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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Wartime remedies back on menu
Orange juice
Orange juice can mask the taste of cod liver oil

World War ll diets, such as a combination of cod liver oil and orange juice, are back on the menu and being recommended by your local GP.

Mabel Elliot, 61, from Brixton, South London, remembers that taste combination only all too well.

As a child during the Second War, she like most other British children were given cod liver oil and orange juice supplied by the government to boost vitamin levels of A and D.


The taste brings back not too happy memories for me

Mabel Elliot
But she was surprised when her doctor recommended the combination this month to her for her osteoarthritis.

"The taste brings back not too happy memories for me. I'm not sure if I will be able to stomach it for long," she said.

"I'd seen advertisements on the underground for cod liver oil capsules for arthritis but I was surprised when my doctor encouraged me to take cod liver oil and orange juice."

The orange juice is sometimes recommended also by GPs to cover up the taste of the cod liver oil.

"I guess we got used to the taste eventually in the war," she said.

"It's funny how the medical profession often finds use for old remedies."

Taste

Ever since scientists at Cardiff University in Wales confirmed in March that cod liver oil could benefit arthritis sufferers, doctors have been recommending the treatment.

According to Professor John Harwood, of Cardiff University and one of the principle researchers into the cod liver oil studies, the vitamins in the oil are not the main benefit.

"Rather it's the omega-3 fatty acids that reduce cartilage degradation and inflammation in arthritic disease. Omega-3 fatty acid is the major component of cod liver oil," he said.

Prof Harwood became interested in studying the effect of fish oils on arthritis after developing severe hip osteoarthritis from being an avid rock climber.

The sheer amount of written material on the possible benefits of fish oil for his condition made him want to conduct clinical trials.

Carrots
Carrots are highly recommended
The researchers at Cardiff University are currently conducting trials into the efficacy of ingesting fish oil and how fish oils work at a molecular level in the body to treat arthritis.

However Prof Harwood said it is proving difficult to recruit many people into this stage of the trial.

"I'm not surprised, with the taste," said Mrs Elliot.

According to Professor Bruce Caterson, Cardiff University co-researcher into cod liver oils, although capsules are more popular to cut down on the fishy taste, the liquid form is still recommended as more can be taken on a daily basis.

"Cold orange juice is favoured often by people in Wales for some reason and cold milk by people in England to remove the unpleasant taste from the liquid cod liver oil," he said.

The capsules can also make you burp a lot but companies like Seven Seas are developing low-burp forms. Capsules are also being developed to taste better.

Other wartime delicacies

But it is not only orange juice and cod liver oil that is giving Mrs Elliot a strong sense of déjà vu.

Her doctor also recommended her last week to cut back on her calorie intake to lose weight and reduce the impact on her knees.

"It's just like rationing again in the war. A few carrots and potatoes and barely any sugar," she said.

And, just like in the war, no bananas.

"Apparently citrus fruits contain less energy," she said.

The Cardiff University trials are sponsored by the UK Arthritis Research Campaign.

The research is due for publication in the June issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism and in August in the Proceedings of the British Nutrition Society this year.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Health
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