Fish Oil vs. Cod Liver Oil for Acne: A New Perspective

Sonia taking fermented cod liver oil for clear skin

Sonia taking fermented cod liver oil – before we realized how much of a problem it can be!

What do fish oil and cod liver oil have to do with acne, anyway?

In a nutshell, fish oil – or rather, omega-3 fatty acids – appears to help some people clear up their skin faster.  This is because omega-3s reduce inflammation in a few different ways.

Sounds good, right?

Well, inflammation is a major contributor to acne, so it’s tempting to think it’s a good idea to start taking fish oil.

But before you go running to the store or your favorite retail website for a bottle, let me say this: although we used to recommend supplementing with fish oil, we advise against it now. 2017 update: Same with fermented cod liver oil! We longer recommend taking this either.

In fact, taking fish oil (or cod liver oil, or any other marine oil) may ultimately make your acne worse.

First, I’ll tell you how fish oil “works.”

Fish oil contains a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, which interact with omega-6 fatty acids to reduce or end your body’s inflammatory response.

When you have a really skewed omega-3:6 ratio in your diet – as in, way too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 – your inflammation levels skyrocket.

Not good!

And for some years now, people have been using large doses of fish oil to treat inflammation by balancing out those pesky omega-6s.

How does inflammation relate to acne? Well, It’s responsible for the redness and swelling that makes acne so embarrassing. Reduce inflammation, and your acne won’t swell up so much (or get so cherry-red).

Cod liver oil, which we used to recommend, works to heal acne mainly because it gives you a big boost of vitamin A, which is a critical vitamin for preventing acne breakouts.

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Okay… so what are fish oil and cod liver oil, exactly?

Fish oil is basically oil that’s extracted from fish bodies, while cod liver oil is taken from the livers of codfish (or pollock, or something else… I’m looking at you, Green Pastures! False marketing alert!).

And like I said above, fish oil is a powerful source of omega-3s, and omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects.

What’s the big deal with inflammation?

You see, these days, most of the common Western diet is highly inflammatory.

What does that mean, exactly?

Well, it means that most people are eating way too many foods loaded with omega-6 fats, sugar, trans fats, and gluten, all of which are pro-inflammatory.

These inflammatory foods drive your immune system to do insane things, like causing swelling where you least want it – arthritis, for example, and of course, acne.

When your immune system is on constant red alert, and it stumbles across a clogged pore on that lovely face of yours, it dives in for the attack! The clogged pore becomes inflamed, red, and swollen, leading to nasty-looking zit-monsters.

You see, if your immune system were healthy and normal, a clogged pore wouldn’t cause a big fuss. Your body would heal the ruptured pore pretty quickly and then go on functioning normally. No big deal! But when your body is in a constant state of hyper-immune-activation and inflammation, any little thing sets off your immune system – and that leads to disastrous consequences for your face.[1]

How do omega-3s affect inflammation?

Before I get to that, let me explain a few things about the essential fatty acids: omega-3s and omega-6s. While there are many different fatty acids in the omega-3 and omega-6 families, only a couple are actually really useful and needed in the body. These are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3, and arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6.

Arachidonic acid is critical to the initiation of an inflammatory response, which is why it gets a bad rap. However, AA also turns on the cellular machinery that activates DHA, which helps to bring that inflammatory response to an end.

Together, these two fatty acids are a part of an intricate chemical dance in the body that starts an inflammatory response when it’s needed and then stops it when it isn’t needed anymore.

(Another omega-3 found in fish and fish oils, eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA,  reduces inflammation mostly by interfering with AA… and therefore with the whole process of inflammation and its resolution. It can actually depress growth and immune function, which is why we’re not too excited about EPA.)[2]

As you can see, omega-3 fats – namely DHA – have an incredibly powerful role in quickly resolving inflammation when it is no longer needed.

The key here is your ratio of these omega-3s to pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. The rub is that if the inflammation-initiating omega-6 fats aren’t balanced by sufficient omega-3s, your immune system goes vigilante on you (boom! Faceful of acne). Even worse, though, is having a large overall load of PUFA. We really want to balance omega 3s and 6s close to a 1:1 ratio, while bringing down our overall consumption of them as much as possible.

Now, if you were eating like a hunter-gatherer of yesteryear – e.g. wild game (nose-to-tail eating), tubers, edible plants, a few legumes and grains here and there, a few berries, the odd beehive – you’d have an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of around 1:1 (ideal, by some estimates).

But in this day and age, omega-6 fats are in everything – canola oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, corn, soy, wheat – basically most of the JFBBs (Junk Food Building Blocks) in today’s fast-food world. Most cookies, crackers, snacks, breakfast cereals, and granola bars are made primarily with these JFBBs, which, again, are highly inflammatory.

That’s bad news for acne!

In short, you’ve got to optimize your omega 3:6 ratio if you want clear skin, as well as reducing your overall intake of PUFA.

This will help quiet your immune system down, taking it from red alert down to orange alert, yellow, maybe even just “Ready for action, we’re here when you need us!”

And that’s where you want it.

You want a perfectly functioning immune system that shoots into action when there’s a real problem in your body, not when you get a stinkin’ little clogged pore. And you want an immune system that quiets the heck down when the problem is solved, rather than sticking around for days, partying in your pores and creating red, swollen, painful acne. You’ve had enough of that, right?

So why shouldn’t I take fish oil?

The common wisdom goes like this: fish oil gives you a huge blast of omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which is good because it balances out your omega-6 intake, reducing inflammation.

That seems like a good idea on the surface.

However, I haven’t gotten to the nasty part yet: all omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are highly reactive in the body.

Why? Well, they’re polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). In chem-speak, they contain two or more double bonds, which makes them billions of times more reactive than, say, saturated fat (grass-fed animal fat, coconut oil, red palm oil, etc.). And millions of times more reactive than monounsaturated fat (olive oil, avocados, etc).

Why is this potentially dangerous?

Health researcher Chris Masterjohn came up with a really apt metaphor for PUFAs – he compares them “delicate glass.”

Now, glass is incredibly useful in our modern world (can you imagine windows made from steel?). But glass is also extremely delicate – it shatters easily, fragmenting into a million pieces that spread far and wide across the floor, can cause all kinds of bodily harm, and can take a long time to clean up.

PUFAs are very similar. Like glass, they’re very useful for the body for some critical bodily functions, but they’re extremely delicate. When they “shatter” – i.e., when they get oxidized by a free radical – they set off chain reactions that oxidize other PUFAs, which oxidize still more PUFAs, which oxidize yet more PUFAs – it’s a gigantic, damaging ripple effect.

Worst part? These oxidized PUFAs (known as lipid peroxides) eventually break down into dangerous compounds like malondialdehyde (MDA), which can directly damage DNA and proteins throughout the body, causing widespread damage to all body systems (slowly, over time, so it’s insidious and difficult to see in the short term – acne breakouts can be a great early warning flag for PUFA overload, actually, which is better than getting heart disease or something else nasty down the road!).

Oxidative stress like this can damage just about every biological tissue in the body, and – yep, you guessed it – can worsen acne as well.

Wolfing down a bunch of fish oil might reduce inflammation / redness / swelling in the short term, but can create a potentially worse long-term problem of oxidative stress, as you start to deplete vitamin E, glutathione, iodine, and other lipid-peroxidation-blocking antioxidant systems in the body.

(And if you need any additional convincing, consider this: in the longest and one of the largest fish oil trials ever conducted, the heart disease patients taking fish oil had a 30% increase in heart-related death!)[3]

Okay, so what should I do instead?

Better solution?

  1. Focus on getting your omega-6 intake as low as possible.
  2. Slightly increase your omega-3 by switching to grass-fed and pasture-raised meats (and raw, grass-fed dairy from heritage-breed animals, if tolerated).

Let’s go over these separately.

How to reduce your omega-6 intake

The main sources of omega-6 are:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Peanut/groundnut oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Deep fried foods (which contain large amounts of the above oils)
  • Processed foods (which contain large amounts of the above oils)
  • Walnut oil
  • Flax oil
  • ALL nuts and seeds, except macadamia nuts

And if you’re not convinced already, here’s a roundup of the key clear-skin benefits to improving your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (by reducing omega-6 consumption):

Improving this fatty acid ratio can help…

  • Reduce redness and puffiness of acne lesions.
  • Moisturize your skin naturally, making your skin softer.
  • Reduce stress, preventing excess acne-causing sebum production.
  • Slow down skin cell over-production, keeping your pores open and free.
  • Balance hormone production, making your skin less oily.

In addition to helping clear your skin, a healthier omega-3 to -6 ratio can also provide the following benefits:

  • Reduced joint pain.
  • Improved mood. [4]  [5]
  • Improved brain performance. [6]
  • Stronger hair.
  • More energy.
  • Improved cholesterol levels.
  • Enhanced male fertility. [7]
  • Fat loss. [8]  [9]

That’s a key theme in this blog – by targeting the root causes of acne, you’ll also become healthier, fitter, and more radiant. You’ll be giving your body clean, high-octane food that’s loaded with essential nutrients that perform millions of complex, tiny functions in the body and lead to an awesome, healthy, clear you.

Why you should NOT take fermented cod liver oil (FCLO)

We used to recommend taking FCLO due to the high retinol-form vitamin A content.

Pre-formed vitamin A especially is pretty difficult to get unless you’re regularly eating organ meats (e.g. liver), shellfish, large quantities of egg yolks, butter, other dairy, etc.

These fat-soluble vitamins are incredibly important to achieving clear skin. Did you know Retin-A and Accutane are actually forms of Vitamin A? That’s one reason why they can be so effective at clearing acne. Now, they’re extremely dangerous with lots of side effects, so I’d never recommend doing these treatments. But the Vitamin A you get from whole foods (like grass-fed liver, etc.) is quite safe in the context of adequate Vitamin D (I’ll get to that in a minute).

(As an aside for our veg-loving readers, vitamin A from animal sources, (retinol, e.g. from cod liver oil), is much more readily absorbed by the body than Vitamin A from vegetables (beta-carotene). Vitamin A from carrots, for example, is a lot more difficult for your body to work with, so even if you eat lots of carrots, you could still be deficient in retinol-based Vitamin A.)

As of 2017, we no longer recommend taking cod liver oil, fermented or not, due to the high PUFA content. We think it’s best to reduce your overall consumption of omega-fatty-acids (PUFA) as much as possible. When you switch to naturally-raised pastured meats, occasional seafood if available, etc., and avoid all vegetable oils and almost all nuts and seeds (except macadamias), you’ll be naturally balancing your omega 3:6 ratio while keeping your overall intake of PUFA as low as possible.

Wait! How do I get vitamin A then, if I can’t take cod liver oil?

Good question! Grass-fed liver, desiccated liver capsules, or a quality vitamin A supplement. Aim for 10,000-20,000 IU per day if you’re really struggling with acne, though it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough K2, D, and E as well. More details in our book – sorry this is so dang complicated! :/

Key Takeaways

  • Do NOT take regular fish oil, period. It’s often rancid and increases lipid peroxidation in the body (BAD).
  • Do NOT take cod liver oil, either, since it’s also basically pure PUFA, increasing lipid peroxidation (BAD for skin).
  • Eat grass-fed liver, or take desiccated liver capsules, or take a quality vitamin A supplement to get adequate pre-formed vitamin A. More details and specifics in our book.
  • Vitamin A is exremely important, but it’s just one of a wide range of players and triggers in the vicious acne cycle. A holistic diet- and lifestyle-based treatment for acne is really the only way to be free of it forever, in our experience (that’s what our book is all about!).
  • Yes, we are a business. Yes, we do make money if you buy our book. That said, we try to do our best to over-deliver our end of the bargain – we think our complete book program is a small price to pay for the knowledge on how to clear up your acne for good! 🙂 It takes a lot of time, research, and diligence to figure out what the root triggers of acne are, and come up with a holistic, easy-to-understand plan that fits a wide range of lifestyles for people all around the world. We’ve done our best to make this as easy and straightforward as possible, because we know how much of a soul-sucking pain acne can be!
Sources (click to expand)

  1. Inflammation. Wikipedia ^
  2. Masterjohn, Chris. Precious Yet Perilous. The Weston A. Price Foundation, 2010. ^
  3. Masterjohn, Chris. Precious Yet Perilous. The Weston A. Price Foundation, 2010. ^
  4. Freeman MP. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70 Suppl 5:7-11. Review. ^
  5. 44 Conklin SM, Manuck SB, Yao JK, Flory JD, Hibbeln JR, Muldoon MF. High omega-6 and low omega-3 fatty acids are associated with depressive symptoms and neuroticism. Psychosom Med. 2007 Dec;69(9):932-4. Epub 2007 Nov 8. ^
  6. Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Migliorini S, Lodi L. Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Nov;35(11):691-9. ^
  7. Safarinejad MR, Hosseini SY, Dadkhah F, Asgari MA. Relationship of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with semen characteristics, and anti-oxidant status of seminal plasma: a comparison between fertile and infertile men. Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):100-5. Epub 2009 Aug 8. ^
  8. Couet C, Delarue J, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Lamisse F. Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Aug;21(8):637-43. ^
  9. Chambrier C, Bastard JP, Rieusset J, Chevillotte E, Bonnefont-Rousselot D, Therond P, Hainque B, Riou JP, Laville M, Vidal H. Eicosapentaenoic acid induces mRNA expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma. Obes Res. 2002 Jun;10(6):518-25. ^


  1. daisy says

    So does the fermented cod liver oil cause free radicals? Also is it mainly the vitamin a instead of the omega 3s that help with acne? Is it okay to not eat either liver or fish if you minimize your omega 6 intake?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, Daisy! Had a baby recently and just moved states. FCLO, and any PUFA, can potentially lead to free radicals. That’s why it’s important to have a properly functioning antioxidant system in the body! Fortunately, your body makes glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and other powerful antioxidants to neutralize such free radicals. The benefits of the vitamin A in the FCLO outweigh the drawbacks for many people, we think, though getting vitamin A from liver may be a more optimal long-term solution. Yes, it’s mainly the A that helps, though the omega-3s help to reduce inflammation in someone with an already high omega-6 intake. Reducing omega-6 intake to very low levels means you probably don’t need to eat fish. You still need some source of vitamin A, though. For some people, high-vitamin-A vegetables are enough, but for many (like me – I have a genetic polymorphism that leads to lower ability to convert carotenes to retinol), getting animal-sourced (or retinol-form) vitamin A may be important. Egg yolks, liver, etc. are good sources.

  2. Amara Tee says

    Greetings from Pakistan,
    I am 18 years old and so much disappointed with my skin . I have acne tho’ its not severe but i am fed up with it. I was thinking of having coffee but this article and the other coffee one made me more frustrated.. I ain’t sure if its because of hormonal change which is leading to acne.. Kindly tell me some daily routine tips to reduce acne and of course its marks.. 🙁

  3. Ryan James says

    Acne free after 6months of clearskin forever program!! So grateful for this website and people behind it !!!

    Don’t underestimate clean diet/ green tea / probiotics and fermented cod liver oil the benefits take time but believe me it works…

  4. Kejsi says

    Hello 🙂
    Greetings from Albania :)) I am 19 years old.. Does my acne get worse if I take FCLO and zinc tablets also?… I did not make any visit unfortunately but I think I am a zinc deficient also… Is it wrong to take them both? Please answer me 🙁 since I don’t know what to take… I never use antibiotics or pills. Thank you for this website though. I found it very useful and I wish you success:)

  5. Zuly says

    Great information. Carry on bro. I am working as a content writer , so your articles will help me to write my next project. I am printing this page.thank you.
    Zuly Zonova

  6. Taylor says

    So if you are consuming 1/4 lb of liver per week, do you still recommend supplementing FCLO for a boost in Omega 3’s? My diet is super well-rounded, but I hate fish (I’m trying to work in some Salmon). I’m wanting to supplement with whole foods like y’all recommend (liver) but am worried my O-3 intake may be too low without any fish in my diet.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Taylor, nope, if you’re eating liver, you don’t need to take FCLO. As we say above, the best thing is to keep your omega-6 intake low, and you can still get omega-3s from foods like grass-fed beef. If you want to, you could take a small daily dose of FCLO (2 mL), but I’d say that’s not essential.

  7. Sal says

    Hello,devin & Sonia
    Just purchased ur book , great info.
    Am new to the diet so have many?
    To begin with my killer question is am i allowed bread?
    I am based in the uk and so have my local super market
    Which do gluten free ,wheat free, milk free soft brown bread.
    Would love to post pic, but crap with tech stuff.
    So please any info on bread please.
    Have been on forum to see other post but still not sure etc.
    Am 32 femail, with I think pcos, thyroid issues but guess these can be improved with diet .
    Could u pleases correct me if I am wrong , how do doctors resolve pcos, thyroid issues????
    Did do ultra sound and blood tests but did not get results from doc , will do ASAP.
    Have diagnose pcos, thyroid myself which is wrong , will ask doc.but with symptoms etc know I have it.
    Anyway will defo check with doc.
    Lastly have not ordered any supplements .
    I know u have mentioned it like my acne, lots .
    But again am not tech person and u mention Amazon , do I get fclo.
    Isn’t 5000 iu too much?
    Zinc 10-15 ?
    Do I need magnesium?
    Appreciate u reading this

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Sal! We’d love to help you. Since you’ve got the book, would you post this on the CSF Forum (get there by logging into your account on our website)? We’ve also got info on there already about some of your questions, like PCOS and thyroid issues, so you might try searching the forum for that info. If you can’t figure out the search, just post your questions (click the “+ Topic” button) and we’ll get you to the right place.

  8. Taylor says

    Hey guys,

    First I just want to say, I’m really enjoying ya’lls website. Lots of valuable information. Question: If you’re eating out on a weekly basis, even if you’re adhearing to a paleo diet, you’re bound to get a larger than optimal dose of Omega-6 due to cooking oils that restaurants use. Would you recommend taking a larger dose of FCLO when you’ve been eating out, or if you know a restaurant uses less than optimal cooking oils? I read your article on Green Tea as well – would you just recommend drinking 3 cups a day for a few days instead?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Taylor! Yep, you can do that (take extra FCLO, maybe up to 5 mL) to help balance out the n-6s. Drinking green tea can help, too, as you mention. You can do both of these things, and eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods the rest of the time to keep inflammation low!

  9. Stu says

    Can you take cod liver oil and eat liver from beef or chicken regularity also? I don’t want to overdose on vitamin a.


    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Stu, depends on how much you’re eating/taking of each. If you’re eating 1/4 pound of liver weekly and taking 1/2 tsp of fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) daily, that’s probably fine, as long as you’re also supplementing with vitamin D3 or getting daily, unprotected sun. More than those amounts is not something we’d typically recommend. Eating liver is probably a better choice (robust mineral content) than taking FCLO, if you’re going to do one or the other.

  10. Peter says

    Hi! What about eating 2 spoonful of olive oil everyday? no frying just raw, eating with salad.
    is olive oil bad?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Peter! Extra virgin olive oil is a really healthy fat, but it isn’t a source of skin-friendly vitamin A. So yes, dress your salad with olive oil, but also take FCLO or eat liver.

  11. Adriana says


    I been suffering different kinds of acne in my face, chest and back. The dermatologist prescribed antibiotics, which I have taken for several years to the point my body got used to them and they did not produce any effect on my acne anymore. Then I decided to stop antibiotics and I tried spironolactone which in low dose did not produce major effect and when the doctor prescribed a bigger dose I had to stop it because my blood pressure was seriously low and I almost faint. Then I research the diet approach and I am on a low glycemic diet and I quit cold turkey dairy and after one week my skin started to look better, the small regular pimples disappear, but in the second week my skin started to break up even more with the most severe pimples in my chin and hair line. Also I have included more almonds and avocados in my diet because these are suppose to be super foods and I am having almond milk to replace the real milk. This week, I had a full avocado at lunch and in the afternoon I have huge cysts, the big, red and inflamed ones and even feverish to the point I had to go to the dermatologist to get cortisone shots in my chain of cyst. I am starting to think my big breakups are caused by the avocados, but everywhere I research it says, avocados are good in general and even better for the skin because of the anti-inflammatory properties so I don’t know. Can you please tell me what do you think about avocados? Can the response of the skin be that fast that only after some hours of eating an avocado can you get a breakup? Also I wanted to ask, different kind of foods produce different kinds of acne?

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Adriana, sorry for the epic delay on this. Sounds like you might have an avocado intolerance – I’ve certainly heard of that before. Best to avoid, have to listen to your own body in the end – internet articles can’t tell you what YOUR body is like, and how it reacts to foods! There are plenty of other healthy foods out there to eat besides avocados.

    • Jenna says

      Almonds and, by extension, almond milk are incredibly bad for the environment because of how much water it requires to grow the almond trees…any better solutions for people looking to supplement cow milk?

      • Devin Mooers says

        Great point! How are you wanting to use milk? Personally, I’ve stopped trying to use milk or any kind of milk substitute, because I just don’t have a need for them anymore. Let me know how you’re wanting to use them and I can try to suggest options.

  12. Pascal Yang says

    I once stayed with Zen monks in a temple in Japan. They ate foods that were non oily and lots of veggie plus brown rice. They didn’t eat much because they did nothing all day long except meditation and some reading of books. sometimes cleaning up the temple.
    They have very good skin and clear good eyesight(for old monks). If you look carefully none of the foods were processed foods. I mean none at all. Except for the soya bean oil which highly processed but they used very little of it.(I examine every food for oil ) They ate fish but no meat.
    No milk or cheese , no chocolate, no creamy stuff for dessert.
    It’s kind of difficult for me to go without my coffee and cream let alone no cheese or country style sourdough bread.
    Buddhist teaching of right and wholesome attitude towards foods- foods are for keeping your body in one piece otherwise you fall sick, food is not for enjoyment. Once you get your mind re-program you no longer long for your cream cheese cake. Are we living in a simulated world I wonder?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Pascal! Thanks for sharing your story! I’m sure that the peaceful lifestyle of the monks is great for their skin and overall health, too. For most of us that have more active lives, such a simple (and probably low-calorie) diet isn’t realistic, but the clean-ness of the diet is very inspiring! And I like your philosophy on reprogramming the mind. It can be tough to set aside foods we love for awhile for health reasons, but if you can get to the place where you are meeting all your nutritional needs and no longer crave the foods that were harming you, you’re golden :). Best wishes to you on your journey!

  13. Amy says

    I know Green Pastures has the combo FCLO/high vitamin butter oil. I’ve found Rosita’s Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil and a grass fed butter oil on Would you recommend taking the combo the help combat acne? So taking EVCLO and high vitamin butter oil. I had great results from the FCLO but I’ve seen so much back and forth because of the WAPF report.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Good question, Amy. If you’re not comfortable taking Green Pasture’s, then the Rosita EVCLO + Corganic butter oil supplementation combo seems like a good alternative. We don’t push the FCLO + high-vitamin butter oil blend simply because some people are highly sensitive to dairy, but if it hasn’t been a problem for you, it’s a primo source of K2 and other important vitamins!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Olga, we’ve actually had a fairly lively discussion about this on the CSF member forum. Here is my response, from the forum:

      To bring everyone up to date, Kaayla Daniel, Vice President of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF, an organization that strongly supports fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) and Green Pastures brand), published a report in August (2015) detailing a number of problematic findings about GP’s FCLO, including that it was rancid, contained trans fats, and was otherwise not as advertised.

      You can get Dr. Daniel’s free report here, or read a summary here.

      Researcher Chris Masterjohn (who writes for WAPF) and Sally Fallon Morell (WAPF president) have written rebuttals to the report.

      So, what to do with this barrage of information? Daniel’s report has certainly given a lot of people pause, and WAPF’s rebuttals are also convincing. I have skimmed through the arguments on both sides, and both seem more or less compelling. For my part, I have been taking FLCO for some years now (not daily, as I don’t take it when I’m eating liver), and have never thought it smelled or tasted rancid, and rancid fats are the biggest potential problem, in my view. Chris Masterjohn addresses this particular issue in his rebuttal, linked above. (Allegations, for instance, that some of the livers used came from Alaskan pollock, which is in the cod family, instead of true cod, seem unimportant.)

      Are our recommendations to our readers changing? Not really. I will still emphasize that the best thing you can do is eat liver, 1/4# per week. If you’re eating liver in these quantities, you do not need to also take FCLO. Chicken livers, beef livers, lamb livers, goat livers, veal livers – doesn’t matter. It’s absolutely the best thing to eat liver regularly.

      If you won’t eat liver and are concerned about the integrity of Green Pasture’s product, there are alternative cod liver oils. Rosita extra virgin CLO is a fine alternative to GP’s FCLO. If you’ve already ordered a bottle of FCLO or are in the middle of one, I don’t think the recent findings call for you to ditch the supply you have. (I’m still taking mine just like before!) If you suddenly encounter a bottle of FCLO that smells bad or rancid, though, absolutely contact the seller and return the bottle.

  14. Andrea says


    I have a question about a new cod liver oil that is supposedly extra virgin cod liver oil that I recently heard about. I was researching about it last week and I think I heard about it on Chris Kessler’s blog, but honestly I can’t remember because I do so much research. It is sold here:
    Do you have an opinion on this compared to the fermented cod liver oil. I’m currently on my third month of the cinnamon tingle flavor of the fermented type. I don’t mind the taste at all but sometimes I feel like a might be getting a reaction to the high amount of cinnamon?
    By the way, my husband and I grew up in Bend, Oregon. We now live in Hawaii and travel back to Bend during Christmas time and part of summer. I miss it!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Andrea! That CLO is actually the other one we would recommend, the only other one we’ve found that’s naturally high in vitamin A. They are strangely tight-lipped about their oil extraction method, but it seems to be a good product. My main reservation (and why we don’t recommend it more enthusiastically) is because of cost. A $50 bottle of the Rosita/Corganic brand will last you 1 month (1 tsp/day); a $44 bottle of Green Pastures FCLO will last you 4 months (2 mL/day). These dosages provide approximately equal amounts of vitamin A (3,000-5,000 IU). If you think the cinnamon might be a problem for you, your wallet would probably prefer that you just choose another flavor (I’ve also tried the mint; it’s palatable), but if you want to try the Rosita, go for it!

      And hey, Bend natives! We’ve been here a little over 2 years now, and really enjoy all the goodness Bend has to offer. Hawaii sounds pretty nice too, though 🙂

  15. Sabrina says


    The Green Pasture FCLO is a tad too pricey for me. I was thinking of buying the Seven Seas High Strength Omega3 Cod Liver Oil Liquid, would that work for me too? If not could you please recommend an alternative.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Sabrina! What we’re after for your skin in FCLO is a natural source of vitamin A – not omega-3s. The only brands we’ve come across that preserve the natural high vitamin A content in the cod livers are Green Pastures and Rosita, both of which come with higher price points than other fish/liver oils. If you can’t spring for the Green Pastures stuff, our next best recommendation is to eat liver – 1/4# per week. It’s cheap and comes packed with tons of other awesome nutrients!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Yep, we take it straight! We get a flavored one (cinnamon tingle is our flavor of choice), and it might taste a little weird at first, but it’s not bad at all. And you’re right, it’s a really small amount. If find you really don’t like the taste, you could certainly blend it into a smoothie or some other food (but don’t cook it!).

  16. Amrit says

    Hi there , I have been taking CLO (green pastures) for a month now and its been helping my skin a lot! But since it has vitamin D in it , do I still need to take additional vitamin D ? I have been taking a tablespoon each day . So every 24 hours.

    Thank you!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Amrit, I’m really glad to hear that the FCLO is helping your skin!! I’m concerned that you’re taking a tablespoon each day – I would definitely back that off to 1 teaspoon at the most; 2 mL is actually what we recommend as a daily dosage over the long-term (which is about 1/2 tsp).

      You’re right that the FCLO contains vitamin D, but the quantity of D (and of D3 specifically) in FCLO can vary. I’ve read estimates that total vitamin D content is about 1000 IU per 2 mL. Whether you should take an additional vitamin D supplement depends. Do you get outside and get sun exposure directly on unprotected skin most days? If so, then you probably don’t need an extra D supplement. If you don’t, then you might consider supplementing D3 at 2000 – 5000 IU per day.

  17. hayley gray says

    Hi! So from the age 16-19 or 20 i used proactiv bc i thought i had ‘acne’ boy was i wrong. My skin was perfect the younger i was, as i’ve gotten older i’ve rly been hit with it. About a year ago, i tried the Clinique Kit and it cleared even the smallest of bumps i had here n there right up, my skin was perfect. I never had a single bump like i used to get, from time to time.. After 3 weeks of using Clinique my skin went crazy. I honestly woke up n it was worse n worse each day i woke up. I returned the product, went back to using Cetaphil cleanser, n it just kept getting worse. PArts of my face that nvr broke out like my forehead n cheeks, were terrible. I finally went to a dermatologist who prescribed me antibiotics. That healed me up over the course of 3-4 months n i stayed on them for 6-7 months bc it helped my acne. It cleared up what had spread all over my face but i still got little ones on my chin and jaw, and after my skin breaking out so severly to where it hurt to smile or move my mouth or raise my forehead, it left a lot of bad scarring n red marks. Ok so fast forward i quit cold turkey on antiobitocs bc they’re not good for long term use, n i researched natural products for acne. Manuka honey, witch hazel, tea tree oil, indian aztec healing clay bentonite, apple cider vinegar. I made a toner w/ that, i did clay masks, honey for the redness which i do believe that helped a good amount, but my skin is still off n on w/ alot of scarring n red marks, i’m still getting cystic bumps so i am trying this 30 day no wash but water every other day regimen. I’m trying to get my skins Ph level normal again without the use of any products or over washing w/ the acception of just water when i shower. Will fish oil supplements or cod liver oil supplements help w/ the cystic acne? The pain of cystic acne or scarring? Or do u have any advice for me? I’m a pretty healthy person, not as healthy as i used to be but mostly i am, i do consume dairy, i’m not on any special diets either n i don’t take any sort of supplements now, i’ve been off antibiotics since august 10th of this yr. thank u!!!!!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Haley! Whew, what a story… what a turnaround! Good for you for going all-natural. My best suggestion for you is not to take a fish oil / cod liver oil supplement, but to eat liver. Yep, eat 1/4 pound of liver (chicken, beef, lamb, goat, whatever) per week – it’s packed with vitamin A and loads of other skin-essential nutrients. If that’s simply not something you can do (though I encourage you to try it once, starting with chicken livers), then try fermented cod liver oil, 2 mL per day. Green Pastures is the brand we recommend, links and other info in the blog post above. My second suggestion to you is to stay away from the antibiotics from now on, and start taking care of your gut – read this article on antibiotics, your gut, probiotics, and fermented foods. Good luck to you!!

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