Fermentation has an ‘enriching’ effect on most foods, and cod liver oil is no exception. There is research to show that cod liver oil produced through lacto-fermentation contains a host of additional nutrients, such as 2-phenylethylamine and tyramine, as well as various phenolic compounds. There is still much to discover in fermented cod liver oil, but what we know is quite exciting.
2 biogenic amines have been identified in fermented cod liver oil. These 2 are called 2-phenylethylamine and tyramine, although there may well be more. Both of these are commonly produced by fermentation and are a typical indicator for bacterial activity. They are found throughout many foods and 2-phenylethylamine is noted for its presence in chocolate. These amines are powerful antioxidants, and so offer the typical benefits you would expect from them. However, they also have some more unique benefits. The first, is they act as an antibacterial compound. This is important in fermented cod liver oil production where heat isn’t used to treat the oil. Bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, produce several antibacterial compounds that stop pathogenic bacteria from growing and render the product safe. These amines, along with lactic acid, are a natural way to make the oil safe.
They also play an important role in nervous function. They help the uptake of dopamine, which in turn can help improve mood. 2-phenylethylamine is often sold as a standalone supplement that can help to improve mood and even weight loss, although there is more research needed to really understand the extent of this.
Phenolic compounds such as flavinoids and tannins are overlooked in the nutritional world, although foods rich in them are known for being extremely healthy. They are usually responsible for vibrant colours in foods. Blueberries, for example, are rich in the phenolic anthocyanin, which is a potent purple antioxidant. Phenolics cover a vast number of compounds that are found throughout the foods we eat. They are all noted for having anti-inflammatory, antoixidant and cancer preventative porperties, to varying degrees.
The presence of phenolic compounds in fermented cod liver oil is quite interesting. Phenolic compounds are commonly found in plants, but some phenolic compounds, such as astaxanthin are found in crustateans. Astaxanthin is responsible for the red colour in crabs and lobsters, and it shares similar chemical properties to lycopene, which is the red pigment in tomotoes. Cod are predatory fish, eating other smaller fish and also crabs, which could be the origional source of some of the phenolics.
Lactic acid bacteria, which facilitate the fermention of cod livers, can produce and metabolise various phenolic compounds. Research into lactic acid fermentation on mixes with phenolic compounds ‘greatly improves’ the antioxidant properties. Although this hasn’t been tested on cod liver oil, it is extremly probable to have similar results.
What are the health benefits of fermented cod liver oil?
Aside from being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin D, fermented cod liver oil is also rich in antioxidants. This combination of naturally occuring nutrients is extremly unique and is virtaully unheard of in nature. Having a variety of unique antioxidants makes for a very powerful health supplement indeed. As is always the case though, more research is needed to be able to quantify these benfits.