Krill Oil: Does the solution to human illnesses really lie at the depths of the ocean?


Last Updated June 13th, 2021

What is Krill?

Krill (scientific name: Euphausia superba) is a tiny prawn-like creature that is usually found in the colder waters of the ocean. The word “krill” means “small fry of fish” in Norwegian. They are usually the primary food source of other animals in the ocean including birds, penguins, seals and whales.

Krill has a reddish appearance owing to the plankton they consume. They are mainly found in the oceans near Japan Antarctica and Canada. Since krill is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they are harvested by humans.  However, this has proved to be controversial as the commercial harvesting of krill has threatened the animals that depend on it for food. This, in turn, upsets the natural balance of the ocean.

What is Krill oil?

Krill oil pillsThis is a type of oil that is extracted from the Antarctic krill. Krill oil is rich in omega-3 fatty, namely EPA and DHA that are known to have many health benefits. Unlike fish oil, the omega-3 fatty acids in Krill oil are absorbed faster by the body.  This is because it is absorbed and carried to the cells in phospholipid form.

The oil is extracted by usually cooking and then cold pressing the krill. The oil is also extracted by harvesting krill via centrifuges (a machine with a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal pressure. This is mainly used to separate fluids of different densities or liquids from solids.) Chemical solvents are also sometimes used to harvest the oil.

Other names of krill oil

Although krill oil is the most popular name, it is also known by the following names

  • Aceite de Krill
  • Acide Docosahexaénoïque
  • Acides Gras Oméga 3
  • Acides Gras N-3
  • Acides Gras Polyinsaturés
  • Acides Gras W3
  • Antarctic Krill Oil
  • Concentré de Protéines Marines
  • Euphausia Superba Oil
  • Euphausiacé, Euphausiids Oil
  • Huile d’ Euphausia Superba
  • Huile de Krill
  • Huile de Krill Antarctique

What are Omega-3 fatty acids and how is it beneficial?

Omega−3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a vital role in human physiology. There are three types of Omega−3 fatty acids

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): These are generally found in plant-based food sources including soy, nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): These are generally found in fishes and other seafood including mackerel, trout, seabass, cod, shrimp and krill.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): These are also generally found in fishes and other seafood including mackerel, trout, seabass, cod, shrimp and krill.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important as they

  • Reduce the production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides
  • Boost the production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL )
  • Relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Improve eye health
  • Help improve mood
  • Help fight Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Reduce ADHD symptoms in children
  • Help prevent/fight autoimmune diseases
  • May help prevent cancer
  • Can help reduce the symptoms of asthma
  • Can help reduce fat in liver

What else does krill oil contain?

Apart from Omega-3 fatty acids, Krill oil also has

Phospholipid-derived fatty acids (PLFA): PLFA is a compound that helps in the better absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

Astaxanthin (carotenoid antioxidant): Antioxidants prevent oxidation (the process that leads to aging) by neutralizing the effects of molecules known as free radicals.

Benefits of consuming krill oil

Krill oil supplements should be taken if you are a vegetarian or you don’t consume a lot of seafood. Some benefits of krill oil include

It’s good for the heart

Studies have proved that the regular intake of krill oil reduces LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides levels in the body. It is also known to increase the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels.

Reduces acne

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are used by the body for a number of different functions. One of these functions is to reduce inflammation. When the inflammation levels of the body are reduced the skin is less susceptible to acne and blotchiness.

Reduces inflammation

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. The Omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are better at fighting inflammation compared to the Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil. This is because the Omega-3 present in krill oil is absorbed by the body faster.

Help reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

It has been found that regular supplementation of krill oil reduces the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have indicated that krill oil reduces stiffness and pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Helps with PMS

Research has indicated that krill oil can help decrease the pain and other symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Reduces Depression

Omega-3 acids have an impact on the neurotransmission in the brain. Several studies have indicated that krill oil improves mood by reducing depression and anxiety.

Prevents Obesity

Krill oil is known to improve metabolism by giving the body a healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acid, which boosts metabolism. This leads to the reduction of fat storage in the body which results in weight loss.

Reduces the risk of cancer

Omega 3 fatty acids help to fight off cancer-causing cells. Krill oil is found to be particularly effective in preventing the formation of cancers in breast, prostate and colorectal areas.

Helps prevent type 2 diabetes

Omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil reduce the glucose levels in the body and prevent insulin resistance. This cuts the risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes.

Helps the neurological development of the fetus

The regular supplementation of krill oil during pregnancy ensures the healthy development of the nervous system, brain, and eyes of the fetus.

Side effects of taking krill oil supplements

Although krill oil supplements do not have any major side effects, they do have a few minor ones, these are:

  • Fishy breath
  • Fish burps
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Bad sweat odor
  • Upset stomach

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

While krill oil comes from only krill, fish oil comes from a number of sources including tuna, herring or sardines. Krill oil can be distinguished from fish oils by its characteristic red color (fish oil supplements are yellow or gold). Krill oil supplements are also more expensive compared to fish oils.  Both are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are consumed for health benefits.

According to a study, a majority of krill oil’s fatty acids are stored as phospholipids, while the fatty acids in fish oil are stored as triglycerides. It is believed that the body is able to use the fatty acids stored as phospholipids faster compared to the fatty acid stored as triglycerides. Another study indicated that krill oil led to higher EPA and DHA levels in the blood compared to fish oil.

Precautions

Krill Oil supplements should not be used by people who are allergic to fish, shrimp or any other type of seafood. You should also consult a doctor before taking this supplement if you have

  • Diabetes: Krill oil may lower blood sugar levels. So if you are on diabetes medicine that lowers blood sugar, you should not be taking krill oil supplements.
  • Liver disease: Research has indicated that the long-term intake of krill oil may increase the risk of fatty liver disease. So if you already have a liver condition, krill oil supplements should be avoided.
  • Pancreas disorder: Although Omega 3 fatty acids are considered good for the pancreas. You should not take krill oil if you any diseases related to the pancreas. Studies have shown that consumption of krill oil supplements may make the condition worse.
  • Blood clotting disorder: Krill oil may slow the blood clotting process. So if you are already suffering from a blood clotting disorder, you should not be taking krill oil
  • Upcoming surgery: As Krill oil may slow the blood clotting process. You should not consume it if you are scheduled to undergo any surgery.

 

Drug Interactions

You should not take krill oil supplements if you are taking

  • Birth control pills: You should not take krill oil if you are on birth control pills. This is because birth control pills may interfere with krill oil’s effectiveness in lowering triglyceride levels.
  • Blood thinners: Krill oil may slow the blood clotting process. So if you are already taking a blood thinner, you should not be taking krill oil supplements. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): Krill oil is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. So you should not anti-inflammatory drugs and krill oil together
  • Hypertension medications: Since Krill oil has blood-thinning properties, people who are on hypertension medication should not take this supplement as the blood pressure may drop to dangerously low levels.

How much krill oil should be taken?

There is no set RDI (recommended daily intake) for krill oil due to it being a health supplement. However, various studies have indicated that a person should take 1000 mg of krill oil per day to get their health benefits. However, you should take a lower dose if you are already getting omega 3 fatty acids from some other sources like fish and various nuts. Higher doses of krill oil supplements usually do not cause any problems.

Does Krill Oil contain mercury?

Fish oils derived from marlin, tuna, and swordfish may contain toxins such as methylmercury. Krill Oil is believed to have lower levels of mercury compared to fish oils due to krills being lower on the food chain. However, research has shown that krill oil contains pesticide.

Choosing the right krill oil

You should always ensure you purchase only the best krill oil. You can do this by finding out where the krills have been harvested from. Krills harvested from the Antarctic region are the best as these oceans have low levels of pollution. You can also buy a brand of krill oil that has gone through an extra purification process to remove all the pollutants.

Facts

  • There are 85 species of krill
  • The largest krill is only around 2 inches long
  • A krill’s digestive system is usually visible due to its body being transparent.
  • Japan is the world’s top harvester of krill
  • Krill oil capsules contain significantly less EPA/DHA compared to fish oil
  • Euphausia superba krill is the most common type of krill
  • Krill travel in swarms (10,000 to 60,000 individuals per cubic meter) to confuse predators
  • The average lifespan of a krill is 10 years

TL;DR?

 

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