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This Supplement Could Be Key For Your Bone Health, New Study Suggests

If your bones aren't getting all the nutrients they need, this supplement could help.

There's a good chance that, when you were little, you were told you needed to drink lots of milk to help your bones grow healthy and strong. In fact, you may have been told this so many times that you got sick of hearing it. 

As adults, however, most of us don't have anyone looking out for our bones and reminding us of the significant impact the foods we eat can have on our skeletons. After all, while some foods can help your bones get the nutrients they need, others could be doing some real damage. Now, new research suggests that taking cod liver oil could be beneficial to your bone health. 

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The study, recently published in the journal Nutrients, examined how vitamin A-deficient rats' bones responded to cod liver oil. Researchers noted the rats with this deficiency had bones that were abnormally thick, but when these rats were treated with cod liver oil, their bones returned to a normal thickness. The researchers argue that the supplement could have similar positive effects in humans. 

cod liver oil

"Cod liver oil is likely beneficial to human bones because it contains both vitamin A and vitamin D," the study's first author, Richard C. Baybutt, PhD, a professor in the nutrition department at East Carolina University, tells Eat This, Not That!. "If [you do] not drink milk, then taking cod liver oil every day could serve as an alternative. In fact, this practice was done prior to the fortification of milk with vitamin A and vitamin D."

According to Healthline, cod liver oil is a good dietary source of vitamin D because it helps your body absorb calcium, which is a necessary mineral for strong bones.

However, this research is still in its early stages, and some aren't sure that adding the supplement to your regimen would make a noticeable difference quite yet. 

"While it's an interesting finding, it's unclear what the real-world implications of this are," says Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, a member of Eat This, Not That!'s Medical Review Board. "Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States, and is likely not the cause of most people's low bone density. So for now, people with low bone density should still rely on standard treatment options rather than turning toward cod liver oil."

For more on how your food choices could affect your skeletal health, check out these Popular Foods for Stronger Bones After 50, Say Dietitians.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara