Krill oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are frequently in the news because of their health benefits. Many of their benefits are provided specifically by the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, or eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosohexaenoic acid, or DHA.
You can get EPA and DHA from eating seafood, but most people don’t eat anywhere near enough fish and shellfish to meet recommendations for omega-3 intake. The average American intake is about 0.08 to .16 mg/day, while a healthier amount is likely to be around 0.4 to 0.8 mg/day. In addition, fish and shellfish are often contaminated with mercury, which can be toxic.
Supplements can help you achieve your EPA and DHA goals without worrying about eating fish or getting too much mercury. While fish oil supplements provide EPA and DHA, krill oil supplements may actually be better sources for a variety of reasons. Following are some considerations of krill oil vs. fish oil supplements to get your EPA and DHA, and the health benefits of krill oil.
Background on Fish Oil and Krill Oil
Ingredients in fish oil supplements can include oil from fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines. In contrast, krill oil comes from krill, which are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans. They’re near the bottom of the food chain, and are often used as bait for fishing or feed for aquaculture. Because they’re small and so low on the food chain, krill do not accumulate much mercury in their bodies compared to fatty fish, such as salmon and king mackerel, that have longer lives and grow to be bigger.
Advantages of Krill Oil Compared to Fish Oil
Think about your health, the environment, and the ease of taking the supplements when weighing krill oil vs. fish oil. Because krill oil is made from krill, it contains a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, which is a pinkish pigment and nutrient naturally present in shrimp and other crustaceans.
Krill oil can also be better for you because of its absorbability. Its omega-3’s are linked to phospholipids, similar to the phospholipids in the cell membranes of your body. This structure makes it easier for your body to absorb and use the omega-3 fatty acids from krill oil than from fish oil, and research studies have demonstrated this. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are in their triglyceride form, which is more difficult to absorb.
Overfishing and other environmental concerns are of constant concern, and krill oil is a more environmentally friendly type of omega-3 supplement than fish oil because of its large biomass. There are billions of tons of krill in the world’s oceans, and annual harvest is around 200,000 tons. Harvesting krill is a sustainable practice that doesn’t threaten any species of sea creature.
Supplements are no good if you do not take them, and krill oil has an advantage over fish oil in this regard, too. Because krill oil is a more concentrated source of EPA and DHA, a krill oil pill is smaller than a fish oil pill containing the same quantity of omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s easier to swallow. Plus, it doesn’t have a fishy aftertaste or cause acid reflux or fish burps.
Finally, krill oil has another advantage over fish oil because of its structure. Fish oil is very delicate, and can easily go through a process called oxidation. This alters the structure of the omega-3’s that it contains, making them less effective in your body. Krill oil is less susceptible to oxidation, giving it a longer shelf life.
Health Benefits of Krill Oil
The omega-3 acids EPA and DHA provide the most familiar benefits of krill oil, including benefits for the heart, brain, skin, bones, and joints. It can also help women with PMS to manage their emotions and experience less pain, and women with dysmenorrhea who take krill oil are likely to see suppression of symptoms. They may also have better control over their moods.
Krill oil supplements can lower risk factors for heart disease. They can lower your triglycerides and cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids can also lower your risk from dying from a heart attack. Benefits have been shown in individuals with metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of symptoms such as abnormal blood lipids, obesity, and poor control of blood sugar.
Fetuses and infants need DHA for proper brain development, but krill oil can also be good for adult brain health. Taking krill oil can increase DHA levels in the brain. It can also lower your risk for cognitive decline and dementia as you get older.
Anyone who has experienced arthritic pain and inflammation or who is concerned about bone health may want to consider krill oil. It reduces inflammation, stiffness, and pain associated with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In addition, krill oil may be associated with higher bone density and less risk for fractures.
When it comes to selecting nutritional supplements to support better health, long-chain omega-3 supplements should be on your list. While fish oil supplements may come to mind first, krill oil supplements may actually be a better choice. In addition to providing health benefits from EPA and DHA, they contain the antioxidant astaxanthin and are easier to take.