What is the best way to get your Omega 3 Doses: the controversy of Butter Oil and Fermented Cod Liver Oil by a company called Green Pastures

What is the best way to get your Omega 3 Doses

Little did I realize the controversy regarding the best way to get Omega 3 in your diet until I came upon the below post about the controversy of Cod Liver Oil, Butter Oil, and a company called Green Pastures that I only just found out about.

These controversies point to the fact that the best way to get Omega 3 would be to catch your own wild salmon in Norway away from the Pacific or eat your own ground up organically grown flax seed meal.

My interest in this issue is finding ways for my patients with dry eyes to get relief. A patient recently told me that she took a tablespoon of flaxseed meal a day and found her acne & dry eyes resolved completely. Since this is a sample size of 1, I cannot necessarily say this will help everyone, but it prompted me to look into this more deeply. She says flaxseed oil did not help but flaxseed meal did.

Thus the below search was started.

While most MDs have no clue about these issues, below is an attempt to help my patients understand the controversy.

As of this posting I would recommend below*. Of note, I have no financial interest in any cod liver oil company, or Vital Nutrients, or Green Pastures.

This first post is from Kate Tietje: I do not know her personally, but I was impressed by the amount of research she has posted on this issue: http://www.modernalternativemama.com/2015/08/27/25423/

Please let me know what helps you most and what you think of Dr. Daniel’s report noted on the below blog posts.*** I do not know Dr. Daniels. She has a phD. She does not have an MD. This might make her research hopefully more stringent but it has not been published in a peer review journal. I will email her to see why not.

Sandra Lora Cremers, MD, FACS

*Vital Nutrients Cod Liver Oil (Gadus morhua)
  • Total fat: 4g
  • 0.5g saturated fat
  • 2g monounsaturated fat
  • 1200 mg omega-3s
  • 320 – 510 mg EPA
  • 460 – 640 mg DHA
  • Vitamin A: 1800 IU
  • Vitamin D: 180 IU
  • PRICING: available at Amazon as of 11/24/2015 for 

    Vital Nutrients – Norwegian Cod Liver Oil 200ml


    List Price: $20.70
    Price: $20.50 FREE Shipping
    You Save: $0.20 (1%)
This brand is only available to health practitioners.  The EPA + DHA ratio is 19.5% – 28.8%.  The EPA: DHA ratio is roughly 7:10 which is close.  This type, if available, appears to be an excellent choice.  The only small red flag is that the A:D ration is exactly 10:1, which is considered “optimal.”  It has likely been standarized to be this way, meaning some processing likely occurred.

Post 1:

How to Choose and Understand Cod Liver Oil

choose and understand cod liver oil
The confusion over the Green Pastures’ fermented cod liver oil continues.
Many people feel very uncertain what to believe right now — or who.  They aren’t sure which test results to trust, or why.  Right now, there’s a lot of he-said-she-said going on, and a lot of wild speculation about who is being paid what to say which.
In my opinion, all parties involved mean well.  Nobody is being paid to promote a specific agenda; everyone truly believes in what they are sharing.  It’s not really worth our time, anyway, to smear any individuals involved in this situation.
We still need to know the truth, though.  What is historical cod liver oil production?  What did Dr. Price recommend?  And what has modern science taught us about the different production methods — and which is the best now?


First we’re going to look at the history.  The majority of sources out there quote Dave Wetzel, the owner of Green Pastures (even Wikipedia does).  We need something unbiased.  Something original, that doesn’t have anything to do with this current situation.
I was able to find and read a text called Cod Liver Oil and Chemistry, published in 1895.  It is a public domain work now, so it was available for free, in full.  You can click the link to read it yourself, but it’s long.  Skip the first several sections, as they describe what Norway is like, and what fishing is like, before they get down to the nitty-gritty on cod liver oil production.
Interestingly, I read somewhere that this was the book where Dave Wetzel got his process and information.  If so, why not be transparent and cite it?
In the text, we learn that cod liver oil production dates back to roughly 1000.  From the time CLO production began until 1853, it was indeed done in the method GP uses today.  The text states that after catching, cod are split down the belly on the way back to shore.  Roe and livers are tossed into separate barrels.  A healthy liver is described as cream colored, fat, and extremely soft.  An unhealthy liver is slimmer, harder, and reddish in color.
From the text (emphasis mine):
…they seldom find time to open their liver barrels before the month of May. By this time the livers are, of course, in an advanced stage of putrefaction. The process of disintegration results in the bursting of the walls of the hepatic cells and the escape of a certain proportion of the oil. This rises to the top, and is drawn off.
But in 1853, a man named Peter Moller invented a new process for making cod liver oil — steam production.  This new method required very fresh livers, less than 12 hours old.  It produced a raw, pale, medicinal oil.
The book says about the newly invented processes for extracting these pale yellow oils (emphasis mine):
The buyers, accustomed to the brown oils prepared from putrefyed livers, actually refused to believe that the odorless and almost colorless and tasteless product of the new method could be cod liver oil at all.  It was only with great difficulty that they were convinced; but when at length it came to be understood that the oil really could be made without the undesirable qualities which for centuries had been supposed to be necessary — because irremovable — evils, then the whole scene changed.  
This new pale-colored oil was considered better, and the only reason that “fermented” cod liver oil was ever produced was because there was no better method.  It was considered undesirable but necessary, was knowingly produced by allowing putrefaction to occur with the livers, and was quickly replaced with better methods and cleaner, healthier raw oil as soon as possible.
Why has GP substituted the word “fermented” for “putrefied” used in the book…and gone on to deny that the cod liver oil is, in fact, putrid?
The text also says:
It was these decomposition products that gave the oil what was supposed to be its characteristic brown colour and far from delightful smell and taste. They were derived from the putrefaction of the albuminous constituents of the liver, and it was very natural that they should be supposed to be part and parcel of the oil when that was obtained by leaving the livers until, by putres- cence, the hepatic cells were broken up, and the oil globules in them allowed to exude.
The book even goes on to say (emphasis mine):
The introduction of the steam process, however, showed that these products of putrefaction were not an essential constituent of cod-liver oil from the chemical point of view ; and from the therapeutical, subsequent experience has shown that they have nothing to do with the beneficial action of the oil, if indeed they do not detract from it.
By 1894, the newer methods had taken over in Norway.  Almost all cod liver oil produced for medicinal use was of the pale variety.  It’s likely that this is the variety that Dr. Price would have run across in his travels, and likely the type he recommended.
It appears that GP read the text, substituted “putrefaction” for ” fermentation,” and promoted it as an old-world method that was superior.  I believe they actually believed that; but I think doing so was an error.  The text is clear that the by-products of putrefaction were undesirable.
However, the fact that people used CLO as a remedy for hundreds of years using that method shows that it is not inherently dangerous, and has benefits.  It likely just comes with certain drawbacks vs. the pale-colored, fresh CLO.  This is why so many people have still experienced benefit from GP’s products.
This doesn’t, however, make them “superior” or “the best CLO” as advertised.  Let’s take a quick look at what modern science says about oxidation and the by-products of such a production method.


First we need to understand what oxidation is, and why it matters with fats.  All information about oxidation is taken from here.
Oxidation is the process by which fats break down, due to exposure to oxygen.  It happens to all oils and cannot be stopped, but it can be minimized/slowed when oils are processed very carefully.  It happens most quickly to oils that are mostly polyunsaturated, because their oils are the most fragile.  This is especially an issue for marine oils (like fish and cod liver oils).
Oxidation occurs more rapidly when there is heat, light, moisture, and oxygen exposure.  (It’s why most vegetable oils on the grocery store shelves are already rancid when you buy them.)
Signs of primary (early) oxidation:
  • Peroxides
  • Dienes
  • Free fatty acids
Signs of secondary oxidation:
  • Carbonyls
  • Aldehydes
  • Trienes
There is also tertiary oxidation, or late oxidation.
Let’s look at peroxide values first.  The source I cited above states that peroxide values (PV) should be less than 10, and possibly as low as 2.  According to Green Pastures’recent rebuttal, their oil has a high of 20, and a low of around 10 in their tests.  This places them on the high side, and shows some rancidity.  The long-term PV test shows them peaking around 10 (after 12 months), and then dropping back down to almost nothing by 2 years (which, from what my source says, shows significant rancidity, as PV values drop as they turn into other components).
Green Pastures’ Anisidine levels measure between 3 and 7 over time, according to their data.  This is rather odd, because the source I cite above states that a value of less than 30 is ideal, and “as low as 10” may be required.  GP’s values are incredibly low.
The test data we have from GP doesn’t make sense — for early oxidation/rancidity.  But, we don’t have enough evidence to definitively know what’s going on right now.  The evidence points to rancidity but it’s not fully conclusive.  We need to test for products of secondary and tertiary oxidation to get a better idea of what’s happening.  Historical data supports the idea that it’s rancid, but modern science hasn’t shown for sure.
Let’s take a look now at nutritional profiles.

Expected Analysis

The two most common species of fish that are used for cod liver oil are the Alaskan pollock, and true cod.  The analysis for expected nutrition is from this book.  A lot of people have said that the pollock are a type of cod, so it doesn’t really matter which was used.  But, in fact, it does.  As seen below, the nutritional profiles of the two fish are not the same.  Pollock is much lower in the key omega-3s.
Alaskan pollock liver oil analysis:
  • A member of the Gadidae family (Gadus chalcogrammus)
  • 15% saturated fat
  • 50% monounsaturated fat
  • 15% omega-3 (13% EPA and DHA)
Iceland cod liver oil analysis:
  • A member of the Gadidae family (Gadus morhua)
  • 18% saturated fat
  • 53% monounsaturated fat
  • 24% omega-3s (23% EPA and DHA)
  • EPA: DHA ration of 3:5

Brands of CLO

What we need to know now is — how do the major brands of CLO stand up to the expected analysis?  Do they contain the right amounts of nutrients, in the right proportions?
I’m going to list all the info for every brand, grouped by “not recommended,” “good,” and “best.”  I’ll also give notes on what I think of the brand based on this analysis.  All of these are analyzed based on a 1-tsp. serving (5 grams).


Vital Nutrients (Gadus morhua)
  • Total fat: 4g
  • 0.5g saturated fat
  • 2g monounsaturated fat
  • 1200 mg omega-3s
  • 320 – 510 mg EPA
  • 460 – 640 mg DHA
  • Vitamin A: 1800 IU
  • Vitamin D: 180 IU
  • PRICING: Unknown, please find a health practitioner who offers this
This brand is only available to health practitioners.  The EPA + DHA ratio is 19.5% – 28.8%.  The EPA: DHA ratio is roughly 7:10 which is close.  This type, if available, appears to be an excellent choice.  The only small red flag is that the A:D ration is exactly 10:1, which is considered “optimal.”  It has likely been standarized to be this way, meaning some processing likely occurred.
Rosita (Gadus morhua)
  • Total fat: 4.5g
  • Saturated fat: 0.9g
  • Total omega-3s: 1460 mg
  • 500 mg EPA
  • 710 mg DHA
  • Vitamin A: 3000 – 5000 IU
  • Vitamin D: 400 – 500 IU
  • PRICING: $50 for 150 mL (5 oz.)
It was difficult to find information for this brand, and I spent quite a bit of time searching their site.  It’s all buried somewhere, but not easily accessible as it should be. This seems a bit secretive and annoying. The DHA + EPA percentage is 26%. which is high even for true cod.  The EPA: DHA is about 5:7, which isn’t quite right.  It seems to be a very good choice, though.  The ranges of A:D are within what we would expect for this type of fish and the ratios are close but not exact — meaning they likely haven’t been altered.
Dropi (where to buy) (Gadus morhua)
  • Total fat: 4.6g
  • Saturated fat: 0.8g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.3g
  • Total omega-3s: 1150 mg
  • 450 DHA
  • 350 EPA
  • Vitamin A: 2417 IU
  • Vitamin D: 172 IU
  • PRICING: $53 for 220 mL (7.3 oz)
Cod liver oil is cold-pressed and not refined or processed.  This brand is coming to the US in September. The EPA + DHA percentage is 17.4%.  The EPA:DHA is 7:9 which is a little off, but not much.  The A:D ratio is a little off, and a little low, but I translated these numbers from ug, so it’s possible they may be a little off — they’re close to what we’d expect, though.


Carlson’s (fish type not stated)
  • Total fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: ?
  • Total omega-3s: 1100 mg
  • 500 DHA
  • 400 EPA
  • Vitamin A: 850 IU
  • Vitamin D: 450 IU
  • PRICING: $30 for 500 mL (16.7 oz)
Oil is extracted through steaming, which is a traditional method but not the optimal choice.  The vitamin A???? ratio is concerning as well, it’s almost 2:1 when it should be closer to 10:1.  The EPA + DHA is 18%, which is lower than we’d expect for true cod, and higher than for pollock.  EPA:DHA is 4:5 which is off.
Sonne’s(fish source not stated)
  • Total fat: 4g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2g
  • Total omega-3s: 1000 mg
  • 440 mg EPA
  • 440 mg DHA
  • Vitamin A: 4000 IU
  • Vitamin D: 400 IU
  • PRICING: $17 for 16 oz.
This cod liver oil says that it’s from Norwegian cod, but doesn’t state which variety.  Its EPA:DHA is way off, at 1:1.  The A:D is exactly 10:1, which means it’s likely standardized.  The amounts of omega-3s and vitamins are good, though.  It is also purified by molecular distillation (which means the vitamins are likely added/synthetic).

Not Recommended

NutraPro International (may use multiple types of cod; lists both on their site and doesn’t specify which they use)
  • Total fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Total omega-3s: 600 mg
  • 250 DHA
  • 350 EPA
  • Vitamin A: 2500 IU
  • Vitamin D: 250 IU
The DHA + EPA percentage is 12%, which is roughly what we’d expect from pollock.  The EPA: DHA ratio is 7:4.6, which is way off (EPA shouldn’t be higher than DHA).  This definitely isn’t true cod.  The A:D is also 10:1, suggested that it’s been standardized, and both are on the low side.
Garden of Life (cod source not named)
  • Total fat: 4.5g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Total omega-3s: 1400 mg
  • 400 DHA
  • 447 EPA
  • Vitamin A: 4500 IU
  • Vitamin D: 450 IU
The DHA + EPA percentage is 18.8%.  The EPA:DHA is almost 5:4 which is way off.  The A:D ratio is exactly 10:1 which likely means it has been standardized.  This may well have been refined in some manner, and is likely a mix of different fish.
Nordic Naturals (fish type not stated)
  • Total fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: ?
  • Total omega-3s: 1050 mg
  • 485 DHA
  • 350 EPA
  • Vitamin A: 425 – 2950 IU
  • Vitamin D: 0 – 20 IU
Their ingredients include “purified arctic cod liver oil” which means some type of refining has occurred.  Baby versions use soybean oil mixed in.  The percent of EPA + DHA is 16.7%, which is close to what we’d expect for pollock, and much lower than what we’d expect for true cod.  The EPA:DHA is 7:10, which is close.  A and D are incredibly low, especially D!  Basically no benefit in this area.  I would absolutely not recommend this.
Green Pastures (fish source not stated; thought to be Alaskan pollock)
  • Total fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 1g
  • Monounsaturated fat: ?
  • Total omega-3s: 21.2%
  • 5.8% DHA
  • 12% EPA
  • Vitamin A: 2350 IU
  • Vitamin D: 980 IU
Most of the data is not included on the product label (except total and saturated fat) and has been pulled from their test results here.  This has about 17% DHA and EPA, which is more than we’d expect from pollock (around 13%), but less than we’d expect from true cod (around 23%).  This may mean a mix of different fish.  EPA:DHA is almost 2:1 which is extremely far off. A:D ratio is rather high, and D especially is very high for what we’d expect.  There is no evidence that D is increased by their ” fermentation” process, although a lot of people have speculated or assumed this.

Final Thoughts

So how did this all happen?
We’ve come to trust “natural” and “traditional/ancient” processes more than we do more modern processes.  And usually, that’s a good thing!
We also have come to believe that color is a sign of nutrition and health benefits.  We’ve believed that the more pale something is, the more it lacks nutrition — or, it may have even been bleached or deodorized to obtain that pale color.  We’ve seen other CLO and fish oil brands advertise their amber color vs. others’ nearly clear color as being better because it’s obvious that it’s unrefined.  So, the “color scheme” played a big role.
And, we’ve come to believe that ” fermentation” is always a good thing.  Which it is, when it produces those awesome strains of bacteria that help our guts!  But this is not one of those cases.
All of these combined to make FCLO seem like the perfect product.  It was using an ancient process, it was dark in color, and it was supposedly “fermented.”  All the things we typically look for in a super food!
Only, most of us had no idea what to really look for in a quality CLO.  And in fact, “best practices” for CLO don’t match the above criteria!  Instead, we have to look at the nutritional analysis, and we have to look for rapid cold-pressing and careful handling (which produces that pale oil).  Both the historical text and modern science support this.
I believe everyone got a little carried away by the traditional/color/fermentation issues — including GP itself.  And I believe that for many people, FCLO can and did produce good results.  Cod liver oil is that powerful and that amazing that even produced through allowing livers to putrefy, it still has health benefits.  But, many people are also very sensitive to the by-products of this method, and experienced serious drawbacks.
I can’t say that you “must” stop taking FCLO if you believe it is best for you.  I would advise serious caution, though.  And I would never advise anyone who felt they were reacting badly to keep trying it — look for another brand!  I will definitely be looking for another brand for my family — one of the ones I listed above.  Once I’ve had a chance to try it, I’ll report on how we’re liking it.

How do you feel about cod liver oil now?  Which brand will you choose?

Post 2:

Is Fermented Cod Liver Oil The Real Deal…or a Sick Hoax?

GP Bottles edit
***Last weekend saw several of my readers freaking out because of Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s new report, “Hook, Line and Stinker!  The Truth About Fermented Cod Liver Oil.”  The report states that the popular Green Pastures’ fermented cod liver oil is not really fermented, is in fact rancid and putrid (chemically), is adulterated with vegetable oils, and does not contain the reported vitamins and minerals.  It goes on to say that the original Dr. Weston A. Price wouldn’t have recommended it at all.
I dismissed this as a bit ridiculous…at first.  Surely if the product were not only not beneficial, but actively harmful, we’d know by now, right?  People wouldn’t be experiencing health benefits from the product and the truth would have gotten exposed long ago.
But, I owe it to my readers (and my family!) to look into the issue more, and that’s what I did.
You should know that I have no financial relationship with either Green Pastures nor competing companies.  I have been purchasing and taking the GP products for several years.  I also do not belong to either of the foundations I’ll mention, and never have.  I also do not know or have a professional relationship with Dr. Daniel or anyone else that I will name.
Let’s dive in.

Can Cod Liver Oil Be Fermented?

Let’s start with this key question: what is fermented cod liver oil?  Can cod liver oil even be fermented?
It’s been driven into us that we need more fermented foods.  That fermented foods are to be prized, because of their positive impact on our gut health.  And that’s true — real fermented products generally are beneficial to us.
However, the reason they’re beneficial is not just because they are fermented, butbecause they contain specific strains of beneficial bacteria.  It’s these strains that we need (that’s information for another post).  Not all fermented foods are good, either — think about a bottle of juice left in your car on a hot day!  That is fermented, but there certainly aren’t beneficial strains in it, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.
However, in order for fermentation to occur, and especially to produce the beneficial strains of bacteria, it requires carbohydrates.  That is, sugar or starch in some form.  We can and do ferment fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Done properly, with a true anaerobic system, it will produce high concentrations of beneficial microbes (again, information for another post).
We can’t ferment oil, though.
Fat simply doesn’t ferment.  It, instead, becomes rancid.  It oxidizes.  This damages the vitamins and minerals in the oil, and makes it potentially harmful to our bodies.
That’s exactly what Dr. Daniel is claiming has happened in the case of Green Pasture’s products.  But Green Pastures says that their products are traditionally-made and beneficial.  Which is correct?

How Was Cod Liver Oil Traditionally Made?

Both are sort of true.
From reading a well-cited history of cod liver oil production from the Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation (not associated with the Weston A. Price Foundation, nor any particular cod liver oil company), I’ve learned that the debate over production methods dates back to the early 1800s.
Three main methods for producing cod liver oil are described throughout the literature.
Method one: Bringing the freshly-caught fish to the shore on the same day, cutting out the liver and protecting it from oxygen and allowing the oil to naturally release, possibly with cold pressing.  This produces a very light-colored and flavored oil, and is called extra-virgin cod liver oil.
Method two: Either because sea voyages were long, or after the EVCLO was extracted, cod livers were allowed to sit in a vat for weeks at a time, essentially rotting.  As they broke down, the oil naturally rose to the top and was poured/scooped off.  This produced a dark brown cod liver oil.  (This is Green Pastures’ process.)
Method three: Heat or chemical extract, including steaming or boiling the livers, or using solvents like hexane.  Steaming or boiling produced pale to light brown oil, while solvents produced dark brown oil, which then underwent deodorizing and other processing.
Chemical solvents definitely aren’t traditional and have only been used for the last 50 – 60 years.  Prior to that, it was cold-pressing, “fermenting,” or steaming/boiling.
In the 1800s, they argued over which cod liver oil was really best.  Some found that the brown version contained more vitamins than the lighter versions.  However, the brown versions were usually used industrially, or topically — not internally.
In the 1900s, some experiments showed that the vitamins in the brown oil were damaged, and that if it was exposed to the sun, it could even cause problems in some people.  Plus, this brown oil is known to be acidic, strongly-flavored, and difficult for some people to take.
What we have to know now is, is this brown oil really that bad…or could it still be good for us?

Biomarkers of Rancidity

Have you ever tasted rancid oil?
The other week I asked for some oil for salad when I was out somewhere.  I knew that the oil wasn’t used frequently and was about a year old.  It had distinctive rancid taste/smell to it.  Liquid oils do go rancid anywhere from a few months to several months after purchase.  Oils stored in clear bottles that are exposed to heat and light might be rancid when you buy them (like vegetable oils — it’s just one reason to skip them).  Even quality oils stored in dark glass, away from heat and light, will eventually go rancid.  That was the case this particular time ( olive oil stored in a dark glass bottle; it was just too old).
Many people say that fermented cod liver oil doesn’t taste or smell rancid.  In fact, that was my first reaction when I heard about this report — I’d know!
However, it’s a little more complicated than that.
There are several actual biomarkers of rancidity.  It’s not just a smell/taste thing, it’s something that you can test.  That’s what Dr. Daniel’s report does.  She sent unopened bottles of FCLO to several different labs to test these specific biomarkers to get a clearer picture of whether or not the oil was rancid.
One of the early markers of rancidity is peroxide.  This is what tips us off to rancidity when we smell and taste a rancid oil.  Peroxide values start out very low, then increase sharply as an oil becomes rancid, and then drop back down because the peroxide is broken down further.  FCLO is at the late stages, so peroxide values are low.  This, and other markers, have been used to prove that the oil isn’t rancid.
However!  The free fatty acids are extremely high in FCLO.  That is a clear marker of rancidity.  GP claims that it is not, and that there are benefits to free fatty acids.  However, this study shows that free fatty acids in the body contribute to insulin resistance and the development of diabetes.  This study links them to obesity, heart disease, stroke, and more.  There are dozens more studies that I ran across attributing FFAs to cause insulin resistance and obesity.  There is clearly no health “benefit” to these!
On the issue of oxidation and virgin cod liver oil, Dave of Green Pastures has this to say (from the FAQs):
Virgin fish oils or ‘extra low oxidize oils’.??The production of ‘extra low oxidized oils’ differs from traditional production methods for fish oils and fish meals. Extra low oxidized oils’ are produced from materials from food operations. This can for example be material’s from food operations. This can for example be material after filleting of high quality (i.e. very fresh) salmon and herring. The raw material is processed very shortly after catching. The process involves heating to below 100Degrees C for example to a temperature around 90*95 degrees C for the time needed for the material to pass through an indirectly heated tubular scraped surface heat exchanger. The heated suspension is then separated in a suitable decanter in order to isolate the oil. The semi solid protein phase that is obtained from the same process can be valuable starting material, for example for production of marine protein hydrolysates. Because of the gentle processing conditions and selections of raw materials these oils are generally suitable for direct use as ingredients foods and beverages.??An example in Norwegian virgin cod liver oil production. The preparation for this product, including winterization, distillation, blending drumming and bottling is conducted in a manner that ensures the product is carefully processed to concentrate the healthy long chain omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids while removing the unwanted environmental chemicals ………………
I’m big on Bio-feed back testing and energetic testing. You know what is real and not real for each individual and product. I prefer this over defining a product on a label or fancy advertising. One can manipulate words and defining terms to meet a goal. But Bio-feed back testing and energetic testing can’t be fooled by words.
This is not really an answer; Dave is merely summarizing the process used to produce virgin cod liver oils (with random punctuation to show how ridiculous he finds it), then suggests that if you think it’s good, it is good, and that scientific testing isn’t actually important.

What’s This Oil Made Of?

We’re not done yet.
As I have been looking into this issue, I have researched several different cod liver oil companies from all over the world.  Some currently only sell in Iceland.  What I have noticed is that they all deliver very clear details about the fish they use and how they process it.  The fish used in most cod liver oils is the Gadus Morhua, a specific type of cod that is high in the desirable EPA and DHA fatty acids.
However, when asked where GP’s fish comes from, Dave says this (again, from theFAQs):
Ok, The question arises on the topic of location of the fish. The fish school in the northern, cold waters around the Arctic Ocean. They do not have a nationality and a fish can school for a 1000+ miles in its life. So the relevance of the specific spot the fish is cleaned is not relevant to the discussion, ‘is the fish safe to consume’.
That is…bizarre, frankly.
There’s no mention of exactly what type of fish is used or where it actually comes from.  The issue is actually skirted.  (Dr. Daniel’s report, and comments from several others I talked to, note that Dave often skirts questions about fish type, location, fermentationprocess, etc.)
The DNA tests in Dr. Daniel’s report show that the fish in FCLO can’t be the Gadus Morhua cod.  Rather, it is likely to be pollock (closely related to cod) or dogfish (much cheaper and often substituted for cod).  But, we don’t actually know at this point.  The lab reports aren’t conclusive and Dave isn’t saying.
There’s more to the report than I’ve shared here — it’s more than 60 pages.  Feel free toread it for yourself.

How Did This Happen?

If you’ve been taking FCLO, you probably feel about like I do — upset, frustrated, disbelieving.  This is a product I actively recommended for years, and have taken myself and given to my family.  It’s basically considered the “Gold Standard” in health supplements in the real food world.
I’m going to make this part brief, because it’s not the truly important information, but it bears mentioning.
The work of Dr. Weston A. Price has proven extremely valuable to a number of people.  I stand by the dietary recommendations based upon his work.  In fact, there’s the Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation dedicated to spreading these principles.  PPNF dates back to the early 1950s and is a non-profit organization that shares this information but, as far as I saw, has no financial relationship with companies that make specific products (that is definitely true for cod liver oil; I haven’t looked further).
In the late 1990s, one of the board members, Sally Fallon Morell, had a disagreement with the PPNF board over an issue, and left the foundation.  She then started the Weston A. Price Foundation in 1999.  WAPF is similarly dedicated to the principles of Dr. Price’s nutritional studies and advice.  Neither foundation actually was started by or endorsed directly by Dr. Price; they are just based on his research.
This is where it gets dicey.  According to reports from former chapter leaders in WAPF, leaders in WAPF have significant paid relationships with a number of companies, including GP.  This isn’t necessarily problematic; as a business owner, I seek out financial partnerships with companies whose mission and products I believe in and want to endorse.  I assume WAPF is doing the same.
However, many of the details of WAPF’s positions on various issues are not in line with Dr. Price’s research at all.  Dave states on GP’s site that a good dose of cod liver oil is up to 3 tablespoons per day, and that there are sources claiming 6 – 8 oz. per day is beneficial.  PPNF quotes Dr. Price’s actual work, where he states that doses should not exceed 1.5 tsp. per day.  That “3 tablespoons” suggestion exceeds Dr. Price’s recommended dose by a factor of 6.
WAPF also has an unusual and controversial positions on several other issues, includingbreastfeeding, and has given out poor breastfeeding advice.
According to my contact who is a former chapter leader, Morell and others in the organization lead with an iron fist, essentially kicking out people who do not agree with her positions.  Those who have called out Morell and others for recommendations that clearly go against science have been ridiculed and ignored.  The organization is extremely powerful, a central part of the real food/traditional foods movement, and has serious political issues.  Their positions are partially informed by Dr. Price’s work, and partially by Morell’s personal experiences and beliefs.
That is what occurred here.  WAPF/Morell and GP have an ongoing partnership.  WAPF has made sure that GP is seen as the top brand — so much so that all other cod liver oil companies have to field questions about how theirs compares to GP and why it isn’t fermented (from my experiences reading their FAQs plus their social media pages).  There’s no evidence that it’s specifically beneficial or that their process is safe or healthy, but Morell and GP stand firmly behind it anyway — this stubborn stance is typical of their actions on many key issues.
It’s notable that Dr. Kaayla Daniel, who issued this report, is (or was, possibly until right after this came out), the Vice President at WAPF, and that she issued the report despite being told by the other foundation members not to do so.
I’ve seen some of this occurring and have slowly distanced myself from WAPF itself over the last few years, although as I said, I continue to recommend the dietary principles from Dr. Price’s work.  This foundation is not representative of him or his work.

What About Cod Liver Oil Now?

The thing is, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  In fact, cod liver oil absolutely is beneficial.  There is a large body of evidence, both recent and historical, showing this.
There is first, Dr. Price’s work.  He shows that a small dose, 1 – 1.5 tsp. per day of equal parts cod liver oil and butter oil, are very beneficial to health.  He does caution against overdoses (the vitamin levels required from these natural foods is far less than WAPF claims).
There is also quite a lot of recent research.  This study shows that cod liver oil is anti-inflammatory.  This one shows it helps prevent upper respiratory infections.  Basically, it contains good levels of vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and co-factors not yet discovered that make it more effective and beneficial than vitamin D supplements alone (which some health professionals now think may be dangerous, at least in excess).
I still recommend cod liver oil.
I have no idea, however, which one.  I’m aware of a few quality brands out there — I’ve found Rosita (this appears to be the most popular, behind FCLO), Carlson’s, and one called Dropi (which may not be available in the U.S. right now).  I have used Carlson’s, in the years before we were using FCLO.  I don’t have a conclusive recommendation for you at this time.  But I will figure it out because I’ll need something else to use for my family.
My original feeling, when I began looking into this issue, was that there was some missing information and FCLO was really just fine.  After all, I just bought more and I have plenty of it sitting in my fridge and cabinet now.  I’ve been taking it daily and have even shared that.
After I read for awhile, I thought, “We’ll probably finish up what we have, then look into something else.”
When I finished reading everything, I thought, “We have to stop this now, and get on some true anti-inflammatories to get rid of the effects of this stuff.” I have a whole bunch of things I now suspect may have been related to FCLO use, but I’m not going to talk about those today.  This is about the controversy, not my personal situation.  I will share that in a few weeks, though, when I have a brand to recommend to you and the whole thing’s a little clearer.  I expect Dave Wetzel of GP will issue a rebuttal within a few days, so we may address that as well.
That’s the bottom line.  Cod liver oil (or whole cod livers) can’t be fermented, it is rancid, rancid foods are high in free fatty acids that are linked to cancer and diabetes.  There is nothing beneficial about this “special process.”  Virgin cod liver oils, however, are beneficial and I’m seeking the best source as well as what to look for when evaluating a source.

How do you feel about fermented cod liver oil after these new reports?

Edit: I received the following email from a representative of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation this afternoon.  It is important to know this.
Dr. Price’s publications and research were left to the Santa Barbara Medical Research Foundation in 1952, which later became the Weston A. Price Memorial Foundation in 1965, then The Price-Pottenger Foundation in 1969, then Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation in 1973, which is who we are today.
The wishes of Dr. Price are stated here with the copyright office:
WHEREAS, it is the desire of Monica Price, widow of Weston A. Price, to ensure that all rights, including renewal rights, in and to said above works and registrations and extensions thereof are vested in the Price-Pottenger Foundation, a non-profit California Corporation, consistent with the wishes of said Weston A. Price and said Widow in carrying forth his work, and to provide an instrument suitable for recording in the records of the Copyright Office.
IN WITNESS THEREOF, the said Monica Price, widow of Weston A. Price, has hereunto set her hand and seal at Cleveland, Ohio, this 13th day of November, 1969.
Let me know if you need anything more from us as we are the source for and own the copyright to all Dr. Price’s research, publications, and 20,000 photos.
PPNF represents the work of Dr. Price, and they own it.  WAPF does neither.
**Read the follow-up post, How to Choose and Understand Cod Liver Oil, for more information.**


  1. Monte says
    DO any of the brands offer a variety that includes the butter oil, to get the synergy from cod liver oil and butter? Or would you just recommend taking it with a meal that includes grassfed butter, as I think you did when you first starting taking CLO?
  2. Magda says
    Wow… excellent article. Glad you mentioned NutraPro as it’s listed as ‘best’ choice from WAPF (a bit pricey). I’ll be striking that one off my list as well as TwinLabs (listed as ‘good’ choice: EPA is 1.5 times DHA though A to D ratio seems good). Any thoughts on Nature’s Answer? Again listed as ‘best’ choice from WAPF, A is 4000 IU, D is 430 IU, DHA is 460 and EPA is 430. The numbers look good to me… I’m keeping Sonne’s and Rosita on my list (though Rosita better taste awesome (or not at all) for the price they want… I may wind up circulating between the 2-3 brands I pick in the end. Thanks again for doing this analysis – very helpful.
  3. Katie says
    Thank you for putting together this post. A couple days ago I made a call to Nutrapro and in that conversation, the man stated that Rosita and Nutrapro get their cod from the same place in Norway. He assured me that buying from nutrapro was the same, if not better (because he does the processing himself) than Rosita. I’m not sure what to believe and I don’t want to have wasted another $80 on CLO and butter oil! I’m wondering if there is a way to find out the validity in what he is saying? This is getting so confusing!
  4.  says
    Thanks. Great review. It would be interesting to have a cost comparison included in your comparison of CLO products – I guess I want you to do ALL the work for me!
    • Heidi says
      I was able to read that article using Google translate. It says the Rosita product with PCB was Ratfish oil. It doesn’t say anything about their cod liver oil. They sell both. Have you seen any info like this about their cod liver oil?
  5. Bethany says
    It’s not an accurate statement to say that David Wetzel isn’t admitting where he got his information and process. He actually cites it in this article he wrote for Wise Tradition, back in … 2006, yes 2006! http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/cod-liver-oil-manufacturing/ 9 years ago he talked about the process and where he got the information. I don’t know how this could get missed but then with all the brouhaha…
    I know that my daughter has responded very well to the FCLO/HVBO combination (since before we knew about her allergy), and as she has an anaphylactic reaction to all other dairy, that’s saying something. I’m not sure I would trust any other option, and certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable just handing her a spoon of plain grassfed butter. Something about the combination and quantity must inherently work. I myself have used it to successfully chase away stomach viruses and other issues. We have quite a bit left and I don’t plan to chuck mine in the trash like all the other knee-jerkers out there.
    I think this whole thing has gotten blown WAY out of proportion and has villainized someone that doesn’t deserve such a negative response. Given how big it got I wouldn’t be surprised that he couldn’t sue for libel and damages, and win. I’m disappointed in most of the whole food community and many of my favorite bloggers for jumping on the bandwagon instead of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. I’m glad that this website at least takes a more objective view than most. Kudos.
    • Elisabeth says
      I totally agree. My family has responded wonderfully to the GP FCLO/HVBO blend. Rather than “jump on the bandwagon” we decided to use our health as proof. We will continue to use GP and have cavity free children. I have actually tested it by taking a break from GP when we couldn’t afford it, and both times my son got a cavity. He has no enamel and is a special case. I don’t think everyone needs cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil…. Just like not everyone needs high doses of vitamin C or vitamin K. But, those that do, consistently have great results with GP. Nothing is for everyone. Ever. I hate how the whole food community always groups everyone. Not everyone is healthy going gluten free or grain free. Our bodies are all different.
  6. Lolly says
    I don’t take any cod liver oils anymore. But I would say that I contacted NutraPro some while back asking them why they had copied the Rosita labelling (I am very suspicious of companies that copy others and if you look carefully you will see that Dropi has copied Rosita too including using the word “ancient” technique and showing a very similar video to theirs). NutraPro actually replied, did not explain why they copied, but simply said that Rosita was a very different oil to theirs and was “Extra” Virgin and not simply “Virgin” like theirs was. They seemed to be saying that their brand was not as good. I still have their email.
    Dropi was actually founded by 2 businesswomen who obviously saw the potential to make money.
    After the shocking revelations about FCLO I for one will not take any more cod liver oil but will eat organ meats, fish and eggs instead. My husband is very pleased with that choice! Good summary by the way.
  7. Ann says
    I’m not going offer an opinion on the current controversy as that’s all it would be . . . an opinion. Few, if any of us, really know the facts at this point. I would point out though if they are using any Alaskan Pollock at all mixed with Icelandic Cod, I would have a huge concern about the radiation levels in any fish from Alaska right now as Fukushima continues to dump nuclear waste into the ocean every day.
  8. Kristin says
    I was wondering if you ever heard of the brand, Standard Process. They carry a line of Cod Liver Oil capsules and a couple people including my husband’s chiropractor recommended it! Wondering if it’s another one worth adding to your list or not?!
  9. Susan says
    Oh my goodness….last year I was a little pinched for cash, so I switched from GP FCLO to Sonne’s CLO. Everytime I took it, I was on the toilet for 2 hours at a time with liquid stools. The cramps associated with it were excruciating! My other family members, however, did great on it. Perhaps it was the synthetic A & D I was sensitive to? Not sure. Never really had a problem with GP, although sometimes it made my stomach sour, but it was nothing a small piece of ginger couldn’t cure.
  10. Muriel says
    I would like to take cod liver oil, but I will not until I can confirm that the source of fish is NOT from the Pacific Ocean. With Fukushima being an ongoing problem, this is a real concern!
  11. Jeanmarie says
    You obviously put a lot of work into this, and I applaud the effort, but I think you may be stating things overly confidently that you don’t have full understanding of. I encourage you and your readers to see Chris Masterjohn’s very informative post on the great FCLO debate, which will help you understand the terms you are using such as “rancid,” “rancidity,” and “fermented.” These terms are all in general use in a non-technical sense, and they have different technical meanings, depending on the scientific discipline using them.
    Any given supplement is not going to suit everybody; some do well on FCLO, some will do better on EVCLO. The oils that have been deodorized with the vitamin content destroyed or removed and partially replaced by synthetic vitamins are especially poor choices, no matter how palatable they may be. Just because something smells or tastes bad does not mean it is not healthful. That’s a good standard when it comes to deciding whether leftovers at the back of your fridge are still edible, but when it comes to inherently stinky foods like some aged cheeses, natto, and cod liver oil, that’s not a helpful measure.
    • dairy lover says
      Chris Masterjohn’s report brings up an important point not discussed here, in that GPP’s FCLO has levels of transfats which should not be in any pure CLO. His analysis is that the simplest reasonable explanation for them is that which Dr. Daniel in her report pointed out: it is adulterated with vegetable oil.
      This is verified by the fact that GPP’s own tests show the type of vitamin D in their oil is predominately D2 (plant derived) rather than D3 (animal derived, as a cod liver oil should have).
  12. Carl Whyte says
    Well no response on a refund from GP. Why did i get sucked in by this sheet. 500 dollars down the drain.
    “If it tastes like sheet, smells like sheet then it is sheet”.
  13. Sandrine Love says
    I have been told that it is a mistake to use “label data” to compare different oils. It is important to understand that the number on the label can’t represent the true number of the product. The number on the label is based on statistic analysis of your past products, however, due to different variations, such as season, feed, harvesting location, etc, the vitamins, EPA/DHA, even the polyunsaturated fatty acids will be varied. Sometimes the seasonal variations can be larger than the different fish species. That is the reason all scientific papers and other official documents, such as FAO Codex gives the range of those nutrients instead of a certain number. If you find the exact number in one product for different batches, that may mean the producer adds something to standardize the ration to meet their standard.
  14. Post 3: from below:
  15. Note Potential Dangers of certain forms of Cod Liver oil: only time will tell if all this below is true:
By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn+ , 02-Jul-2015
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has urged consumers to throw away three ‘alternative’ fish oil supplements after tests revealed they contained carcinogenic contaminants way over EU safe limits. 
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