In 2006, 1988 and 1985, the winner of the Miss World competition was Icelandic, and in 1957, an Icelandic woman was named Miss Universe.
In addition, several of the winners of the Strongest Man in the World competition have been Icelandic (I prefer the latter contest, particularly the truck-towing event).
One might come up with all sorts of explanations for the especially strong men and many beauty queens of Iceland, but some claim the secret for such paragons is simply cod liver oil.
Now, whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but the fact remains that cod liver oil is a bit of a magic elixir that hasn’t been researched fully.
This thick, yellow liquid is still popular in northern European countries, offering vitamin D and A during winter months and valuable omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
It can boost your immune system, make you smarter, improve your eyesight, give you strength, and probably enhance beauty.
The oil was first used in the fishing communities of Scotland, Iceland, Norway and Greenland centuries ago, when people used it to protect themselves against the intense cold.
The locals quickly discovered it could relieve such complaints as rheumatism, aching muscles and stiff joints.
During the 1890s, it was commonly used to treat rickets, which affected most malnourished children.
Then, in the 1950s, scientists began studying the essential fatty acids contained in cod liver oil and oily fish, and proved how beneficial these are for rheumatism, as well as for the heart and circulatory system.
In the 1980s and 1990s, several large randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled studies in developing countries around the world indicated that vitamin A supplementation could reduce child mortality by about one-third.
These studies led to the World Bank’s announcement, in 1993, that supplementation of vitamin A in children is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available.
Recent Icelandic studies show that a mother’s cod liver oil intake during early pregnancy may increase her baby’s weight.
Higher birth weight has been associated with a lower risk of diseases later in life, so mothers that take cod liver oil might help protect their children against a number of adult health conditions, according to the researchers.
Icelandic birth weights are among the highest in the world — but whether that’s solely because of the oil is debatable.
The fatty acids in cod liver oil are also very important for the development of the brain and nervous system, and some swear it prevents learning disabilities in children.
The liquid is supposed to increase sperm count.
Blood flow may be aided by the essential fatty acids, discouraging blood platelets from sticking together, and some say they lower blood pressure and lessen the risk of coronary heart disease.
It has long been known to be good for arthritis, and vitamin D is essential for bones and teeth. Vitamin A is excellent for night vision. Cod liver oil contains both vitamins.
In fact, cod liver oil contains more fat-soluble vitamin A and D per unit weight than any other common food, almost three times more than beef liver, the next richest source.
Some studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil improve brain function, stress response, lessen allergies, improve memory, and affect learning and behavioural disorders, including manic depression.
Australian scientists are trying to determine if cod liver oil does work against depression.
Apparently, they got their idea from reports that people who eat a lot of sea food, suffer fewer mood swings.
For the study a select group of people with mild depressive symptoms get real cod liver oil every day for several weeks, while another half gets placebo oil.
The results will be interesting.
By now, cod liver oil is probably one of the biggest selling supplements in Europe.
Though the taste of the oil is atrocious, some suggest that drinking a small glass of four-per-cent milk right afterwards kills much of the taste.
So, if you’ve made it this far, no one can blame you if you’ll head straight to the store for this contemporary magic elixir, and then send your application in for the next Miss World competition!
But whether you do the latter or not, just make sure you take your cod liver oil, as we say in Iceland.
If you still have to ask why, I’ll give you the answer my mother gave every morning when I whined about having to take it: “Because it’s good for you!”