? May we not be too quick in our own assumptions, and actually go to the person we might have issues with and resolve the issues with them. And may we show each other love, compassion, and understanding regardless of what we say or do with no condemnation, shunning, division.
Hi Erica, I am wondering if you read Dr. Daniel’s report? What struck me the most about it was the unprofessional tone and the frequent diversions from actual facts to personal jabs at those who disagree with her. That combined with her repeated spreading of misinformation about fermented cod liver oil including her unfounded assertion that it is diluted with rancid vegetable oil which has now been shown to be false. Such words and actions seem a deliberate, calculated and intentional attempt to gain profitable notoriety at the expense of a hard working family farm without complete information. Also, she never bothered to test the cod liver oil brand she suggests as the best alternative to FCLO which has now been shown to contain natural transfats too (along with 3 other top quality brands). If she had done her homework upfront, all of this ruckus could have been avoided and all of us would have learned in a peaceful and constructive manner more about the composition of cod liver oil without damaging the reputation of a company that has worked hard for many years to serve our community.
I understand where you and Lydia are coming from as I have at times judged a particular writing based on its tone and sometimes would be so focused on the tone that I would overlook the content of the particular writing and why the author had that particular tone in the first place. I also understand where Dr. Kaayla Daniel is coming from as well.
Dr. Kaayla Daniel indeed did not sound too happy in her fermented cod liver oil report, yet who would sound happy if they see that a certain popular product could be found potentially damaging to many people when they previously recommended it themself, taken it themself, given it to their children, recommended it to populations of people more susceptible to illness, such as babies, the elderly, those with weaker immune systems, and so on? There is no doubt that a lot of us will be upset, and understandably so, if we see that we were consuming and giving to our families a potentially damaging product. She also did not sound too happy regarding her concerns not being taken very seriously in the first place prior to her own investigation of the fermented cod liver oil and the writing of her report, and I understand that as well.
I also understand that this tone, depending on our own interpretations of her report, can cause some of us to be upset with certain people rather than just the product itself if we tend to blame others and get upset with them in which wouldn’t be beneficial since being upset with a person will not solve anything and is destructive. And this upsetness towards others is vain when we realize that all of us are capable of making mistakes and are capable of falling due to lack of knowledge and understanding in certain areas.
Regarding being professional as far as writing is concerned, I consider a professional writer as someone who is not robotic in their tone and shows emotion and liveliness in their writing, one who writes how they truly feel whether or not others agree and doesn’t hide behind a mask.
Regarding the fermented cod liver oil issue, I consider it not only important to listen to the voices of the people who have stated that they have done well with the fermented cod liver oil or haven’t seen any positive or negative results while taking it, but also important to listen to the voices of the people who have stated that they have not done well while taking the fermented cod liver oil and improved health wise when they stopped consuming it. All people matter. Every voice matters.
Hi Erica, at this point with this newest lab testing, Dr. Daniel’s report has been refuted. The tone is indicative of the motive … not to get at the truth, but to harm and do damage. The report is a piece of sensationalism, not real science. I am glad to put it to bed and move on as most of the people who have contacted me about it also feel. Very few are still in the “the report is a valid piece of science” camp anymore.
lesley from kent
Thanks for the explanation – clear and succinct. I will continue to take CLO (fermented when I can get it – difficult in the UK) without worrying.
Glad I didn’t stop taking FCLO with all the craziness going on especially with flu season here. Much ado about nothing!