If your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids (which it probably is if you don’t eat seafood or if you follow a standard Western diet), you’ve probably been told that you should take a fish oil supplement.
Now, we’re hearing that krill oil is the better option. What gives?
What is krill oil, and is it better than regular fish oil?
What is Krill?
Krill are small crustaceans found in all of the world’s oceans.
They’re consumed by whales, sea lions, penguins and other sea creatures.
Krill oil contains both EPA and DHA, the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
But krill tends to have smaller amounts of these omega-3s compared to fish oil.
Krill Oil Benefits
Like fish oil, krill oil offers a number of potential health benefits, such as:
#1) Reduced Inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Krill oil also contains astaxanthin, a pink-orange pigment that also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
A test-tube study on krill oil found that it helped reduce the production of inflammation-causing molecules when harmful bacteria was introduced to intestinal cells.
Another study found that taking krill oil daily was more effective at reducing one marker of inflammation than purified omega-3s. A separate study found that taking 300mg of krill oil daily reduced inflammation by up to 30% after just 30 days.
Both of these studies were small, but the results are promising.
#2) Reduced Joint and Arthritis Pain
The ant-inflammatory effects of krill oil may help lower joint and arthritis pain, which is often caused by inflammation.
In one study, krill oil significantly reduced one marker of inflammation while reducing stiffness, pain and functional impairment in those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study looked at the effects of krill oil on mice with arthritis. Researchers found that the krill oil improved arthritis scores while reducing swelling and lowering the number of inflammatory cells in the joints.
#3) Better Heart Health
DHA and EPA are both considered to be heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil has been shown to be effective at lower triglyceride levels as well as other blood fats. But it’s also been shown to raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
#4) Better Brain Health
Omega-3 fatty acids – DHA and EPA in particular – have also been shown to improve or support brain health.
DHA is crucial for early brain development, while EPA helps regulate behavior and mood. Both offer neuroprotective benefits that can help prevent age-related brain shrinkage.
Studies have shown that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood leads to better cognitive outcomes while increasing gray matter volume. Generally, these individuals also have lower rates of dementia and fewer signs of brain blood flow disturbance compared to those with lower omega-3 fatty acid levels.
Depression, stress and diabetes all contribute to shrinkage in the hippocampus. The omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil can protect against this effect and prevent further shrinkage.
Krill Oil vs Fish Oil
Krill oil offers many of the same benefits as fish oil.
So, what’s the difference between the two? Is one better than the other?
First, krill and fish oils come from different sources. Krill oil comes from krill (a type of crustacean), while fish oil come from the tissues of cold-water oily fish, such as herring, salmon, anchovies, mackerel and sardines.
Both krill and fish oil contain EPA and DHA fats, but they take different form depending on the type of oil you consume.
The fatty acids in krill come in the form of phospholipids (PL), while those in fish oil come in the form of a triacylglyceride (TAG).
It was once believed that krill oil was more easily absorbed by the body compared to fish oil, but new studies show that they are comparable in terms of bioavailability.
Another difference between these two oils is that krill contains extra nutrients that you won’t find in fish oil.
In addition to astaxanthin (which we talked about earlier), krill oil also contains:
Vitamins A and E which reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
Choline which reduces homocysteine (an amino acid linked to heart disease)
Research shows that krill oil is more effective at lowering blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides compared to fish oil.
Krill oil is a bit more expensive than fish oil.
As far as safety is concerned, both types of oil can trigger a reaction in people that are allergic to shellfish. With that said, there has only been one documented case of an anaphylactic reaction to fish oil, while there have been none to krill oil. It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement to ensure that a safe option for you.
Both krill oil and fish oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and there is credible research that backs their benefits. Krill oil is more expensive, but it contains extra nutrients and antioxidants that fish oil doesn’t offer. Some still believe that krill is also better absorbed by the body.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and budget when choosing an oil. Both will offer beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that the body needs to stay healthy and strong. If your diet doesn’t include seafood, supplementing with fish or krill oil will help meet this need.