Fish oil has long been seen as something of a panacea, helping people with inflammatory conditions like arthritis and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to helping support brain function and even immune system health. Why, then, are so many natural health specialists now recommending krill oil in place of fish oil? Could krill oil be the better option for your natural medicine cabinet?
What is Krill Oil? Firstly, let's look at where krill oil comes from and how this affects its nutrient status. Krill oil is extracted from a shrimp-like zooplankton crustacean, Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba). These creatures live in the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean and in order to survive in this environment krill have incredible concentrations of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs). These fatty acids, which include eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), are attached to the cell membranes in krill via phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine and these phospholipids are what make krill oil so special.
Highly Bioavailable Omega 3 Fatty acids bound to phospholipids are much better absorbed in the gut than those bound to triglycerides (such as in fish oil) and are also better able to be incorporated into our cell membranes. Not only does this mean that we can get the same benefits of fish oil from a smaller amount of krill oil (meaning smaller, easier to swallow capsules!), it also means that there is no fishy aftertaste with krill oil because digestion is more complete.
Naturally Rich in Antioxidants Krill oil is also naturally rich in the antioxidants vitamin E and vitamin A as well as the potent carotenoid antioxidant astaxanthin. These antioxidants help to stabilise the fatty acids in krill oil, protecting the oil against oxidation, a potential problem for all fatty acid supplements. Astaxanthin has even been shown to help with cholesterol and blood lipid management, adding to the cardiovascular benefits of omega 3.
Heart Health and Krill Oil As with fish oil, the omega 3 found in krill oil encourages the production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids including prostaglandins, as well as anti-thrombotic eicosanoids. By reducing inflammation and blood viscosity, in addition to having a vasodilatory effect, krill oil can protect against high blood pressure, plaque formation and arterial hardening, dangerous blood clots and a host of other factors in heart disease and stroke.
Arthritis Relief from Krill Oil The anti-inflammatory effects of krill oil can help those with chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and may even influence immune system activity to help with autoimmune joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Omega 3 has been shown to relieve inflammation, pain and swelling and improved antioxidant protection can also help prevent free radical damage that may contribute to tissue degeneration and pain.
Krill Oil for Cognitive Health and Mood Krill oil's omega 3 content includes the long-chain fatty acid docosahexanoic acid (DHA), a nutrient that is essential for brain development and function. The eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) found in krill oil is also known to support mental and emotional wellbeing, helping to boost mood. As such, krill oil is thought to offer significant neuroprotection and to support optimal cognitive function, making it a great option for growing kids and teens with exam stress.
Krill Oil Research In comparative studies krill oil has been found to be more effective than fish oil in terms of reducing blood glucose levels, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and triglycerides; krill oil also helps to raise beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and can dramatically reduce inflammation (Bunea et al., 2004). In one study, people taking 300mg of krill oil a day had a 19.3% reduction in C-reactive protein (a key marker for inflammation) within just seven days. Within a month there was a 30.9% drop in CRP and patients also enjoyed relief from joint stiffness and pain (Deutsch, 2007).
Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil In summary, krill oil has the following advantages over fish oil:
- Improved absorption and activity
- No fishy aftertaste
- Can be taken in smaller doses (and, therefore, more manageable capsules)
- Contains natural antioxidants (helping to stabilise the oil)
- More effective in managing cholesterol and blood glucose
- Fast and effective relief from inflammation, pain and stiffness