Krill, tiny crustaceans found in all of the world’s oceans, are an excellent source of omega-3s, and have advantages over fish oil and algae sources.
The three major types of omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Of the three, the two long-chain acids—EPA and DHA—both found in krill—are the ones most easily utilized by the body, making them the most bioavailable. ALA, which comes from plant-based sources, is converted to the more usable EPA and DHA; while this is beneficial, the catch is that only a small percentage is converted, and some is converted to omega-6, a fatty acid that actually triggers inflammation.
One of the main reasons my patients prefer krill oil is that they don’t get the unpleasant burps throughout the day that some people experience taking fish oils. Beyond that, there are several reasons I recommend krill to my patients:
It’s bioavailable—Due to krill oil’s natural phospholipid composition, the body absorbs a higher percentage of omega-3s than it does with other sources with a triglyceride counterpart, more common in fish and algae oils. The EPA and DHA in krill oil are incorporated into phospholipid molecules that are both fat-soluble and water-soluble. In fish oil, the DHA and EPA are bonded to triglycerides, which is fat-soluble only. This difference drastically affects absorption. It also makes krill oil more potent than other sources, so you can take a lower dose and still benefit.
It’s palatable—My patients appreciate the fact that krill oil is easy to swallow because the gelcaps are smaller than most fish oils. Typically, the gelcaps are a little larger than a pea.
It’s stable—Krill oil contains astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that gives it a red color and prevents oxidation, so the krill oil doesn’t go rancid nearly as quickly as fish oils. This helps to eliminate any fishy aftertaste. This stability means greater shelf life. Astaxanthin also boosts immunity and overall cell health by helping fight free radicals in the body.
It’s sustainable—Krill oil is derived from the largest biomass on the planet. At around 500 million tons, krill weigh more than all the people on earth! Krill oil harvesting began in the late 1990s, and is under the watchful eyes of the CCAMLR, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. This international organization strictly monitors the krill biomass, as well as harvesting volume and practices. Less than 1 percent of total krill biomass is harvested per year.
It’s safe—Because krill are so low on the food chain and are harvested in pristine waters, there is much less risk of any contamination from mercury and other toxins commonly associated with various types of fish.
Before I recommend any product to my patients, I need to see well-done studies showing benefits. Here are a few:
- Krill oil shows benefit for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels as well as supporting healthy hormone balance for women, according to research published in Alternative Medicine Review.
- Researchers writing in Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded krill oil reduced inflammation and lessened the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
- Krill oil promotes healthy focus and concentration, according to a study published in Lipid Technology.
In my own practice, I have found that many patients taking krill oil:
- Lower their cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduce inflammation in the blood vessels.
- Improve cognitive clarity (memory, learning, and focus).
- Experience reduced pain and discomfort from periods, including bloating, weight gain, abdominal pain, swelling, stress, depression, and irritability.
- Have reduced pain and stiffness in joints.
On the flip side, research indicates that omega-3 deficiency can increase risk for
a number of major diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and others—and may actually accelerate the aging process. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with brain-related dysfunction such as depression, anxiety, ADD, suicide, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. DHA is a main component of the brain’s synapses, while EPA improves blood flow, which boosts overall brain function.
A dosage of 500 mg of krill oil per day is a good place to start. A higher dose like 1,000 mg per day is recommended for women around their menstrual cycle. Patients wanting to lower their triglycerides can take up to 2 grams per day.
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