Giving Cod Liver Oil to Kids - Is It Safe, Benefits and Dosages

Cod Liver Oil for Kids – Benefits, Side Effects and How to Give?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

As parents, you try your best to give your kids a healthy and nutritious diet for optimal growth and development. However, sometimes due to various reasons, your kid may not get sufficient amounts of particular nutrients through diet alone. Under such circumstances, you may consider opting for various ways of providing nutrition to your kid, and cod liver oil may be one such option to consider. If you are pondering over giving cod liver oil to your kid, you should read this article to know more about cod liver oil for kids and its use.

What Is Cod Liver Oil?

Derived from the liver of codfish, cod liver oil represents a natural wellspring of essential nutrients, including vitamins A and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) (1). Cod, a member of the Gadus genus, serves as the organic source of these valuable components.

The classification of cod liver oil is contingent upon its extraction and processing techniques, resulting in two distinct types:

  1. Regular Cod Liver Oil: Extracted and refined at elevated temperatures, this variant undergoes processing with the subsequent addition of synthetic vitamins. Often available in supplement form, it is produced through a high-temperature process.
  2. Fermented Cod Liver Oil: Distinguished by its extraction without heat and a fermentation period lasting 6-12 months, this natural product is consumed as a food item. Unlike its regularly processed counterpart, fermented cod liver oil is taken in its pure form.

Cod liver oil is conveniently accessible in both liquid and capsule formats, each boasting a composition that includes 10% EPA and 10% DHA (2). This balanced profile emphasizes its nutritional merit and emphasizes its significance as a health-promoting supplement. It is noteworthy that fermented cod liver oils are created by fermenting the cod liver itself, rather than the oil extracted from it. Additionally, these oils are fortified with health-enhancing elements, such as antioxidants, further contributing to their overall nutritional value (3).

Nutritional Value of Cod Liver Oil

The following table shows the nutrition your child may get by consuming cod liver oil. These values are the approximate values present in 4.5 grams or one teaspoon of cod liver oil.

Nutrients Values
Monounsaturated fatty acids 2.100 g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 1.01 g
Saturated fatty acids 1.02 g
Cholesterol 25.6 mg
Vitamin A, IU 4,500 IU
Retinol 1350 µg
Vitamin A, RAE 1350 µg
Vitamin D 450 IU
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) 11.2 µg
Energy 40.6 kcal

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173577/nutrients

Sometimes, supplements that we deem healthy and safe for adults may not be safe for kids to consume. So, is cod liver oil safe for kids to consume? Let’s find out.

Is It Safe to Give Cod Liver Oil to Children?

Cod liver oil has many health benefits for kids; however, you should only give it to your kid after a paediatrician has prescribed it. Babies who are still on breast milk can derive its benefits if the mother takes cod liver oil when she needs the supplements too.

Wondering why you should give this miraculous oil to your child? Read on to know the benefits of cod liver oil.

Benefits of Cod Liver Oil for Kids

Here are some of the benefits your baby would gain by consuming prescribed cod liver oil.

1. A Good Source of Vitamin D

Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D, and regular usage may help in the proper development of bones in children (4).

2. Helps in Reducing the Risk of Type 1 Diabetes in Kids

The cases of type 1 diabetes in children are on the rise. Various studies have indicated that early administration of this oil in kids can help in reducing the chances of type 1 diabetes in kids. The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids may help in preventing type 1 diabetes in children (5).

3. Aids Proper Brain Development

The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in this oil is beneficial for the development of your child’s brain. It is also seen that if this oil is administered during infancy or the last trimester of pregnancy, it may play an important role in the optimal brain development of the baby.

4. Helps in Strengthening the Immune System

Young kids are prone to falling sick during the changing seasons. This wondrous oil has various immunity-boosting qualities and thus helps your kid’s body fight against various viral and bacterial infections by strengthening the immune system.

5. Helps in Treating Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

This oil has been proven to have immense benefits in reducing the risk of various upper respiratory tract (URT) infections (6). Therefore, kids who consume cod liver oil regularly pay fewer visits to their doctor for the treatment of URT infections.

6. Beneficial for Eye Health

Cod liver oil is extremely beneficial in maintaining good eye health of the kids. The substantial amount of vitamin A in cod liver oil is not only good for a healthy vision, but the presence of anti-oxidants is also beneficial in reducing the risks of eye problems like glaucoma (7). The omega-3 fatty acids help improve blood circulation to the eyes, thus contributing towards the health of your little one’s precious eyes.

7. Keeps Depression at Bay

Cod liver oil is not only beneficial for physical health, but it is very helpful for improving mental health too. It is observed that a regular intake of this oil may reduce the chances of depression by 30 percent.

8. Beneficial In Treating Stomach Ulcers

When taken in appropriate dosages, cod liver oil could aid in the healing of gut and stomach ulcers in kids.

9. Supports Healthy Skin Conditions

Cod liver oil’s rich content of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A contributes to maintaining optimal skin health in children. The combination of these nutrients may help alleviate skin issues and promote a clear complexion, fostering overall dermatological well-being.

So, how much cod liver oil should your little one consume? Well, since cold liver oil is supposed to be given to kids without a paediatrician’s prescription, if your child is prescribed the supplement, you should stick to the dosages advised by the doctor. The next section will help you understand what the dosages could be like.

Cod Liver Oil Dosages for Children

Here is the dosage of cod liver oil for babies and kids that a paediatrician is most likely to prescribe –

  • For Infants: ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the oil on a regular basis.
  • For Older Children: 1 to 2 teaspoons of cod liver oil to kids depending on their age and vitamin D requirements.

Apart from the benefits, cod liver oil also has some side-effects that you must be aware of. Let’s look at what they are.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns of Cod Liver for Children

Exploring the potential drawbacks of cod liver oil supplementation for children, this section delves into the side effects and safety concerns associated with this popular nutritional supplement. Understanding these considerations is crucial for parents and caregivers to make informed decisions regarding its usage and ensure the well-being of young ones.

1. High Amounts of Vitamin A

This oil is a rich source of vitamin A and consuming more than the required amounts of vitamin A may lead to various health complications such as double vision, softening of the skull bones, pain in the bones, poor weight gain, etc.

2. High Amounts of Vitamin D

The substantial amounts of vitamin D in this oil may sometimes lead to various complications such as rapid heartbeat, dry skin, dry mouth, lack of urination, etc.

3. May Cause Gastric Disturbance

Taking this oil supplement may sometimes lead to heartburn, nauseastomach ache, bloating, etc.

4. Weird Aftertaste

Cod liver oil has a peculiar taste, and most children do not like it. It may leave a very weird aftertaste that may make your kid feel nauseous.

5. It Has Anticoagulant Properties

This oil contains anticoagulant or blood-thinning properties and may cause the risk of excessive bleeding after an injury.

6. Mercury/ Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Contamination

There is a risk of mercury or PCB contamination due to high levels of mercury and other toxins in cod liver oil. The supplement, thus, needs to be taken with caution as it may affect the growth of your baby severely.

7. Potential Allergic Reactions

Some children may be allergic to components present in cod liver oil, leading to allergic reactions such as itching, swelling, rash, or difficulty breathing. It is crucial to monitor for any signs of allergy and seek medical attention if they occur.

8. Interference With Blood Sugar Levels

Cod liver oil may interact with medications or conditions related to blood sugar regulation. Children with diabetes or those taking medications to manage blood sugar levels should exercise caution, as the oil may interfere with these medications, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Therefore, before you opt for this supplement for your kid, you should discuss all the pros and cons with a paediatrician, and only then decide whether you want to give it to your baby. When you are rest assured that cod liver oil will only benefit your baby’s health, you may follow one or more of the tips given in the next section of the article to administer the supplement to your little one.

How to Give Cod Liver Oil to a Child?

As discussed above, cod liver oil has a very strong and peculiar aftertaste that your kid may not like; therefore, you may administer this oil in the following ways:

1. Giving Cod Liver Oil to a Baby

Here are some ways of giving cod liver oil to babies:

  • You may take the required dosage of any cod liver oil such as seven seas cod liver oil for babies, in a sterilised syringe and pour the oil at the back of the mouth of your baby. This way, your baby may not get the bad aftertaste because there are fewer taste buds at the back of the mouth.
  • Alternatively, you may mix the oil in the expressed breast milk and give it to your baby.

2. Giving Cod Liver Oil to Older Children

Here are some ways you can give cod liver oil to older children:

  • If your child can take capsules, you may give him capsules.
  • You may try chewable cod liver oil capsules for kids.
  • You may try flavoured capsules.
  • You may mix the oil in some fruit juice or a smoothie.
  • You may blend it in some maple syrup or honey.

FAQs

1. Can Cod Liver Oil Interact With Any Medications That Children May Take?

Cod liver oil may interact with certain medications, especially those related to blood clotting or blood sugar regulation. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before introducing cod liver oil if a child is taking any medications to ensure there are no adverse interactions.

2. Do the Benefits of Cod Liver Oil Vary Between Infants and Older Children?

The benefits of cod liver oil can vary between infants and older children. In infants, cod liver oil, if administered during the last trimester of pregnancy or infancy, may contribute to optimal brain development. For older children, the oil’s omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and other nutrients support various aspects of health, including immune system function, cognitive development, and skin health. The specific benefits may differ based on the child’s age and developmental stage.

There are many upsides for cod liver oil for babies and kids. However, you should refrain from giving this supplement without the prescription of a paediatrician. This is because the oil contains high amounts of vitamins A and D, which may lead to various health complications in babies and children. Therefore, whether it is fermented cod liver oil or any other kind of cod liver oil that you wish to give to your kid, we strongly recommend that you get your doctor’s permission before doing so. This will guarantee appropriate dosages that will aid your little one’s health and development.

References/Resources:

1. Griffing. G; Mother Was Right About Cod Liver Oil (The Medscape Journal of Medicine; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2258476/; January 2008  

2. Cleland. L, James. M, Proudman. S; Fish oil: what the prescriber needs to know (Arthritis Research & Therapy); National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1526555/; December 2005

3. Fermentation: Enhancing favourable health properties of cod liver oils; Research Outreach; https://researchoutreach.org/articles/fermentation-enhancing-favourable-health-properties-cod-liver-oils/

4. Wagner. C, Greer. F; Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants, Children, and Adolescents (Pediatrics); American Academy of Pediatrics; https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/122/5/1142/71470/Prevention-of-Rickets-and-Vitamin-D-Deficiency-in; November 2008

5. Lars. S, Geir. J;  Use of cod liver oil during the first year of life is associated with lower risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a large, population-based, case-control study; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(22)03449-9/fulltext; December 2003

6. Linday. L; Cod liver oil, young children, and upper respiratory tract infections (Journal of the American College of Nutrition); National Library of Medicine; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21677119/; December 2010

7. Vitamins; Nemours Kids Health; https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/vitamin.html

8. Fish oil, cod liver; Food Data Central; USDA; https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173577/nutrients

Also Read:

Protein for Kids
Yoghurt for Children
Protein Powder for Kids
Gummy Vitamins for Children

Previous article «
Next article »