Sarah Pope holds up a teaspoon and a dessert spoon in a 2010 video on cod liver oil dosage.

In all the discussion and debate that has raged here and elsewhere over the last two weeks about fermented cod liver oil, one of the most divisive issues has been about recommended dosages.  Sally Fallon Morell has declared in her response to the Kaayla Daniel report that the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends only one to two teaspoons of cod liver oil per day, fermented or non-fermented, suggesting that has long been the case. In her view, naturopath Ron Schmid, who has associated his heart problems with his six years of consumption of fermented cod liver oil, has only himself to blame for his serious heart problems, for taking three to nine times the WAPF’s recommended dose.

But as Amanda Rose pointed out in a series of comments following my second post on this subject, the WAPF until August 20 had a long article posted on its site, “Cod Liver Oil: The Number One Superfood”, that recommended one to two tablespoons of cod liver oil; an infant up to six months should be given a teaspoon, and then “two teaspoons from six months to three years, one tablespoon from 4-10 years and two tablespoons thereafter during winter months or when not sunning.” The WAPF removed the 2002 article from its web site a few days after the Kaayla Daniel report came out, 13 years after it was first posted and widely distributed, apparently in response to the questioning by Amanda Rose.

So in the interests of beginning to gain some clarity on the dosage question, I went to a couple of YouTube video presentation by Sarah Pope, a member of the WAPF board, and author of the Healthy Home Economist blog. Part and parcel of explaining recommended cod liver oil dosages, she posed a question about spoon sizes, which I am summarizing in quiz form as follows:

A dessert spoon is the equivalent of:

A. One tablespoon

B. One teaspoon

C. Neither

In a 2010 YouTube video in which she holds up two spoons (as shown in the screen shot above), Pope’s answer is B, one teaspoon. In the video, she advises taking one to two teaspoons a day total of fermented cod liver oil and skate oil, and holds up a conventional teaspoon and dessert spoon, explaining that a dessert spoon is really a full teaspoon; the smaller conventional teaspoon is much less than a teaspoon, she cautions (see the video from the three-minute mark until shortly after the four-minute mark). She does it again in this 2012 video (begin at the 1:30 mark), saying a conventional tablespoon is really a teaspoon, before taking half that spoonful of cod liver oil and another half spoonful of skate liver oil, to total a teaspoon, in her measuring scheme.

So I went searching online, and ask.com has a different answer— C, neither. According to the site, it takes one -and-a-half dessert spoonfuls to make a real tablespoon. So in effect, Pope was recommending something between a little under and a little more than a tablespoon, rather than the one to two teaspoons she thought she was recommending.

As Joel Salatin likes to say in his talks, “Y’all with me now?”

But wait, there’s more. With some help from one of this blog’s readers, I was able to dig up a page from the Green Pasture web site, posted in 2012, and since removed, that offers this advice about dosage of its fermented cod liver oil: Infants get a few drops, children three to five get 1/4 to one teaspoon. “Most common range for amount to consume is 1/2 to 2 tsp per day. If taking capsules then 3-6 capsules is most common. I have heard some, guided by practitioners or others,  take 1-3 tablespoons per day. This is the exception and not the rule.”

In this 2004 article still up on the WAPF web site, a woman who suffered from heavy menstrual bleeding, Ricki Nunez, stated: “Through the Weston A. Price Foundation, I learned that much higher doses of cod liver oil might help—as high as 90,000 IU. I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can get that down!’ (I have a problem with gag reflex, when it comes to swallowing oil.) The next day, we got a couple of bottles of high vitamin cod liver oil, and I took three full tablespoons, (60,000IU), and continued to take this much for the next three days. After the first day, the bleeding was cut in half! By the third day, it was gone, and has not returned since!”

You still with me?

I inquired with Ron Schmid, the naturopath whose heart problems sparked much of the controversy about FCLO dosages, and this is how he described his reactions to the dosage confusion: “I am not surprised at all. There was lots of talk at the Conferences in the early 2000s about dosages like the one to two tablespoons I was taking; it was common knowledge that I was doing so. It was only after FCLO came out in 2006 that I began on some days to take three tablespoons; maybe twice a week or so. I did not recommend that much to my patients, but people did know I was doing it. I am so sorry now I did not do more research sooner.”

What about the fact that some people, like Ricki Nunez, experienced health improvements from the high doses? “There is no question that many people have felt better taking FCLO. There are certainly nutrients in there that can correct chronic deficiencies and thus help with various conditions. Of course, many people do have immediate adverse reactions, as we have seen in so many reports. But many others tolerate FCLO and have improvements in their health. However, that does not mean that longer term problems may not occur. My case was extreme because of the high doses, but it is logical that in many other people, chronic problems are developing because of the toxic effects. Imagine being on a wonderful natural foods diet and enjoying perfect health. Then your lovely wife starts giving you a new, controversial food supplement every day. Not enough of it that you notice much. But over time, you go downhill, slowly, surely. But since you have some suspicions, you do a careful internet search on the new supplement one night while she’s sleeping soundly. And in the morning you go have a few tests done on it. Lo and behold, you’re hit with the hard truth. It’s mislabeled, not what it purports to be, a lot of people are having bad reactions, and the tests indicate that it is toxic. She’s been so good to me. How could she make such a mistake?”

Obviously, lots of people in addition to Schmid are doing lots of soul searching these days. Mothers are wondering if they did the right thing feeding infants FCLO. Others are very confused, and I’m afraid what I have just written likely won’t ease their confusion.

But isn’t that really the point? It’s up to the WAPF and its favorite sponsor, Green Pasture, to take steps to ease the confusion. Instead of hunkering down, removing contradictory articles from their web sites, giving mixed and even untrue messages to the community, the WAPF in particular should be stepping back, and admitting it may have inadvertently been inconsistent on the subject of FCLO. It’s not so terrible to have made errors in the interests of helping people get well. Most people are forgiving. What they are less forgiving of is being blamed for following recommendations that have shifted without notice.

I sure hope people at WAPF begin to look inward, and seek ways to reassure and inform their community of what they know, and what they don’t know. I can almost guarantee the reactions will be better than what’s been happening the last couple weeks.