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Cod Liver Oil for Anxiety

author image Ashley Miller
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
Cod Liver Oil for Anxiety
Cod liver oil may help symptoms of anxiety. Photo Credit Dynamic Graphics/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images

Anxiety is a normal human response to fear and stress. Anxious feelings help mobilize you for action when you're confronted with a scary situation. However, persistent feelings of anxiety can actually leave you immobilized and paralyzed by fear. If you experience high, constant levels of anxiety, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. While many treatments can help, anecdotal evidence and some research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids, found in cod liver oil, can also provide relief from certain symptoms. Do not use dietary supplements as a replacement for conventional medical care.

About Cod Liver Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Cod liver oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids you need for maintaining good health. Your body cannot manufacture omega-3 acids, so you have to obtain them from dietary sources. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, fish oil, such as cod liver oil, as well as certain nut and plant oils, contain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, also referred to as PUFA's, or polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in many physical and mental processes. They help to reduce inflammation, may help prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer, assist with growth and development and play a crucial part in brain functioning.

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Facts about Anxiety

Anxiety is a relatively common mental health problem. In the United States alone, an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. While there are many types of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, they tend to share similar symptoms, including intense fear or worry, panic, sleep problems, appetite changes, unexplained aches and pains, irritability and hypersensitivity. Anxiety disorders are usually treatable with a combination of psychotherapy, medication or alternative and holistic treatments like meditation and yoga. Some people rely on nutritional supplements, such as cod liver oil, to help alleviate anxiety.

Clinical Evidence

A study published in the February 2006 issue of the journal, "European Neuropsychopharmacology," showed that patients suffering from social anxiety disorder had decreased levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or omega-3 fatty acids. This study may indicate the potential benefits of cod liver oil supplementation for anxiety disorders in general, although further studies are needed. A clinical review, published in 2007 in the journal, "Lipids in Health and Disease," states that some evidence suggests benefits of omega-3 supplementation for anxiety disorders, however, the results of existing studies are inconclusive and preliminary. More clinical research is needed to fully evaluate the benefits of cod liver oil on anxiety and anxiety disorders.


While omega-3 supplementation through cod liver oil or other fish oils may help symptoms of anxiety, you should not rely on fish oil as a substitute for conventional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose any symptoms you may experience. Consult your doctor or a qualified mental health professional. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you should inform your doctor if you plan to use a fish oil supplement due to the possibility of side effects and interactions with certain types of medication.

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