Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential for maintaining our health and wellbeing. However, because omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body, we need to ensure our diets include an adequate supply. But the fact is, most of us just do not get enough omega-3 each day. Eating oily fish regularly is one way we can boost our omega-3 intake, but for some, this can be impractical and expensive.
Krill Oil is one of the fastest growing, most valuable Omega-3 ingredients in recent years. Krill exist in every ocean around the globe, representing the largest biomass on Earth. They exhibit a shrimp-like appearance, big black eyes and a reddish, semi-transparent shell. Krill live in huge swarms in the ocean and because krill feed on marine algae that produce omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – they accumulate these fatty acids in their body. Although there are different species of krill, the most common type, Euphausia superba, is found only in the Antarctic, where the ocean is uncontaminated by toxins. And it is this type of krill that is used to make most krill oil supplements.
How Is Krill Oil Different From Fish Oil?
Clinical and pre-clinical studies that compare krill oil and fish oil suggest that krill oil may be more effective than fish oil in terms of bioavailability which is defined as the body’s ability to absorb and use the krill oil. Although krill oil and fish oil possess a similar name, the term “oil” can be misleading not just because it implies a similar physical structure but also may suggest the two oils are being produced and purified using similar techniques. Indeed, both of these perceptions are incorrect and misleading. First and foremost, krill oil composition is fundamentally different from fish oil. Unlike fish oil, krill oil contains additional elements within its matrix, which seems to enhance its biological activity beyond what is known in fish oils.
Both krill and fish oils contain the two key omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). However, the two types of oil deliver these fats in different ways.
In fish oil, the omega-3 fats are attached to triglycerides, fats that can be burned for energy or stored as a fuel reserve, in fat cells.
In krill oil, the omega-3s are attached to phospholipids, waxy substances that make up the membrane of each cell in our bodies. The membrane acts like the walls of a house, maintaining the integrity of the cell, controlling what goes in and out, and enabling communication between cells.
Without healthy cell membranes, the human body cannot function optimally and is predisposed to all manner of disease. When cell membranes function well, nutrients are more readily absorbed, used to continually replace and repair tissue, and to generate energy.
This difference in chemical structure is of great relevance to human health since studies have shown that the EPA and DHA from krill oil is more effectively incorporated into the human cells and tissues than EPA and DHA from fish oil. This means that for the same amount of krill oil, more of it is absorbed and utilize by the body as compared to the same amount of fish oil. This is mainly due to the fact that krill oil is in the form of phospholipids.
The typical characteristics of triglycerides differ from phospholipids and this affect how they are tolerated by the body, one clear difference is that triglycerides do not disperse and have a tendency to float on top of stomach fluids, which can result in the fishy burps often associated with fish oil supplements. On the other hand, phospholipid omega-3s do disperse in water and are easily blended in the stomach fluids, and better absorbed by the body, therefore one does not suffer from “fishy smelling” burps even when consuming the krill oil on an empty stomach.
Naturally Occuring Astaxanthin in Krill Oil.
Astaxanthin is the antioxidant carotenoid that gives krill oil its deep red colour. Astaxanthin is a very potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Antioxidants are important for reducing damage caused by oxidative stress and can lower an individual’s risk for developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and a system’s ability to remove these free radicals. Antioxidants such as astaxanthin help to counteract and repair the damage caused by these harmful compounds. Therefore, astaxanthin play an important role in the pathophysiology of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease.
Apart from the recognized health promoting suppression of free radicals, astaxanthin also keeps the krill oil naturally fresh, protecting the omega-3 fatty acids. No additives are necessary to maintain the krill oil’s long-term stability. This cannot be said of fish oil that requires additional additives to prevent the fish oil from turning rancid.
Purity and Safety of Krill Oil
Unlike fish, which may be contaminated with environmental contaminants, Antarctic krill live in a naturally clean environment, devoid of pollution, so there is significantly less risk of heavy metals contamination. Krill Oil has undergone extensive in vitro, in vivo and human studies to determine its safety and lack of toxicity.
Krill oil is unique in the marine omega-3 world due to the significantly fewer processing steps needed to create the final product. Relative to other marine omega-3 sources, krill is considered a whole food extract. In fact, because it is environmentally clean in its original form, no purification or distillation is required. Krill was evaluated in an independent study and found to contain virtually no contaminants in comparison with other marine omega 3 products. Therefore, krill represents one of the cleanest sources of marine omega-3s on the market today.
Health benefits of Krill Oil
Studies show that EPA and DHA benefit the heart, brain, and joints. They reduce inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, ADHD, dry eye, asthma, stress, and risk for breast cancer; improve or stabilize mood and reduce aggression; support healthy vision, hearing, and skin health; slow down aging; and help maintain a healthy weight.
According to a research review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, human studies of krill oil found these benefits:
- Healthier cholesterol levels
- Reduced arthritis symptoms
- Relief from PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps
- In children, improved attention span
- Among obese people, improvement in a body chemical that affects fat storage and appetite
- Among athletes, less oxidative (free radical) damage from exercise
How to Use Krill Oil
To relieve symptoms, studies have generally used 1–3 grams of krill oil daily. For general health maintenance, take 500 mg daily.
People with known allergies to crustaceans (e.g., shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.) should not use krill products.