Category Archives: Krill Oil

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: And The Winner Is…

krill oil vs fish oil

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil – this is a very hot debate these days with passionate supporters on either side. While both of these Omega 3 sources have their pros and cons, we definitely find a winner after all things are considered.

Please keep reading for a our detailed breakdown of the battle between krill oil and fish oil and what, in then end, swayed us to conclude one way or another.

The Reported Benefits of Fish Oil vs Krill Oil

Krill oil, as it is also rich in the anti-inflammatory agents EPA and DHA, is believed to have similar benefits to fish oil. Yet, among the testing done to date, krill oil has been found or is believed to be potentially effective for treating only a handful of health issues, the most notable of which being heart disease and to help prevent stroke and heart attacks. In addition, there is some good support for krill oil’s use for those suffering from arthritis and the discomfort (pain, primarily) associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Beyond these more established benefits, preliminary animal testing suggests that krill oil may have the same brain-enhancing effect as fish oil, but these data remain to be duplicated for human test subjects. Given its promising start, it’s likely that the virtues of krill oil will continue to unfold as research continues, but due to the relative newness of this supplement, the overall benefits of krill oil are very much still uncertain.

On the other hand, fish oil has been found actually or potentially effective for numerous health concerns. Even staunch krill oil junkies will have trouble denying the comparative wealth of research that is available to demonstrate the efficacy of fish oil supplementation. While many of the theoretical benefits of krill oil still have no support based on human trials, fish oil is currently accepted by the vast majority of healthcare professionals to be useful (or potentially useful) for a wide range of issues; such as, for example:

  • heart conditions and promoting cardiovascular health;
  • mental acuity and mental/developmental health;
  • blood pressure/triglycerides;
  • asthma;
  • arthritis;
  • cancer;
  • kidney disease;
  • body weight;
  • transplant rejection;
  • childhood allergies;
  • bipolar disorder, A.D.H.D.;
  • diabetes

In short, based on the data available today, fish oil has a much broader and accepted use than does krill oil.

Potency & Assimilation of Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

Like fish oil, krill oil is rich in two important long-chain fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (“EPA”), and docosahexaenoic acid (“DHA”). And while krill oil is believed to be somewhat higher in EPA, the big distinction is the way these components are assimilated when obtained from krill oil vs fish oil.

The Omega 3 in krill oil is present primarily in a phospholipid form, compared to the Omega 3 found in fish, which is associated predominantly with triglycerides (fats). As a result, it is believed that krill oil may be more easily absorbed – ie., more “bio-available” – and therefore more potent compared to a similar amount of Omega 3 derived from fish oil. The jury is definitely still out on this claim; however, preliminary human research appears to be supporting this posited benefit.

Benefit as an Antioxidant

If you’ve read anything comparing the two oils, you probably know that krill oil has an added potential benefit that fish oil lacks – a potent antioxidant. To be more precise, krill oil contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, a pigment naturally occurring in some fish, microalgae, crustaceans (including krill) and the plumage of certain bird species. This is the same pigment that renders lobsters bright red when boiled, and gives the reddish/pink hue to cardinal and flamingo feathers, as well as the flesh of salmon and some trout.

But this carotenoid isn’t just for show, as an antioxidant it can neutralize free radicals (which itself provides a whole host of benefits) and also help prevent the spoiling (i.e., oxidation) of the EPA and DHA in the supplement. This is important, because fish oil is always at risk for spoilage, and must be protected from light/air/heat to maintain its salutary benefits until consumption.

Potential for Mercury & PCB Contamination

As we’ve explained before, the fact that krill feed on the lowest trophic ladder – typically marine phytoplankton and zooplankton, there is comparatively less risk for the bioaccumulation of toxic metals (e.g., mercury) and polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). Fish, on the other hand, which feed on a multitude of smaller fish and prey items, are more at risk of concentrating and storing these toxins in their tissues. This is precisely why many apex marine predators, such as sharks, swordfish, dolphin and whales, have some of the highest concentrations of these contaminates in their tissues. The comparatively lowly krill, in contrast, doesn’t magnify toxins because it feeds at the lowest rungs of the food chain.

Sustainability of Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

While they might be small individually (around a half inch usually), krill as whole make up a tremendous amount of biomass, with some reports estimating a total of 500,000,000 tons globally – twice the biomass of all of humanity. This is precisely why baleen whales – the largest animals on the planet – can support themselves almost entirely on this food source.

Krill’s ubiquity, which is in part due to its ability to feed on marine plankton (which is even more prevalent in terms of biomass), also makes it inherently more sustainable than deriving oil from fish stocks. Again, it’s a simple consequence of harvesting lower on the food chain. For example, harvesting plants from a field is always more sustainable than harvesting cows fed by the same field of plants.

Capsule Size

Krill oil pills are generally much smaller than fish oil pills, and therefore may be preferred by some who have trouble with the large fish oil softgels.

Expense of Fish Oil vs Krill Oil

This is a difficult metric to compare, since the difference in potency between krill oil vs fish oil is still a very live topic of debate. If you believe that krill oil is significantly more potent, gram for gram, than fish oil, it’s close. However, if you are more skeptical about its proponents’ claims that it delivers more usable EPA and DHA compared to fish, it’s substantially more expensive if you want a similar dose of these fatty acids!

The Verdict: Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

There is a lot to like about krill oil, particularly the added benefit of the antioxidant astaxanthin; its relatively low risk for mercury/PCB contamination; and its overall greater sustainability in terms of commercial harvest for oil production. Given these virtues, and if additional research continues to prove up its efficacy, it’s very possible that krill oil will someday be the Omega 3 supplement of choice.

However, in our opinion, as a relatively new source of Omega 3, it still does not have the large body of proof that fish oil does for the majority of health benefits Omega 3 supplementation is typically noted for. In addition, the claims of significantly increased potency touted by krill oil vendors, which may someday validate its higher price tag, to date still do not have sufficient evidentiary support from the scientific community to make it a reliable, cost-effective choice for most consumers compared to fish oil.

The Truth About Krill Oil Benefits?

benefits of krill oil

Krill oil has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity lately, and for good reason.

This natural supplement holds precious long chain Omega 3 fatty acids and, given the natural history of krill, a relatively low risk of chemical contamination. But that’s not all that’s noteworthy about this new source of Omega 3.

Please read on for a more detailed discussion of the more widely-accepted krill oil benefits, and what a proper supplementation regime can do for you.

Krill Oil Benefits, in a Nutshell

So what are the benefits of krill oil? Krill oil contains the highly-lauded Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, and therefore theoretically provides the same anti-inflammatory benefits as Omega 3 from fish oil. And while krill oil does not have the same level of evidentiary backing fish oil does, the research that has been performed thus far is very promising.

For example, published researched with the last five years suggests that krill oil is effective for treating arthritis and promoting cardiovascular health – the same core indications fish oil sources are well known for. Likewise, other researchers have found that krill oil may have the same brain/mental health-enhancing effects too, with one study in Norway finding that rats treated with krill oil scored higher in intelligence testing. However, aside from the usual benefits, krill oil is reported to have some unique properties that do set it apart.

In terms of absorption, krill oil is reputed to have the edge over fish oil. Unlike Omega 3 from fish sources, krill contain these acids in the form of phospholipids. While the chemistry of this distinction might seem academic, the result is reportedly a more easily assimilating form of Omega 3 compared to the fish counterpart. And as a result of this benefit, you may be able to get the same amount of Omega 3 from krill, but at a significantly lower dose.

In addition to bringing a high assimilation rate, there is another perk of oil from these tiny shrimp – a potent antioxidant. Specifically, krill contains a substance called astaxanthin, an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that is believed to provide its own health benefits in neutralizing free radicals and potentially prevent the spoiling (i.e., oxidation) of the EPA and DHA in the supplement itself.

And if all of these virtues weren’t enough, there is another very important benefit of krill oil – it’s relative safety from the bio-accumulation of chemical contaminants, such as mercury.

As we’ve explained elsewhere, the traditional concern about chemical contamination in fish stems from the fact that fish feed higher on the food chain. And by doing so, they tend to accumulate and “biomagnify” all of the toxins ingested by their prey. So the concentration of toxin at each level rises. For example, shrimp that may contain only trace amounts of mercury in their tissues will translate into fish predators that have much higher levels, since they eat and store these toxins. And larger fish that eat these fish will concentrate contaminants even further. This is the reason why sharks, swordfish and large aquatic marine mammals (e.g., porpoise, seal, whales, etc.) can contain some of the highest amounts of toxins in their tissues, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

With the diminutive krill, in contrast, there is little chance of biomagnification since they feed at the lowest rung of the food chain (e.g., phytoplankton/zooplankton primarily).

Krill Oil Dosage – How Much Do You Need?

According to some sources, including WebMD, there is insufficient data to determine the “appropriate ranges” of dosages for krill oil. Nevertheless, it is believed that krill oil’s more easily assimilating properties may provide the same benefits of fish oil, at a lower dosage.

And there is some support for this. One 2007 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that just 300 milligrams of krill oil per day – the typical recommended dose for adults – was sufficient to bring about significant relief for test subjects suffering from arthritis and cardiac conditions.

Krill Oil Benefits: The Early Verdict

The benefits of fish oil are indeed promising, and it’s unique properties, such as its high assimilation rate and the antioxidant it contains, make it a potentially viable alternative to fish oil. However, the comparative lack of study of krill oil, especially on human, makes it much less understood and established than the Omega 3 traditionally derived from fish oil.

Featured (top) photo credit: “Omega-3 krill oil capsules in blister pack” by Health Gauge under CC BY 2.0

So What Is Krill Oil & Why Is It Special?

what is krill oil

So what is krill oil?

It’s a common question that comes up when people start researching the various sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and the benefits of krill oil vs. fish oil. Krill oil is believed to be very similar to fish oil in that it packs lots of Omega 3 and its constituent long chain fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA. However, krill and fish are, quite literally, different animals. Find out more about krill and why the oil derived from them may be safer than that obtained from fish sources.

What the heck are krill?

The common term “krill” is used to refer to tiny marine shrimp (arthropods), typically those in the genus Euphausia, which holds the largest number of krill species and includes the two most commercially important and wide-ranging members of the group, Euphausia superba, the Antarctic krill, and Euphausia pacifica, the Northern krill.

Krill swarms have been harvested commercially for a variety of products since the 1960s, mainly for aquaculture and a cheap source of fish food in the western world, yet they have always been a staple in the diet of many peoples and other animals, including small fish, penguins, seals and even the largest mammals in the world – the baleen whales.

Why it’s good that krill are low on the food chain

One of the most important aspects of krill biology, besides their Omega 3 content, is where they lie on the trophic ladder – i.e., the food chain. Unlike most Omega 3 rich fish, such as salmon, krill feed on the the tiniest of marine animals, which compose the first link in the food chain. We are talking about plankton. As they perform daily vertical migrations through the water column, krill filter feed through the water column with modified legs to capture these microscopic (or nearly microscopic) organisms. Indeed, at a total body length of roughly a half inch, there’s really nothing else a krill can overpower!

The good news is that being relegated to the low end of the food chain means there is little risk of the biomagnification of chemical contaminants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). Biomagnification occurs when small organisms, such plankton and small invertebrates, ingest or otherwise take up a toxic material and are then eaten by larger organisms, which are then eaten by still larger organisms. At each step up the chain, the amount of these toxins increases in predators as they consume and sequester all of the chemicals contained in their prey items. This explains why swordfish and shark meat is on the EPA’s list of items women should not consume during pregnancy. Krill, on the other hand, don’t biogmagnify toxins like fish do since they feed primarily on the planktonic level, and no higher.

Featured (top) photo credit: “A Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica)” by Øystein Paulsen, Wikimedia Commons under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0