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.

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