EPA and DHA provide a variety of health benefits, including for your heart, your eyes, and illnesses caused by inflammation. However in fish oil these omega-3 fats are in triglyceride form, whereas in krill oil they are in phospholipid form.
According to the study:
"A total of 113 participants ... were randomized into three groups. Thirty-six were given 6 capsules of 3g krill oil a day, with 543 mg of EHA and DHA; 40 were given 3 capsules of 1.8g fish oil a day, with 864 mg of EPA and DHA ... The remaining 37 received no supplementation ... [T]here was a significant increase in plasma EPA, DHA, and DPA in both the krill oil and fish oil groups ... and no significant differences were seen between the fish oil and the krill oil groups. The EPA + DHA dose in the krill was 62.8 % of that in the fish oil."
More great news about krill!
If you read the study above you will find that it supports what I have been saying for some time now; that krill is actually superior to fish oil when it comes to optimizing cholesterol profiles.
This study showed that a krill dose that provides 1/3 less DHA and EPA had a far more profound influence on the HDL and triglyceride to cholesterol ratios, which are well established as two of the most potent blood predictors of heart disease. In fact I first posted this association over 13 years ago.
This is likely due to krill's phospholipid liposomal structure, which allows far superior absorption compared to fish oil, and the astaxanthin that is present in krill.
History of Krill Oil
Krill, or Okiami, as the Japanese call it, has been a cherished food source in many Asian countries since the 19th Century, or even earlier. As with so many health practices, like acupuncture and natto, the Asians had things figured out long before most Westerners.
Krill benefits your health by providing two of the most important nutrients we know of: the animal based omega-3 oils, EPA and DHA, and a potent marine based carotenoid antioxidant called astaxanthin.
The benefits of omega-3 fats truly run the gamut, from mental and behavioral health at any age, to preventing premature death from a number of diseases. Proven benefits of omega-3 fats include:
- Coronary heart disease and stroke
- Essential fatty acid deficiency in infancy (retinal and brain development)
- General brain function, including memory and Parkinson’s disease
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g., lupus and nephropathy)
- Crohn’s disease
- Cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate
- Mild hypertension
- Rheumatoid arthritis
One of krill oil's major advantages over fish oil is its superior potency, which is demonstrated clearly in this study. Researchers gave subjects only 62.8 percent as much krill-based EPA/DHA as the fish oil group, yet both groups showed equivalent blood levels—meaning that the krill was more potent.
What is it about krill oil that makes it so special?
Your body absorbs krill oil faster and more completely because of its phospholipid structure.
Krill's Weapons of Mass Nutrition: Phospholipids and Choline
Unlike fish oils, krill oil carries omega-3s in the form of phospholipids—liposomes or little packages that deliver the fatty acids directly to your body's cells. Scientific evidence to date has shown that the safest and most effective carriers of EPA and DHA are these phospholipids.
Unfortunately, standard fish oils lack this phospholipid complex. Instead they contain omega-3 fatty acids in the less-beneficial form of free triglycerides.
This unique relationship between the phospholipids and omega-3 fatty acids greatly facilitates the passage of the fatty acid molecules through your intestinal wall, and from there directly into the tissues that desperately need them, like your brain. This makes the fats in krill oil significantly more bioavailable than those in fish oil. In fact, recent studies show that krill oil is absorbed 10-15 times as well as fish oil.
About 80-85 percent of fish oil is never absorbed from the intestine, which causes about half of those who take it to have "burp back," which is unpleasant enough, and many end up discontinuing it.
When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidyl choline in order for it to be utilized by your body.
But krill oil ALREADY contains phosphatidyl choline!
Krill oil is already in the physiologically correct form, so your body can immediately absorb and use virtually 100 percent of it.
Phosphatidyl choline is composed partly of choline, which is the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which sends nerve signals to the brain), and for trimethylglycine, which protects your liver.
Choline is important to brain development, learning and memory. In fact, choline plays a vital role in fetal and infant brain development so it is particularly important if you are pregnant or nursing.
But krill's superiority doesn't end there.
Krill is Supercharged with Astaxanthin—the Most Potent Antioxidant on Earth
Krill oil contains one of the most potent antioxidants ever known called astaxanthin, which provides huge health benefits to you, as well to the oil itself. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid antioxidant that is exponentially more effective in quenching dangerous free radicals than beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, lycopene and lutein, other members of its chemical family. Astaxanthin protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage.
I have been particularly impressed with astaxanthin's ability to phelp revent sunburn, radiation damage, cataract formation and the most common cause of blindness, age related macular degeneration.
Part of the reason why astaxanthin is so effective in radiation induced damage is that it is produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation. The krill consume the microalgae, and the astaxanthin becomes concentrated in their oil.
Omega-3 Fats Are Incredibly Fragile and Need Protection.
Omega-3 fats are loaded with highly perishable double bonds that are particularly susceptible to oxidative damage from heat, pressure, or oxygen in the air. It doesn't take much to damage these fragile double bonds and when they are damaged the oil is essentially rancid and biologically useless.
The vast majority of fish oil on the market today is actually rancid before you even open the bottle, as it doesn't contain this antioxidant. When exposed to air, fish oil (and poor quality krill oil) will oxidize within a matter of minutes, and once oxidized, it won't benefit you in the least—it will actually ADD to your body's oxidative load.
Not only is astaxanthin a fantastic free-radical scavenger for you, but it also acts as a powerful natural preservative, making krill oil 200 times more stable and resistant to oxidation—preventing the DHA and EPA from going rancid.
Besides acting as a natural preservative, astaxanthin has been found to have widespread health benefits, including:
- Preventing and treating a great number of eye diseases
- Boosting immunity
- Improving cardiovascular health
- Stabilizing blood sugar
- Protecting your brain
- Lowering inflammation
- Reducing your risk of cancer
- Preventing sunburn
And this list of positives is growing by the day!
Krill is Pollution-Free, Eco-friendly, and a Highly Sustainable Food Source
Krill is the most abundant biomass on Earth, amounting to about 500 million tons. Despite its growing popularity as a food source, less than 2 percent is harvested.
Contrary to a statement made by National Geographic that told only part of the story, human consumption of krill oil does not steal significant food from our whales. In fact, harvesting fish for their oil creates far more of an environmental burden and is less sustainable than harvesting krill, as 90 percent of the fish that swam in the oceans 60 years ago are now gone due to overfishing.
Most harvested fish are ground up into fishmeal that gets fed to other fish, particularly farm-raised fish.
In fact, not only is krill the largest biomass in the world, but krill harvesting is one of the best regulated on the planet, using strict international precautionary catch limit regulations that are reviewed regularly to assure sustainability. For more on this, please read my 2009 article about this issue.
In addition to the environmental concerns with harvesting fish, many fish oils on the market today are contaminated with relatively large amounts of metals and toxic chemicals. Toxins like mercury are typically screened for, at least in higher quality brands. However, there are many toxins that are NOT routinely screened for, including PCBs, dioxin, and radioactive strontium, to name a few.
Krill, especially Antarctic krill, avoid this contamination because they are much lower in the food chain than fish and have had very little time to accumulate toxins.
What the Research Says About Omega-3 Fats and Your Heart
There are plenty of quality studies showing that omega-3 fats DO benefit your cardiovascular system.
Here are just a few examples:
- Researchers at Southampton University found that omega-3 oils stop the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries.
- An Italian study (GISSI) of 11,324 heart attack survivors found that patients supplementing with fish oils markedly reduced their risk of another heart attack, stroke or death.
- Danish researchers concluded that fish oil supplementation might help prevent arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in healthy men.
- American medical researchers reported that men who consumed fish once or more every week have a 50 percent lower risk of dying from a sudden cardiac event than do men who eat fish less than once a month.
These studies were done with fish oil though and not krill as the science of krill is just beginning to emerge. However, from the study above you can see that the strong preliminary evidence is that krill provide the same EPA and DHA in a superior form.
Many physicians in Europe are switching from conventional drugs to krill oil to support healthy, normal lipid levels and cardiovascular health. It is my hope that American physicians will follow suit.
And the great news is that krill oil seems to work at a lower dose. This results in a major cost savings to you, actually making it more affordable than fish oil.
Quality is of the essence when selecting any supplement, and krill oil is no exception, so make sure you know what you are buying.
Supplementing your diet with a high quality source of omega-3 fats such as genuine krill oil is a tremendous, cost effective way to supercharge your health!