|Image 1: A Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica).|
For anybody taking fish oil supplements, this is a must read article, as the latest research is suggesting that krill oil has a number of benefits over fish oil.
Krill oil is made from shrimp-like small crustaceans, which are an important part of zooplankton, inhabiting cold Antarctic and North Pacific oceans.
What makes fish and krill oils exceptional is their polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both were shown to lower the risk of premature death, improve rheumatoid arthritis, reduce the risk for coronary heart disease, lower cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels and also lower blood pressure.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 1:1. Unfortunately, most people’s ratio ranges from 20:1 to a staggering 50:1. It is therefore recommended to take extra omega-3 as a dietary supplement. In today's industrialised world however, majority of fish are contaminated with toxins, such as radioactive substances and heavy metals, which pose a risk to your health.
Because krill are on the bottom of the food chain and don't live long they're caught before they can accumulate dangerous levels of toxins. Higher on the food chain, heavy metal toxicity increases. The older and larger the organism, the longer it has to accumulate the toxins, usually in their fatty tissues. Big fish like tuna, swordfish and shark are particularly problematic.
Despite it's short life, even krill can sometimes accumulate certain toxins, passed to them from phytoplankton. During blooms of toxic algae, krill were found to contain a neurotoxin domoic acid. Usually, the toxin is quickly excreted. However, when the algae bloom, the rate of excretion can't keep up with the accumulation, which is why the toxin can accumulate in lipid-rich tissues.
According to Neptune Technologies, the Canadian company that holds the patent for krill oil extraction, krill is collected in pristine deep-water seas, far away from industrial areas and pollution. They are assuring krill are processed through a cold extraction method that creates oil that is free of heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants while still preserving the biological benefits.
Another benefit of krill oil is that omega-3 acids are attached to phospholipids instead of being in a triglyceride form as in fish oil. Phospholipid form is more easily absorbed and incorporated into the cell membranes, where omega-3 acids work.
A 2007 clinical study concluded that Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a treatment period of 7 and 14 days, while a trial at University of Montreal concluded that NKO significantly reduces dysmenorrhoea and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Krill oil also contains 48 times more antioxidants than fish oil, including vitamins A and E, lutein, carotenoid astaxanthin and coenzyme Q-10. Antioxidants protect the vulnerable double bonds in omega-3 acids, which give them their special properties, but also make them easily perishable. Antioxidants work by catching and stabilising highly reactive substances like free radicals, before they can do damage to other important structures like double bonds. Free radicals are normal but potentially harmful by-products of our metabolism. The antioxidants are therefore a very welcome component not just for preservation of krill oil, but also for our general health.
The only “drawback” of krill oil compared to fish oil is that it does not contain any vitamin D, which can be found in large quantities in fish oil. Vitamin D however can be easily synthesised by our body when exposed to sunlight, which is preferable to oral supplementation. You should also not use krill oil if you have a shrimp allergy!