For a long time I’ve fielded questions from readers about the Krill Oil vs Fish Oil debate. Krill oil comes from krill, a small crustacean that looks like a shrimp on steroids. They inhabit the cold water oceans and serve as a natural food for wild salmon.
(In fact, the reason wild salmon get their red color from astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that is plentiful in krill. For the record, farmed salmon for the most part get their red color from artificial coloring.)
The “rap” on krill is that it is better absorbed than “regular” fish oil. Let’s take a look at the evidence on both sides of the Krill Oil vs Fish Oil debate.
Both fish oil and krill oil both contain the two important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, but they are in different forms. In regular fish oil (and fish), the omega-3’s are found in the form of triglycerides, the most prevalent type of fat in the body and in the diet. (A triglyceride is three (tri) fatty acids bound to a backbone of glycerol.)
But in krill oil, these omega-3’s are hooked up in a different form called a phospholipid.
In its simplest form, a phospholipid is another type of fat (like a triglyceride), but instead of the three fatty acids found in a triglyceride, a phospholipid contains two fatty acids and instead of the third one, a phosphate group (or a group of molecules that includes a phosphate group). Furthermore, attached to each fatty acid of EPA in the phospholipid is a molecule of that potent antioxidant mentioned earlier, astaxathin. “The phospholipid structure of the EPA and DHA in krill oil makes them much more absorbable and allows for a much easier entrance into the mitochondria and the cellular nucleus” writes my friend, Mike Eades, MD.
A couple of studies do seem to suggest some advantages of krill oil. For example, a team from Norway’s Akershus University college put 113 people with normal or slightly elevated blood triglycerides and cholesterol on a seven week trial in which they consumed either krill oil daily (543 mg EPA plus DHA), fish oil (864 mg EPA plus DHA) or no supplements at all.
Although the total amount of EPA and DHA in the krill oil group was 37% lower than the amount of EPA and DHA in the fish oil group, the results were equal; the krill oil folks even did better in one important measure: ratio of HDL cholesterol to triglycerides, long considered a far better predictor of heart disease than cholesterol alone.
Another study demonstrated a positive effect of 3 grams of krill oil daily on PMS.
But that said, let’s remember that there have been literally thousands of studies on fish oil, and the literature showing its amazing, broad-spectrum benefits on heart, brain, triglycerides, blood pressure and mood is simply stunning.
And krill oil is quite a bit more expensive.
The bottom line on the Krill Oil vs Fish Oil debate is that either one is terrific. You may get marginally more absorbability from the krill so you can theoretically use a slightly smaller dose, but at the doses I recommend (and take daily) I’m not sure that slightly greater absorbability is worth the price or makes all that much difference. Others may feel differently. For example, health gurus like Joe Mercola and Dr. Eades swear by krill, not only for its greater absorbability but for its superior antioxidant power, and it’s easy to see why.
A company called Neptune Technologies holds the patent for krill oil extraction. Neptune produces virtually all the krill oil around and supplies all the different manufacturers. “Any krill oil you get will have come from the same place and be the same dosage”, says Eades.
For those who choose to go with krill oil, the Neptune Krill Oil by DaVinci Labs is my personal choice. DaVinci is a respected “doctors brand” and they consistently put out quality products. And every 2-capsule serving of Neptune Krill Oil by DaVinci labs also contains 1.5 mg of astaxanthin.