Studies show Cod Liver Oil can Reduce Joint Pain


woman massaging aching knee jointLatest research now shows that cod liver oil may reduce joint pain.

If your joints are sore and stiff you may seek out supplements as an initial treatment, especially when some prescription medications can cause unwanted side effects.

Many nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbal treatments have been used for decades to ease the aches and pains that can accompany a host of health conditions.

It isn’t a big surprise that many patients now turn to these natural therapies and treatments to treat joint pain and inflammation. 

Research shows that this process can work!  Some of these non-medicinal treatments can really make a difference.



How Does Cod Liver Oil affect Joint Pain?

Cod liver oils contain the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

  • The Arthritis Foundation states that these omega 3 fatty acids from fish may modify inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis without the gastrointestinal side effects seen with some traditional treatments.

  • The Foundation went on to further state that “….according to the results of at least 13 studies involving more than 500 participants, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced RA symptoms. Research also suggests omega-3s may help arthritis patients lower their dose of NSAIDs….”


cod liver oil pills with stethoscope


Research on cod liver oils and arthritis show they may offer the following benefits:

  • Could help reduce the enzymes that destroy joint cartilage.
  • May lower the amount of these enzymes that cause joint pain.
  • Can decrease ‘morning stiffness’ and swollen joints.
  • May help improve bone mineral density.

From a nutritional point-of-view, nutritionists and Doctors agree that getting adequate levels of vitamin D can help your body produce stronger, healthier bone cells. Cod liver oils are also a natural source of vitamin D.



Review of Cod Liver Oil Joint Pain & Arthritis Studies:

Here are a few studies that look at the effects of cod liver oil on joint pain, cartilage health and medication usage.


1. United Kingdom – In 2002, scientists released a study showing cod liver oils slowed down the destruction of joint cartilage in osteoarthritis.

In this particular study, researchers analyzed tissue samples of the patients’ cartilage and joint tissue from their knee joints.

Half of these patients had been taking 2 daily capsules of 1000 mg. extra high-strength cod liver oil and the other half received a placebo.

Researchers found 86% of patients taking cod liver oil had zero or significantly reduced levels of a cartilage-destroying enzyme.

Based on these results, researchers believe cod liver oil can reduce the enzymes associated with cartilage break-down and joint pain.


2. Another study published in the May 2008 Rheumatology journal showed that cod liver oil containing omega 3 fatty acids can be used as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug sparing agent in rheumatoid arthritis.

97 patients were randomized to receive either 10 grams of cod liver oils containing 2.2 grams of essential fatty acids or air-filled placebo capsules.

Researchers discovered that 39% of patients taking cod liver oil reduced their steroid medications by over 30%, whereas only 5% of the patients taking the placebo were able to reduce steroid usage.


3.  A study done at The Institute of Phytopharmaceuticals in Berlin, Germany showed cod liver oil can be recommended for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

When doctors gave rheumatoid arthritis patients 1 gram capsule of cod liver oil every day for 3 months they experienced a 52% decrease in morning stiffness and swollen joints. These same patients also felt their joint pain reduced by over 60%.


4. A Norwegian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed cod liver oils may reduce pain. A cross-sectional study using data from a 1985 Norwegian Health Survey showed people with musculoskeletal pain experienced less pain when they took cod liver oil. There was a 33% stronger association with the perception of less pain, compared to people that didn’t include cod liver oils in their diets.




senior citizens joggingWhile this is only a small sampling of research studies on cod liver oil, joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis, the data appears to be encouraging.

What is the best dosage and how long to take cod liver oils may affect what type of results one can achieve.

A number of these studies used different dosages of cod liver oil and omega 3 fatty acids.

At this point, nutritional therapy for arthritis is still experimental – even when using cod liver oil for joint pain and arthritis.

If you’re interested in learning more about using healthy oils for joint pain, you can read about Using Fish Oils On Arthritis.

Following a healthy diet and moderate exercise can offer some benefits to maintaining and strengthening your bones and joints.

Remember to consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan.



Research References:

Does dietary supplementation of cod liver oil mitigate musculoskeletal pain? Eriksen W, Sandvik L, Bruusgaard D. Department of Community Medicine and General Practice, University of Oslo, Norway. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1996 Oct;50(10):689-93

Effect of cod liver oil on symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Gruenwald J, Graubaum HJ, Harde A. PhytoPharm Consulting, Institute for Phytopharmaceuticals, Berlin, Germany. Advances in Therapy. 2002 Mar-Apr;19(2):101-7.

The association between parathyroid hormone, vitamin D and bone mineral density in 70-year-old Icelandic women. Sigurdsson G, Franzson L, Steingrimsdottir L, Sigvaldason H. Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Fossvogur, Reykjavik, Iceland. Osteoporosis International. 2000;11(12):1031-5.<


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Author Details
Kevin is a full-time blogger with a passion for functional, whole food nutrition. A former Registered Respiratory Therapist with over 25 years experience in Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, he also has additional training as a Certified Natural Products Advisor. He enjoys a vibrant lifestyle that includes healthy foods, workouts focusing on core strength with flexibility and longboarding to stay fit and agile.