Do Not Try Krill Oil Until You Read These Facts

what is krill oil

Krill Oil

Krill oil is fast becoming the ‘darling‘ of the nutrition world.

But, is all the talk simply hyperbole, or is there something more behind these claims than clever marketing tricks?

Firstly, what is krill oil, and how does it work?

Krill oil comes from shrimp-like crustaceans, found mostly in the Antarctic and North Pacific Oceans.

Essential Fatty Acids

We all know that essential fatty acids are really important, since they cannot be manufactured by the body.

In fact, we recently looked at omega 6 fatty acids, and discussed how the balance is completely off in most diets. This means getting more omega 3 fats into your diet is extremely important to correct that balance.

Just like fish oil, krill oil, contains both eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). The difference between fish and krill oil, though, is how they are joined together.

In fish oil, omega 3 fatty acids are found in the triglyceride form. In krill oil, they are joined in a phospholipid structure.

Because of the phospholipid structure, the omega 3s in krill oil may be more readily absorbed in the body than those in fish oil. And, that means no more fish burps!

Another difference is that astaxanthin (an antioxidant) is attached to the EPA leg of the phospholipid.

Antioxidants are always a good thing in the diet, but one particular benefit of this, is that the shelf life is much longer as a result.

This is significant, because fish oil is perishable, and can be susceptible to going rancid quite quickly. Antioxidants, however, help to make sure krill oil doesn’t oxidize easily.

Interestingly, it is the algae that krill eat, which produces the bright red pigment astaxanthin, and it is this that gives krill its reddish-pink color.

Benefits Of Fish Oil

One of the problems I have with krill oil is the lack of studies in this area.

That said, there are a few we can look at to examine if they are any more beneficial than fish oil.

1. Anti-Inflammatory

Krill oil is touted as being anti-flammatory. One study found that;

Krill omega-3 phospholipids demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, lowering C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in a double-blind trial.

(C-reactive protein (CRP) is found in the blood. Levels rise in response to inflammation)

Another study noted similar anti-inflammatory effects, as well as a reduction in arthritis symptoms;

The results of the present study clearly indicate that NKO (krill oil) at a daily dose of 300 mg significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.

2. Blood Lipids

A further study showed that krill oil was effective at lowering triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol, as well as increasing HDL cholesterol;

The results of the present study demonstrate within high levels of confidence that krill oil is effective for the management of hyperlipidemia by significantly reducing total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, and increasing HDL levels. At lower and equal doses, krill oil was significantly more effective than fish oil for the reduction of glucose, triglycerides, and LDL levels.

3. Premenstrual Syndrome

One study found that krill oil could reduce painful menstrual cramps, as well as helping relieve the emotional symptoms of PMS;

Neptune Krill Oil can significantly reduce dysmenorrhea and the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and is shown to be significantly more effective for the complete management of premenstrual symptoms compared to omega 3 fish oil.

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

Interestingly, one study found there was no significant difference between krill oil and fish oil, that is, one is not better than the other;

No statistically significant differences in changes in any of the serum lipids or the markers of oxidative stress and inflammation between the study groups were observed. Krill oil and fishoil thus represent comparable dietary sources of n-3 PUFAs, even if the EPA + DHA dose in the krill oil was 62.8% of that in the fish oil.

Is Krill Oil Safe?

In a perfect world, we would all get our omega 3s from fresh fish.

However, in reality most people simply doesn’t get enough into their diets, so a supplement can be very helpful.

But, which one should you choose?

There does appear to be a lack of safety studies on krill oil, and I have to say I am a little dubious about taking it for this reason.

I have had two bottles sitting in my cupboard since February, but have not taken them because I am still breastfeeding, and just don’t want to take the risk.

Having said that, one study found no adverse effects;

4 weeks of krill oil supplementation increased plasma EPA and DHA and was well tolerated, with no indication of adverse effects on safety parameters.

The fact that krill are at the bottom of the food chain means there is less of a concern about unsafe accumulations of mercury, PCBs, heavy metals, or other toxins that some fish oil products contain.

Seafood Allergies
If you have an allergy to seafood, I wouldn’t recommend you take krill oil.

Possible Drug Interactions
Also, if you are taking certain blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin, heparin, clopidogrel, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds (ibuprofen) do not use krill oil, unless you have first cleared it with your doctor.

So, is krill oil a good option?

Well, there are certainly some grand claims floating about the internet about how wonderful krill oil is.

However, with the information we have at present, I don’t believe it is superior. And, it is certainly way overpriced in comparison to fish oil.

Now, that’s not to say it isn’t a good source of essential fats… it is. But, why pay more?

How To Get Enough Essential Fats

There are a number of ways you can boost your intake of essential fats:

1. Oily Fish

Most people can get enough DHA and EPA by eating oily fish twice weekly.

So, try to get at least 1 portion of oily fish into your diet each week. Good choices include sardines, mackerel, salmon, and fresh tuna.

You can also get essential fatty acids from grass fed beef, which may be an option for you.

2. Fish Oil Supplements

You may also want to think about taking a supplement.

Go for a fish oil which states both EPA and DHA on the label.

The National Institutes of Health recommend different dosages for different health conditions. For example:

  • For high triglycerides: 1-4 grams/day of fish oil.
  • For high blood pressure: Either 4 grams of fish oil, or fish oil providing 2.04 grams of EPA and 1.4 grams of DHA per day.
  • For reducing the overall risk of death and risk of sudden death in patients with coronary heart disease: Fish oil providing 0.3-6 grams of EPA with 0.6 to 3.7 grams of DHA.
  • For rheumatoid arthritis: Fish oil providing 3.8 grams/day of EPA and 2 grams/day DHA.
  • For painful menstrual periods: A daily dose of EPA 1080 mg and DHA 720 mg.
  • For depression along with conventional antidepressants: Fish oil 9.6 grams/day.

If you are vegetarian, DHA algae may be a suitable option.

If you do decide to take a supplement, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first, particularly if you are taking other medications. As I’ve already said, krill oil and fish oil can interact with some drugs.

3. Avoiding Fish Oil Odor

If you’ve taken fish oil in the past, you’ll know the characteristic ”fish burps” which are very unpleasant.

The odour of fish oil can be minimized by storing it in the fridge, and taking it quickly once out of the fridge.

In a 2006 review paper, Leslie Cleland set out this technique for taking bottled fish oil:

  1. Pour 30–50 ml juice (e.g. orange, tomato, apple, etc.) into two small ‘shot’ glasses.
  2. Layer the desired dose of fish oil onto the juice in one glass – do not stir.
  3. Swallow the juice and fish oil with a single gulp, avoiding contact with the lips (where the fish oil can be tasted).
  4. Immediately sip the juice in the other glass slowly through the lips. This will remove any oil from the lips.
  5. Take the fish oil immediately before a solid meal and without further fluid. This avoids floating of the oil on fluid in the stomach and favours mixing of the fish oil with food and passage from the stomach into the intestine.

If reflux (repeating taste) becomes a problem, then split the dose before morning and evening meals. Alternatively, take the dose then lie on the left side for at least 15 min. In this position the oil floats into the passage from the stomach to the small intestine.

Remember, if you are taking krill oil, you will not need to worry about going through this procedure.

Do you take fish oil or krill oil? Or, have you thought about taking either one?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?


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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Mark October 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm

People ask me all the time about krill oil and I am watching the debate carefully. So far there really isn’t anything that makes me lean in one direction (krill -vs- fish oil) more than the other.

One thing to keep in mind is that a quality fish oil supplement won’t give you the fishy burps. This is often the result of product that is spoiling in the creation process.

Reply

Melanie October 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Yes, that’s a very good point, Dr Mark. Thank you.

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Omegafort SCC October 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Krill oil does have some benefits, but apart from the drawback of its cost, some manufacturers have also tended to exploit the eagerness of health enthusiasts for “the next hot thing” by overstating the benefits. Not only have studies on krill been few, as you pointed out, but more often than not they’re financed by krill oil producers themselves; fish oil, in contrast, has been studied exhaustively and independently for more than 50 years, and in comparison with krill has been proven to have higher levels of EPA/DHA (it’s also worth noting that krill has never been a natural human food source, whereas fish obviously is). And regarding those fish burps, today’s higher-quality fish-oil capsules have enteric coatings that allow them to dissolve lower in the GI tract, thereby avoiding any fishy aftertaste or repeats. We have amassed a wealth of independently research information about this and many other studies on our web site, http://www.ExpertOmega3.com.

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Melanie October 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for sharing your research, that is really helpful.

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LaSonja Fondren November 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Krill oil is certainly more expensive. However, if your going to buy a high quality fish oil, which can also be expensive, then you may as well try Krill. I personally chose Krill because of the fishy burps and frequent loose stools that I experienced from fish oil. I pay about $20 for 60 Krill. I didn’t think that was to terrible a price to pay to avoid the side effects of fish oil.

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jennifer March 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

i would love to hear your thoughts on a neways product called EFA Krill complex. Sounds great but is much more expensive than the one quoted above. it seems to have a unique blend of ingredients and is backed by extensive research or so claimed.

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Mike April 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Started taking Krill capsules last week but they have flared up my gout,
I should have done more research ! However, will go back to Omega 3 fish oil.
Thank you for all the salient information

Reply

Rolf March 9, 2014 at 12:24 am

Started taking Krill for colestrol reasons, and my gout has flared up worst then ever. Previous to this, i had no problems for 3 years

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J April 3, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I’ve been taking krill oil for a few months for menstrual cramps. There is a definite improvement. I went off krill oil for a month and the bad cramps returned. Without the krill oil I would have cramps so bad that I had to overdose on pain medication and often times would feel nauseous or like fainting. I would be in bed for at least a day and a half every month. Since I started krill oil I can actually function normally on these days. The cramps are not completely gone, but are at least half as bad as they used to be. I don’t have to take nearly as many pain killers. I have tried fish oil and cod liver oil before but I didn’t notice any improvement. Krill oil has made a huge difference in my life.

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Stephen April 4, 2013 at 7:00 am

I tried krill oil and red krill oil up to 3 1000mg capsules a day for 3 months to reduce my osteoarthritis in my spine but did not even reduce the pain at all.

Then my pharmacist advised to try liquid fish oil and within 3 days a huge difference, i mean i can actually do things now even though i still have some pain i am not longer walking side ways in the mornings and can easily tie my shoe laces up.

I guess it varies from person to person but also my blood pressure its very good now. Only 1 problem is my cholesterol has gone up 1.2 in 1 year Triglycerides and LDL. Not sure if they are related i will find out with my next test, i am on a very healthy diet at the moment with decent exercise.

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laurie henry April 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

i have been using krill oil now for about 6 weeks have found that my knees and wrists have stopped aching i am a bricklayer and my wrists and knees really cop a pounding i also feel that i don’t seem to be getting the depression that i used to get before taking the tablets i really feel it is the most beneficial medicine i have ever taken for anything

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Keith April 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I took fish oil for a couple of years before changing to krill oil. I recently went on holiday and forgot to pack my krill oil. 6 weeks into the holiday, I took a 12-hour overnight bus ride in the high altitude of Bolivia. The day after, I started to have breathing problems and about a week later, when I went to a hospital, I was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism [blood clot in the lung]. Now I’m just wondering if by stopping taking the krill oil, which thins the blood, it somehow resulted in a thickening of the blood and hence the clot. Any comment on this. Thanks.

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kim May 24, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hi Melanie,

You know what I don’t have idea what krill oil is? So now I know that krill oil comes from shrimp like crustaceans, and it can found only at Antarctic and North Pacific Oceans. Krill oil contains both eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid.

Thank you so much for sharing this Melanie, additional knowledge this for me!

Question Melanie is krill oil is available anywhere? because this is my first time to here that! How’s the quality of Krill oil?

Thanks a lot!

kim

Reply

Keith May 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I buy my Krill oil, and my other supplements, on-line from Dr Mercola.

Reply

Stephen June 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

Hi Melanie

How does linseed/flaxseed oil compare to fish oil or krill oil?

Thanks!

Stephen

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Debbie June 24, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I have been taking krill oil for months because I’m allergic to fish oil and salmon oil. Both give me severe migraines but krill oil I’m happy to say, does not.

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Mac July 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

I have read a number of the comments. I believe that the main difference between fish oil and krill oil is the Astaxanthin in krill oil. Natural Krill Oil contains a small amount of Astaxanthin (approx 100micrograms) – this gives the Krill Oil the red colour and stops the oil from oxidising (going rancid). Astaxanthin is a super ingredient with a huge number of health benefits – you may be better off trying Astaxanthin.

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Keith July 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I take Krill oil and an Astaxanthin supplement.

Reply

richard July 11, 2013 at 9:33 am
Retiree Judy July 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Optomotrist suggested drill oil as I was suffering from acute dry eye, causing my left eye to weep constantly. 6 months later tearing only affects me occasionally, usually in wind, and my arthritis thumbs no longer hurt!

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Mark January 4, 2014 at 9:10 am

Hi
I am not a big fan of the cholesterol hypothesis but monitor it as I see it as the ‘canary in the minshaft’. Just before going on holiday 7 weeks ago my LDL was steady at 2.9 but on returning it had spiked to 3.45. I decided to wait 4 weeks and then retest. I was astonished to find it down at 2.15. I tested again from a different test centre 5 days later and the LDL was down further to 1.6 !!. The only thing I have done differently during this period is take one 1000g krill oil tab per day. I have encountered no noticeable side effects. Hope this is of help.

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April February 12, 2014 at 12:00 am

Just watched a video on Mercola website from an expert on Krill oil. Main thing…Krill oil is more sustainable than fish oil. Anyone interested in switching from krill oil to fish oil should watch it. Personally myself I take fermented cod liver oil because it contains Vitamin A and Vitamin D in its natural state. If Krill has vitamins in it I’ll switch if not staying with fish oil. Autoimmune people need this stuff to stay healthy! I would know. 2 diseases.

Reply

Ed Morris February 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm

I head this little crustacean was almost indigestible to humans, whereas Blue Whales eat tons of it. Could our favour towards krill oil become a conservation issue of epic proportion? We have overfished and STILL overfish our seas despite efforts to put a stop to it.

So what happens when the Blue Whales when they have nothing to eat?

Just a thought

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marcus volke March 29, 2014 at 12:20 pm

really? You cite only one study showing that krill isn’t superior to fish oil? I have read dozens of controlled studies indicating that krill oil is superior at improving a number of conditions and metabolic markers.

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