What Is Krill Oil and Where Does It Come From?
Krill oil is a marine oil that is known for providing animal-based omega-3 fats, antioxidants and beneficial substances known as phospholipids2,3 – this last item is particularly important, as it plays a significant role in the absorption of these nutrients (more about this later). It is harvested from krill (Euphausia superba), a small shrimp-like crustacean.4
The humble krill measures only about 2.4 inches in length — but don’t let its size fool you. Krill is a crucial component of the global food chain, as it serves as the fuel that keeps the Earth’s marine ecosystems consistently running. While it feeds on microscopic, single-celled plants called phytoplankton, hundreds of different creatures — birds, squid, other fish and even whales — feed on krill in turn.5
There are 85 known krill species, and in Antarctica, their biomass is said to be around 379 million metric tons.6 Krill are also found in oceans off Japan and Canada.7 Interesting trivia from National Geographic: “During certain times of year, krill congregate in swarms so dense that they can be seen from space!”8
Aside from being highly sustainable, krill are also known for their longevity — they can live from five to 10 years,9 which is amazing, considering they’re very heavily hunted. This makes Antarctic krill oil a good and eco-friendly choice for an omega-3 supplement.
As opposed to krill oil, fish oil is extracted from oily, cold-water fish, particularly their liver. Common examples of fish oil sources are herring, halibut, mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna and cod, which may be deep-ocean farmed or wild-caught. In some instances, fish oil is extracted from seal or whale blubber.10
While often interchanged, there are notable differences between the two, and if you thoroughly examine them, you’ll note that krill is the superior option. Here are some reasons why krill oil is better than fish oil:
• Has a higher potency — Krill oil not only has 48 times the antioxidants as fish oil, but also has a higher potency in its metabolic effects, meaning you need far less to reap the benefits. One study published in the Lipids journal confirms this, wherein subjects taking krill oil only required 63 percent of what those taking fish oil had to consume to achieve the same results.11
• Is free of contaminants — The fish from which fish oil is extracted are often contaminated with heavy metals and mercury.12 Krill does not pose this risk because of their small size and due to the fact that they're at the bottom of the food chain.
• Has phospholipids — As mentioned, the phospholipid factor plays a significant role in how krill oil is absorbed by your body.13 Omega-3 fatty acids are water-soluble but cannot be transported in your blood while in their free form. Thus, they need phospholipids — something that krill oil readily has, but fish oil doesn't.
• Contains phosphatidylcholine — Composed partly of choline, a precursor for acetylcholine that sends nerve signals to your brain,14 and trimethylglycine, which has liver-protective effects,15 phosphatidylcholine is necessary for better absorption of omega-3 nutrients.16
If you opt for fish oil, your liver still needs to find and attach it to phosphatidylcholine, so it can be better utilized. But since krill oil already has phosphatidylcholine, it’s then more superior in terms of bioavailability.
• Is less prone to oxidation — Krill oil has astaxanthin, making it more stable and less likely to oxidize in your body. Fish oil, which does not have astaxanthin, is more prone to oxidation, leading to the formation of free radicals, and increasing your need for antioxidants.17
• More environmentally sustainable — Krill harvesting is a stringently monitored process, and while there are claims saying that krill oil supplements are depleting the ocean's supply, the fact is that only a small percent of the overall krill biomass is harvested per year. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) notes that “the actual annual catch is around 0.3 percent of the unexploited biomass of krill.”18
Other research also found that krill is superior to fish oil in terms of its influence on genetic expression and metabolism. A 2011 study published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics took a look at the livers of mice given krill oil versus those fed fish oil.19 The researchers found that krill oil enhances glucose metabolism in the liver, promotes lipid metabolism and helps regulate the mitochondrial respiratory chain — all of these effects are not seen in the fish oil group.
Furthermore, krill oil decreases cholesterol synthesis, while fish oil increases it. This means that krill oil will help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase energy production, but fish oil does not offer either of these benefits.20,21
Also a cause for concern is fish oil’s current processing practices. This is deeply problematic, as the final product rendered is very, very different from the natural oils you acquire from the whole fish.
So what exactly does krill oil do for your health? For starters, it may help with at least two dozen diseases and health issues, such as:
Of course, if you include omega-3 fats in the equation, then this list would greatly expand. In particular, omega-3s may help:
Article from: J. Mercola, DO
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