By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Most of us who grew up before the advent of GNC Ultra-Mega Extra-Charged Cuadruple-Action Multivitamins (we had plain old One a Days) and Grass Green Vegan Organic Superfood Capsules (our moms just gave us an apple a day and sent us out to play), remember – less than fondly – that dreaded brown bottle of cod liver oil our mothers used to keep on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet (as if we were going to sneak a sip all on our own) and brought out to torture us with whenever she felt we looked pale or weren’t getting enough nutrition from the foods we ate.
Fortunately, sometime between our prepubescent years and early teens, that shuddersome bottle seemed to disappear (maybe with a little help from us) from Mom’s makeshift old-wives’-tale medicine cupboard and we were saved – finally – from that ghastly, slimy, choking, rancid, gag-producing fishy taste.
But guess what folks.
Cod liver oil is making a comeback, and now, a spoonful of CLO is considered a trendy and healthy way to start your day and ward off the effects of stress, high blood pressure and premature aging.
High on the list of guaranteed-to-keep-you-healthy-and-beautiful daily supplements, cod liver oil – available in capsules, as well as by-the-spoonful liquid pomades – is now being touted by Hollywood celebs and nutrition gurus alike as the next best cure-all for whatever ails you.
High in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and packed with industrial-strength doses of vitamins A, D and E, the smart, longevity-prone (the average life expectancy is 83) folks of Iceland have been gulping down the stinky oil for generations.
Icelanders first began consuming massive quantities of cod liver oil at the turn of the 19th century to prevent rickets and osteomalacia caused by vitamin D deficiencies (hey, they don’t really get a lot of sunshine), but when the family-owned Lýsi fish oil company cornered the cod liver market in the late 1930s and began to promote the malodorous supplement as the best thing to happen to the Nordic island since sliced salmon, it became a national craze and remains so today.
The blind-faith devotion of the Icelanders to their mephitic elixir extends to every age and every social class, so much so that in public schools every child is welcome to class in the morning with an overflowing teaspoon of cod liver oil to help them start their day right.
And judging from the fact that Icelanders rank among the healthiest and longest-lived people on Earth, it seems that all that stinky cod liver oil – along with a low-meat diet, sparse pollution levels and athletic lifestyles – has paid off.
So now the Icelanders are spreading the cod liver oil gospel throughout the world, including in Mexico, where last week Lýsi international sales rep Jessica Villarreal Karren flew in from Reykjavík to offer a spiel on the virtues of the liquid catholicon to a small group of journalists, including myself.
Promising that the Lýsi oil would (or at least, might) lower cholesterol, boost autoimmune systems, fight cardiovascular disease and reduce the incidence of osteoarthritis, Villarreal Karren explained that, unlike cod liver oil capsules (which have been on the Mexican market for decades), pure cod liver oil has far more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) omega-3s, which, respectively, support brain and eye development in children and heart health in adults, and reduce inflammation that can cause pain and irritation.
Those two key types of omega-3s, she said, are the main components that give cod liver oil its dynamite health benefits.
“Basically, you would have to take about six cod liver oil capsules a day to even approach the dosage of DHA and EPA needed to have medicinal effects,” she said.
“But with cod liver oil, you can get enough of these omega-3s with a single teaspoon a day.”
As Villarreal Karren continued to sing her chorus of praises about the comeback kid oil, she graciously handed out free sample bottles of the syrupy fish extract for us to take home and sample.
But after witnessing the less-than-enthusiastic response we offered to her gift, she proceeded to tell us the good news about cod liver oil: Thanks to modern technology and the wonders of heavily twangy flavoring, Lýsi has managed – for the most part – to eliminate that putrid smell and taste that was so repugnant.
The all-natural, 100 percent wild Atlantic Lýsi cod liver oil comes in two flavors, lemon and lemon-mint, and while there is still a tinge of fishy aftertaste (in compliance with strict journalistic standards, I did go home and try it out), the Lýsi oil is far more palatable than that stuff your mother used to shove down your gagging throat.
From a medical perspectve, taking cod liver oil on a daily basis has been clinically proven to lower triglycerides in the blood by as much as 50 percent in some patients, and there is evidence that it can help to lower blood pressure in some – but not all – patients.
It has also been linked to a possible reduction of protein in the urine of type 2 diabetes patients.
Notwithstanding, there is little to no medical proof that it can help reduce or prevent heart disease, glaucoma or the aging process.
It should not be taken by pregnant women or people with compromised blood clotting factors.
“Like any supplement, you should not take cod liver oil without first consulting with your physician,” Villarreal Karren said.
“Cod liver oil is a food supplement. It is not a medicine and it should never be used to substitute medicines.”
I have to admit that after a few days of taking the cod liver oil, I did feel a slight boost in energy, but am I ready to endure a spoonful of foul-albeit-less-than-before-smelling oil on a daily basis?
Then again, I probably won’t live as long a life as your average Icelander.