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Krill oil, like its name suggests, is an oil made from Krill. Krill is a small crustacean that looks like and is indeed a close relative of shrimp. Krill live in huge amounts in the cold and nutrient rich waters of the Arctic and Antarctic oceans.

What is Krill oil?

It is about 0.5 to 2.5 inches in length and despite its small size, it is believed to be the largest reservoir of biomass on this planet after the oceans plankton. Krill feeds on plankton, and is preyed upon by whales and other animals in the ocean. Due to its position near the bottom of the food chain, it contains very small amounts of contaminants like PCB, mercury, lead and other heavy metals that can be found in high amounts in some fish species who life as predators like e.g. mackerel, tuna and sword fish.

Oil that is made from Krill contains similar to fish oil large amounts of the omega three fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). In contrast to fish oil, that contains these fatty acids mostly in the triglyceride form in which three molecules of fatty acid are hooked up to one glycerol molecule, Krill oil contains mostly phospholipids, which, in addition to the fatty acid, also contain phosphatidylcholine. Phospholipids have a higher bioavailability than triglycerides, so that less DHA and EPA from Krill oil needs to be consumed to get the same amount of DHA and EPA into the blood stream compared to fish oil. However, fish oil contains more DHA per mg oil, which might balance out this bioavailability effect. Phospholipids, and in particular those containing phosphatidylcholine are important building blocks of our cell membranes and are essential for proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Krill oil also contains a high amount of antioxidants, especially the carotinoids canthaxanthin, and astaxanthin, which are absent from fish oil, and vitamin E. Vitamin A and vitamin D are also present in Krill oil in high amounts.

What for is Krill oil taken – Krill oil pros?

The high content of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA in Krill oil in the easily absorbable phospholipid form make it a great dietary supplement for people who are looking for ways to reduce their blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or also known as “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides while at the same time increasing the blood levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) which is better known as “good cholesterol”. DHA and EPA have both been shown to be beneficial for these changes in blood fat levels in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. The omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are also very important for the development and functioning of the brain, the eyes, and muscles. An additional advantage of Krill oil compared to another good source of DHA and EPA, fish oil, is it’s high content of phosphatidylcholine, which is a building block of our cell membranes and therefore vitally necessary for the functioning of brain, muscles, blood vessels, and inner organs. DHA and EPA can also decrease inflammation.

The mechanism how DHA and EPA do this is not completely understood, but probably involves competing for the machinery that breaks down arachidonic acid, another important unsaturated fatty acid, but not of the omega-3, but the omega 6-kind. Breakdown products of arachidonic acid serve the body as alarm signals that induce inflammation as response to an injury. The inflammatory response can be too strong, or last too long, and thus can induce tissue damage itself and prevent healing of the injury. By competing for the machinery that produces the alarm signals from arachidonic acid, DHA and EPA tone down the inflammatory response to safer levels. This can reduce pain and swelling in arthritic joints. The high content of vitamins and anti-oxidants in Krill oil suggest that it can further improve healing of injuries like muscle and joint aches. Anti-oxidants like the vitamin C and E and carotinoids, to which family the two components of Krill oil canthaxanthin, and astaxanthin belong, have also been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. Unlike fish oil, that causes some people to burp with a fishy aftertaste, Krill oil is so rapidly absorbed by the body that it cannot induce burping.

What are the negative aspects of using Krill oil – Krill oil cons?

As far as the positive sides of Krill oil go, it is similar to the advantages of fish oil, but has a few additional benefits like higher bioavailability and high content of antioxidants. Fish oil is incredibly safe to use, and the only known negative side effect is that it can induce burping with a fishy taste. Since Krill oil is claimed not to induce this kind of burps, are there any negates aspects to taking Krill oil? Yes, there are, and it will be up to you to decide how important they are to you. The most striking difference between Krill oil and fish oil is the price. Krill oil is about twice as expensive as fish oil. So despite the fact that it has additional benefits compared to fish oil, your budget might lead you to stick with fish oil. The other major disadvantage compared to fish oil is that, so far, little research has been done to evaluate the health benefit claims of Krill oil, specifically.

It is known that DHA and EPA have certain positive effects on the body, and anti-oxidants have others, and since Krill oil contains both, it is a fair assumption that Krill oil will be able to convey these health benefits. However, since the DHA and EPA is present in the Krill oil in a different molecular form than in fish oil that was used for most of the research into health benefits ofomega-3 fatty acids, the jury is still out on whether the activity of these components in Krill oil is the same as in fish oil. A similar reasoning cautions about the health benefits of the anti-oxidants in Krill oil. The carotinoids canthaxanthin and astaxanthin are specific to certain crustaceans and therefore little is known about their exact effect on the human body. Last but not least, the Krill fishery is not very well regulated , and while only a small percentage of the existing Krill is harvested each year, there is very little known about the long-term effects of Krill harvesting on the ocean’s biosphere.