I’ve done quite a bit of research on krill oil supplements in the past few weeks and in this article I outline what I discovered about krill oil benefits.
What is krill oil?
Krill oil is a nutritional supplement made by extracting the oils from shrimp-like creatures called krill.
Krill oil provides Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) like fish oil, but unlike fish oil they are primarily bound to phospholipids (mainly phosphatidylcholine) instead of triglycerides.
Phospholipids are the type of lipids that form cell membranes and this is believed to be the reason Omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are more easily absorbed.
Krill oil also contains an antioxidant molecule called astaxanthin, a carotenoid antioxidant with health benefits. I will discuss astaxanthin in a separate post very soon.
Krill Oil Benefits
Krill oil is mainly consumed for the Omega-3 fatty acids which have a wide range of therapeutic benefits, including improvements in: cancer, heart disease, arthritis, all sorts of mental conditions, immune function, etc.
Here I am not going to discuss the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids but look at the studies where they specifically supplement with krill oil. All the health benefits that apply to Omega-3 (from fish oil or food) should apply to krill oil as well.
Dysmenorrhea and Premenstrual Syndrome
In one study, 70 women were randomized into two groups. The groups consumed 2g per day of either krill oil or fish oil. Krill oil was significantly more effective than fish oil in treating the symptoms of dysmenorrhea and premenstrual syndrome (1).
Cholesterol, Triglycerides and Blood Glucose
A study split 120 patients in four groups. One took 1-1.5g krill oil daily, another took 2-3g, the third took 3g daily of fish oil, and the fourth group took placebo (2).
The krill oil groups reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increased HDL cholesterol, significantly more than the fish oil and placebo groups.
For 3g of krill oil vs. fish oil:
Total Cholesterol: -17,9% vs. -5,88%
LDL Cholesterol: -39,15% vs. -4,56%
HDL Cholesterol: +59,64% vs. +4,22%
Triglycerides: -26,51% vs. -3,15%
Even 1g of krill oil daily was much more effective than 3g of fish oil per day.
These are all common risk factors for heart disease, and it seems plausible that krill oil may drastically reduce heart disease risk.
Inflammation and Arthritis
A randomized study sorted 90 patients (with cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis) into two groups. One group took 300mg krill oil daily, and the other took placebo (3).
The krill oil group decreased C-Reactive Protein (CRP – An inflammation marker) by 30,9% while it increased by 25,1% in the placebo group. After 7 days, the krill oil group had reduced stifness scores by 20,3%, pain scores by 28,9% and functional impairment by 22,8%.
It seems clear from the above studies that krill oil is a much more powerful source of Omega-3 than fish oil, possibly because of better absorption or other nutrients in it such as the antioxidant Astaxanthin.
Another reason krill oil is preferred is that some sources of fish are contaminated. Krill is lower in the food chain and has much lower levels of toxins. After doing a bit of research on krill oil, I have replaced my daily cod liver oil with 1g per day of krill oil.
Krill oil seems to be a supplement with powerful health benefits, but I would only recommend it instead of fish oil for those who can easily afford it. If money is tight, then it will be better spent on quality foods and a membership card at the gym.