While you may have read about the powers of healthy fats and omega-3s to improve your health, you may not realize that there are many ways to get these beneficial fatty acids in your diet.
While fish oil may seem like the only choice available, krill oil is an excellent alternative to this supplement.
It has few side effects and offers many protective benefits for your heart and other health needs.
If you are looking for an excellent way to get more healthy fats in your diet and to improve your heart health, you should learn about the benefits of krill oil.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill are very small shellfish that live in the icy waters of the world’s oceans.
They are similar to shrimp and are an important part of the marine food chain.
Krill feed on phytoplankton and tiny amounts of zooplankton.
They are then eaten by larger organisms, which allows the bigger fish to benefit from the nutrients available in these sources.
The Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a species with one of the largest total biomass and is harvested to make krill oil.
Krill are plentiful and reproduce at healthy levels.
This makes them a sustainable food source.
Krill live between five and ten years.
This makes them an excellent, eco-friendly source for omega-3s.
Krill, once harvested from the ocean, is made into a variety of products for human consumption.
This includes powders, protein concentrates, and oil.
It is widely considered to be a sustainable source of essential omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for human health.
Krill oil is low in saturated fat but high in protein.
It has been used in several cuisines and cultures for generations due to its nutritional benefits.
The fat content in krill varies, depending on when the fish are harvested.
Fat content tends to be higher when food is more readily available for the fish, during the warmer months, and lower in the winter.
The average percentage of total omega-3s in a whole krill is around 19 percent of its total fat.
This makes it an excellent source of healthy fats that have been shown to protect our health in several ways.
Krill oil has smaller amounts of stearic acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and behenic acid.
It also contains vitamins A, E, B9, and B12.
It is an excellent source of choline and antioxidants.
Fish Oil vs Krill Oil
Krill oil is promoted as an alternative to standard fish oil and a source of healthy fats in the diet.
Therefore, it is important to understand the similarities and differences in these supplements.
Fish oil is extracted from much different fish that live in cold waters.
These are oily fish that store fats in their liver, from which they are extracted to make fish oil.
The most common species used to make fish oil include cod, albacore tuna, mackerel, salmon, herring and halibut.
Fish oil can come from either farm-raised or wild-caught species.
Fish oil even comes from species like whales and seals, which also store these fatty acids in their blubber.
These two types of supplements affect gene expression differently.
In animal trials, krill oil altered the expression of nearly 5,000 genes, while fish oil only altered around 200.
This means that krill oil is able to influence more pathways in the body through both lipid and glucose metabolism, increasing its ability to positively influence your health (1).
One of the biggest concerns with fish oil is the possibility of contamination from heavy metals, especially mercury.
Larger fish are higher on the food chain and have a higher likelihood of being exposed to heavy metals, which they store in their livers along with the healthy fats.
Since krill are at the bottom of that food system, they are generally not contaminated with mercury and are a much safer option, when it comes to heavy metal exposure (2).
Fish oil is not as environmentally sustainable as krill oil.
Krill reserves are much higher than other types of fish.
These fish are quickly becoming overfished in many regions of the world.
At current levels, krill harvesting only accounts for less than one-half of a percent of the entire world’s supply of this species for human consumption (3).
Other advantages of krill oil over fish oil include:
- Krill oil has phospholipids, which allow the body to absorb omega-3s more easily. While these fatty acids are water-soluble, they cannot be transported into your blood without help, which is what phospholipids provide (4).
- Krill oil also has phosphatidylcholine, which also increases the absorption of omega-3s, enhances the bioavailability of krill oil’s nutrients (5).
- Krill oil also contains more antioxidants than fish oil, giving you better results for your improved health with less oil. That means you need less krill oil to obtain the same amount of benefit from fish oil.
- Because krill oil, unlike fish oil, also contains astaxanthin, it is less likely to oxidize in the body and is, therefore, more stable.
- Because you need less krill oil to have the same benefits as fish oil, krill oil supplements are often much smaller and easier to swallow than fish oil capsules.
The many health benefits of krill oil are discussed below, including the advantages of krill oil has compared to traditional fish oil.
Omega-3 and Krill Oil
The most significant advantage of krill oil to human health is its omega-3 fatty acids, which come primarily from eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) short-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that your body can readily use.
Your body uses PUFAs for many different essential functions, including cognitive functions, like memory and visual acuity, digestion, blood clotting, and muscle movements.
PUFAs play a key role in cell division and regulated genetic functions, by binding to cellular receptors (6).
Because the body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids on its own, you must get these essential lipids in your diet.
You can obtain these fats from plant sources, including flaxseeds, chia, and hemp.
However, plant sources are made up of alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs), which must be broken down further in the body into the short-chain acids that your body can use.
Among the most significant benefits that EPA and DHA offer to the body, is that they are natural anti-inflammatories (7).
Every cell in your body requires DHA, which is why it is so crucial for both brain health and effective neurotransmitter function.
Omega-3s also play a significant role in your endocannabinoid system.
This system helps to stimulate your immunity.
It also regulates mood and motivation, while affecting memory.
When your endocannabinoid system is out of balance, you can have problems with your blood sugar, health, weight regulation, mood, and cognition.
Getting enough omega-3s in your diet will help restore the proper function of this important body system (8).
Health Benefits of Krill Oil
Once you examine the research, both in animal trials and clinical studies, you can see that krill oil has many benefits for your physical and mental health.
We explore each of these benefits in-depth, including supplying the scientific data to support its use.
One of the most significant benefits of krill oil is to lower the incidence of inflammation.
For example, this natural fat is shown to reduce the presence of a specific marker for inflammation, C-reactive protein, in patients with heart disease and arthritis (9).
It also lowered another inflammation marker, TNF-α, in animal trials (10).
This is likely due to the astaxanthin in krill oil, which blocks the production of the nitric oxide that is necessary for TNF-α production (11).
By lowering the presence of these inflammatory markers in the body, krill oil helps to prevent excess inflammation and reduce the damage done by oxidative stress on organs, cells, and tissues.
In animal trials, krill oil was found to reduce specific indicators of inflammation, in the form of arachidonic acid, more than fish oil (12).
Can Help Treat Arthritis Symptoms
Because krill oil is effective at reducing the cytokine levels in your body that result in inflammation, it can be an effective treatment for arthritis pain and stiffness (13).
Taking daily krill oil was shown to improve joint function, lower pain and reduce stiffness in clinical trials (14).
This includes helping to improve range of motion in large joints, like knees (15).
Taking krill oil can even slow the development of arthritis symptoms and reduce joint damage (16).
Has Neuroprotective Properties
In addition to helping lower inflammation, which protects your heart and joints, taking krill oil can also help protect your brain.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in krill oil are necessary for proper brain development, and EPA can enhance both mood and behavior (17).
The phospholipids in krill oil are antioxidants which reduce the impact that oxidative stress has on the brain (18).
They can help protect you from developing autism, depression, dementia, and other brain and mental health disorders.
These fatty acids are essential for preventing cognitive decline associated with aging.
This is why they are so important for the elderly.
Krill oil has been shown to enhance brain function and improve memory in older patients (19).
This means that it could help those who are at risk for or already have dementia or other neurodegeneration problems.
May Help Control Weight
Your endocannabinoid pathway controls your appetite (20).
By blocking this pathway, krill oil may enhance weight loss efforts and encourage the maintenance of a healthy weight for those who use it.
In animal trials, subjects with normal levels of omega-3s were shown to have lower endocannabinoid levels, including specific enzymes that are connected to overeating (21).
If krill oil can be used to reduce overeating, then it can help to control weight in some people.
Protects the Heart
Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with lower rates of heart disease (22).
The EPA and DHA in krill oil are beneficial to the heart and provide protection against oxidative stress and damage (23).
Taking krill oil can improve levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which can help to improve heart health (24).
Additionally, krill oil has been shown to lower levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, which are associated with heart disease and diabetes (25).
Taking krill oil regularly can help to reduce your blood pressure (26), as well as keep total cholesterol levels in check.
When compared to other healthy fats, such as olive oil, krill oil is more effective at improving insulin resistance scores, as well as enhancing the function of blood vessel linings (27).
Can Help with Diabetes
By lowering glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity, krill oil may help to lower people’s risk of developing diabetes.
In animal studies, taking krill oil has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, while also reducing insulin resistance (28).
It is also shown to help diabetics lower their risk for a heart attack (29).
Keeps Your Skin Healthy
Inflammation is the cause of many common skin problems, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
Because krill oil’s high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids lowers inflammation, taking this supplement regularly can help you repair skin damage and prevent skin disorders caused by inflammation.
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in krill oil, can significantly reduce inflammatory acne (30).
In animal trials, EPA and DHA blocked the production of inflammatory markers that are responsible for atopic dermatitis (31).
Because krill oil is also rich in antioxidants, it has additional benefits for your skin.
It has been shown to reduce age spots and decrease the appearance of wrinkles while improving moisture and skin texture (32).
Can Help with Depression
By increasing the concentration of DHA in the brain, krill oil can lower depression-like symptoms (33).
Can Treat Symptoms of PMS
Premenstrual syndrome can include many different symptoms, including depression, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, pain, stress, and inflammation.
The EPA and DHA found in krill oil have been shown to lower some of these symptoms (35).
In a 2003 study, participants taking krill oil noted lower levels of stress, depression, and irritability and relied less on pain relievers to treat their PMS symptoms (36).
When compared to the effects of fish oil, one study found that women taking krill oil used significantly less pain medication than those taking fish oil (37).
There is substantial evidence that women with higher blood levels of omega-3s have fewer PMS symptoms than those with lower levels of these fats (38).
Supports Strong Bones and Joints
Conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis become more prevalent with age, leading to the loss of bone tissue and cartilage, as well as decreased bone density.
This can lead to many different joint problems and symptoms.
There is evidence to suggest that omega-3s, like those in krill oil, can help preserve bone density and reduce the inflammation that leads to tissue loss and damage (39).
May Improve Gastric Health
New evidence suggests that using omega-3 fatty acid to reduce gastric inflammation may be beneficial in the treatment of H. Pylori and gastric ulcers (40).
Krill oil can also help to eliminate other gastric symptoms, including constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion, and stomach upset (41).
May Lower Cancer Risks
Krill oil could help treat colorectal or other types of cancer.
In cell studies, the fatty acids found in krill oil stop the growth of cancer cells (42).
With further research, we may learn more about how krill oil could be used in future cancer treatment.
Other studies have noted that eating more omega-3s lowers the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer (43).
Having a high concentration of these fats in your blood is also associated with a lower risk for colorectal cancer (44).
Additional Health Benefits
Krill oil could be used to treat dry eyes. Participants in one research study who took krill oil regularly noted reduced eye symptoms, including dry eye, redness, and inflammation (45).
Krill oil may help in the treatment of colitis, which is caused by inflammation in the colon.
Krill oil effectively lowers colon inflammation, which can reduce symptoms, as well as the damage caused by excessive oxidative stress (46).
How to Use Krill Oil
If you want to increase your levels of omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, then taking krill oil is a simple method for carrying out this goal.
Krill oil is widely available today, from many retailers and healthcare providers.
One of the many reasons people like taking krill oil instead of fish oil is that it tends to result in fewer unpleasant side effects, most notably a fishy after-taste or excessive belching.
It is recommended that you take between 250 and 500 milligrams per day of any DHA/EPA supplement.
Be sure to read the label carefully on your supplement package and follow its instructions.
You should not take more than 5,000 milligrams of DHA/EPA in a day, either from your diet or from supplements.
There are certain people who should consult with their doctor before beginning use of krill oil.
Those who are on blood thinning medications, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant and anyone preparing for surgery should ask a doctor before taking krill oil.
At high doses, krill oil and other omega-3 supplements can interfere with your blood’s ability to clot properly, putting you at risk for excessive bleeding.
If you have a shellfish allergy, you should also avoid taking krill oil.
Most of the research that has been conducted on krill oil have been either animal trials or cellular studies.
Therefore, more clinical trials are needed to confirm the results and to test possible dosages for the various treatments using krill oil.
Not all organizations currently fully endorse the use of krill oil over fish oil.
Therefore, you will need to evaluate the evidence and make your own decision.
The most common side effects associated with taking krill oil include a headache, bad breath or a fishy aftertaste, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation.
These are generally mild and subside upon ceasing use.
As we learn more about its effectiveness, krill oil is quickly becoming a more popular source of omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil.
As a rich source of EPA and DHA, which are necessary for human health, krill oil can help to treat many different health problems.
It presents a more sustainable choice for those who are concerned about our environment.
Krill oil is rich in antioxidants and has better bioavailability than fish oil, a traditional supplement used to improve omega-3 levels.
Evidence suggests that krill oil is effective at reducing inflammation, protecting the brain and the heart, and treating diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory conditions, dementia, depression, and even cancer.
As we learn more about this natural source of healthy fats, it will likely become an even more critical part of the daily recommendations for optimal health.
You should try to take between 250 to 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily, including what you receive from dietary sources.
If you do not eat omega-3s as a part of your regular diet, you should take a supplement to ensure your optimal health, since your body cannot make these lipids on its own.
The benefits of adding healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA and DHA, into your diet are widely documented today.
Krill oil presents an alternative to fish oil that adds a source of healthy fats to your diet with fewer side effects and less risk of heavy metal contamination.
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