Fish oil is one of the most popular health products due to the high content of omega-3 fatty acids and several benefits for overall health. Most products on the fish oil market are extracted from fish, such as anchovies, tuna, cod, and salmon.
The famous krill oil is an alternative to the traditional fish oil and there are promising data that it is a bioactive and effective source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Krill oil is extracted from krill. Krill (Euphausiacea) is a kind of crustacean-like shrimp, zooplankton and it inhabits the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Krill is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Intake of low doses of krill oil (90 mg DHA + EPA) can successfully increase the plasma levels of EPA and DHA, as well as the intermediate fatty acids and the arachidonic acid. The mechanism of action is that of fish oil.
Krill oil is successfully used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. 300 mg significantly reduces the C-reactive protein and improves the WOMAC rating by 30%. WOMAC is associated with parameters such as pain, stiffness and physical function in the joints.
A dose of 3000 mg per day shows a stronger effect than a dose of 2000 mg, as the increase of good cholesterol is by 59% and the reduction of bad cholesterol is by 39%. Krill oil has a significant superiority over fish oil with the same dose.
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What Is Krill Oil
Krill oil is extracted from krill. Krill (Euphausiacea) is a kind of crustacean-like shrimp, zooplankton and it inhabits the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. The very name of zooplankton comes from Norwegian and means "food for whales."
The most popular type of krill, which is used in the food industry, is the Antarctic krill. Krill is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Here is the moment to recall that precisely these two fatty acids are bioactive in the human body, unlike their plant equivalents.
On a weight basis, krill contains a similar amount of DHA as compared to fish oil, but the concentration of EPA is higher. Omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil make up to 30% of the total fat content. Krill itself is a rich source of proteins, which make up 15% of its weight.
For comparison, fats are up to 3.6% from the weight of the zooplankton. The krill is a high-protein food, but this does not apply to krill oil as a supplement because the process of extracting the oil eliminates the amino acids.
Krill oil contains other bioactive components. These include cholesterol, which is up to 1/3 less than in fish oil, vitamin E, phenols, and astaxanthin.
How Does Krill Oil Work
The fatty acids in krill oil are not triglycerides, but are diglycerides, as phosphatidic acid is attached to their molecule, which converts the entire structure in a phospholipid.
Phospholipids are not the only the omega-3 fatty acids, but also between 28% and 58% of the fat content, as the other most concentrated forms of phospholipids are phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine.
The phospholipids are better absorbed from the triglyceride forms of omega-3, as they are superior by almost 33% higher bioactivity. Compared to ethyl ester forms of omega-3, phospholipids demonstrate 68% better digestibility.
Intake of low doses of krill oil (90 mg DHA + EPA) can successfully increase the plasma levels of EPA and DHA, as well as the intermediate fatty acids and the arachidonic acid.
The mechanism of action is that of fish oil. Once in the body, the EPA and DHA fatty acids are metabolized to smaller units that perform certain functions. These units are:
- Eicosanoids - molecules which respond to a stressor, which may be an oxidation process or inflammation;
- Resolvins - inflammatory molecules, whose name comes from their ability to "solve inflammatory processes." Resolvins are responsible for the synergy with Aspirin;
- Protectins – they are only formed by DHA and possess neuroprotective properties;
- Prostaglandins – they activate the processes, associated with lipid and carbohydrate metabolism; they also counteract to the formation of platelets.
Potential and Proven Benefits in People
- The sharp reduction of the 2-arachidonoylglycerol endocannabinoid, whose high levels are associated with obesity;
- Suppression of some of the symptoms of PMS. The strongest effect is the cramps reducing, but krill oil also suppresses some neurological symptoms, especially irritability. Records show also stress reduction and a decrease in breast sensitivity. In this regard, krill oil is more effective than fish oil;
- Krill oil does not change or just alters slightly the levels of triglycerides, bad cholesterol and good cholesterol in the blood in healthy individuals. The situation, however, is not so in people suffering from high levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol;
- Krill oil significantly lowers bad markers and increases good cholesterol, as the effect is determined by the dose. A dose of 3000 mg per day shows a stronger effect than a dose of 2000 mg, as the increase of good cholesterol is by 59% and the reduction of bad cholesterol is by 39%. Krill oil has a significant superiority over fish oil with the same dose;
- Krill oil is successfully used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. 300 mg significantly reduces the C-reactive protein and improves the WOMAC rating by 30%. WOMAC is associated with parameters such as pain, stiffness and physical function in the joints.
The daily recommended dose ranges between 1,000 and 3,000 mg of oil. These are the doses used in a number of researches and they indicate a positive effect.
If the goal of the intake of krill oil is to be an alternative to the classic fish oil, then you should aim to the amount of EPA + DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Due to the higher potency of the fatty acids in krill oil, EPA + DHA from krill are stated to be by 30% more bioactive than those in fish oil.
This means that you should try to take up to 2/3 of the omega-3 dose in fish oil. If you are taking a total of 1,500 mg of EPA + DHA from fish oil, then 1000 mg of EPA + DHA from krill must be fully equivalent.
Side Effects and Contraindications
Krill oil is not characterized by serious side effects. However, there could be some complaints from certain consumers. Most often they are associated with nausea, the smell of fish, abdominal and stomach pain.
There is also the risk of the content of toxic substances and metals. The main problem is the fluoride, which builds the exoskeleton of the krill, but the exact risk is unknown, although with quality supplements the risk is almost excluded.
Another problematic element is mercury, but the risk is too low, because of the place of krill in the food chain. Again, a preventive measure is the choice of manufacturers.
How to Combine Krill Oil
Krill oil shows the same interactions as fish oil. Basically, krill oil may be combined with other various additives depending on the desired purpose. If the purpose is to strengthen the counteraction against lipid peroxidation, then the combination with vitamin E and milk thistle (silymarin) is appropriate.
If your purpose is regulation of the carbohydrate metabolism and regulation of the insulin peak, then the suggested combination is with fenugreek. Krill oil is successfully combined with green tea because it improves the bioactivity of catechins.
Krill oil, like fish oil, has a strong synergy with Aspirin. Krill oil, as a source of high-quality fats, can be combined with and can improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E.
Where Can We Find Krill Oil
Omega-3 EFAs are most often involved in complex formulas, together with the omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids.
Complex formulas with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal extracts, and ECN are also a popular product on the market.