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How does Salmon Oil Compare with Cod Liver Oil?
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In short, they have about the same omega-3 content, but the two oils differ in other ways
By Craig Weatherby

Dear Vital Choice,

What are the differences between your salmon oil and cod liver oil?

Mary K.
Chicago, IL

Dear Mary,

We get this question quite a bit, and here’s the answer.

First, Salmon Oil and Cod Liver Oil contain similar levels of omega-3s. Beyond that, the choice is a matter of personal preference and needs. Both fish oils are highly beneficial, but each offers distinctive features:
  • Only unrefined Salmon Oil like ours contains the powerful, red-hued antioxidant called astaxanthin, which is stripped out of refined Salmon oil supplements.)

  • Both oils contain vitamins D and A, with Cod Liver Oil providing considerably more of each. (Whole wild Salmon are extremely rich in vitamin D; a 6-oz serving provides about as much vitamin D as a 1,000 mg capsule of Cod Liver Oil.)

  • Both oils contain about 20 percent saturated fat.

  • Both oils are low in omega-6 fats (no more than 10 percent).
Here’s how the two oils stack up in terms of omega-3s, vitamin A, and vitamin D. We’ve provided the figures for 1,000 mg capsules, and for one-teaspoon size servings of liquid oil.

Nutrients per 1,000 mg (1 g) capsule (average amounts):

  • Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil—220 mg total omega-3s.This total includes about 145 mg of the two key omega-3s (80 mg of EPA + 65 mg of DHA), plus other omega-3s (octadecatetraenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, linolenic acid, and eicosatrienoic acid).

  • Cod Liver Oil—180 mg total omega-3s.This consists almost entirely of the two key omega-3s (70 mg of EPA + 110 mg of DHA).
  • Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil—114 IU

  • Cod Liver Oil—100 IU (USDA data: many Cod Liver Oil brands claim 400 to 1,000 IU)
Vitamin A*
  • Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil—687 IU

  • Cod Liver Oil—1,000 IU
Nutrients per teaspoon (average amounts):

  • Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil—800 mg total omega-3s. This total includes about 620 mg of the two key omega-3s (320 mg of EPA + 300 mg of DHA).

  • Cod Liver Oil—850 mg total omega-3s. This total consists almost entirely of the two key omega-3s (300 mg of EPA + 500 mg of DHA).
Vitamin D*
  • Sockeye Salmon Oil—456 IU

  • Cod Liver Oil—450 IU
Vitamin A*
  • Sockeye Salmon Oil—2,748 IU

  • Cod Liver Oil—4,500 IU
*NOTE: In terms of volume, one teaspoon contains 4 times as much oil as a 1,000 mg capsule. However, USDA figures for the amounts of vitamin A and D in a one teaspoon serving are a bit higher than for times the USDA figures for the amounts of vitamin A and D in a 1,000 mg serving. We cannot explain these anomalies.
Some authorities advise against taking refined Cod Liver Oil, which typically contains synthetic versions of vitamins A and D, added to replace the natural vitamins stripped out during refining. The synthetic form of vitamin A may be less safe than the naturally occurring forms in unrefined Cod Liver Oil.

  • Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil data by Covance Laboratories, Inc. The omega-3 figures are the average of two years’ test results; The vitamin A and D  figures come from Covance Laboratories analysis of batch #70403416 reported April 26, 2006: vitamin A = 114 IU per gm (342 IU per 3 gm serving); vitamin D = 687 IU per gm (2,061 IU per 3-gm serving).
  • One gram of Salmon Oil equals about 1/4 tsp. Thus, one tsp of Salmon Oil contains 4 times as much, or 456 IU of vitamin D and 914 IU of vitamin A.)
  • Cod Liver Oil data comes from the USDA Nutrient Database at

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