Cod liver oil is an omega 3 fatty acid, and source of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which the body cannot make. Namely arachidonic acid, DHA, and EPA are essential for brain development and arachidonic and DHA are ample in breastmilk. Essential fatty acids are known to help improve symptoms in ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, all of which can be associated with fine motor and gross motor skills. Theories involve their anti-inflammatory capacity, as well as acting as a carrier for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which are deficient in this cohort. Many studies have also been conducted on intake of these fats and severity of depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. (1)
Cod liver itself is a source of vitamin A, and to a lesser extent vitamin D. In an RCT trial supplementing mothers with cod liver oil from week 18 of pregnancy to 3 months postpartum, breastfed children had higher mental processing scores at 4 and 7 years compared to control. (2) Cod liver oil tends to concentrate in the brain and retina of the eye. In fact, a study on breastfed children indicated that DHA levels in breastmilk and infant blood are correlated to increased visual acuity at 2 months, and increased verbal activity at 9 months. (3)
Researcher and paediatrician Meg Megson, MD, (4) showed in multiple case studies that cod liver oil directly impacts visual and sensory processing of autistic children. This is due mostly because it is a natural source of cis-form vitamin A. The mechanism reconnects retinoid receptors in the hippocampus which are commonly uncoupled by environmental toxins. Disappearance of side glancing and improved eye contact with parents were some of the first noticeable findings within weeks of supplementation. Increased verbal skills and sociability were also observed, both of which disappeared after the dose wore off.
1). Parris M. Kidd, PhD. Autism, An Extreme Challenge to Integrative Medicine. Part II: Medical Management. Altern Med Rev 2002;7(6):472-499.
2). Carlo Agostoni. Role of Long-chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the First Year of Life.
- Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
4). Megson MN. Is autism a G-alpha protein defect reversible with natural vitamin A? Med Hypotheses. 2000 Jun;54(6):979-83.