Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

Published August 18, 2019
<article> <section> <p>Improve your heart health! <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Reduce joint pain</a>! Boost your brain function! Do it all with one simple pill! We hear amazing claims like this all the time--and they sound way too good to be true. But what if there was a supplement that could help you do all that and more? Omega-3 fatty acids are a proven way to improve your overall health, but which form is right for you: krill oil or fish oil?</p> <p>Exercising, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">getting good sleep</a>, and finding the diet that suits you and your metabolism are the most sustainable keys to unlocking your best health. But adding a supplement can often help boost your results. Even the most balanced diet can sometimes struggle to provide all the key nutrients we need to feel our best in the right amounts or forms. Adding the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">right supplements</a> can take you from good to great!</p> <p>One nutrient that can help reduce the signs of aging, protect against heart disease, and even prevent cognitive decline is omega-3 fatty acid <sup>1-3</sup>. Key omega-3s like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)--try saying those 10 times fast!--are only found in marine sources like fish. If you don’t eat 8 ounces or more of fatty fish each week, it can be hard to get enough DHA and EPA to see the positive effects, like reduced inflammation.</p> <p>However, not everyone eats fish! So how do you get enough omega-3s? For big health gains, you’ll need to think of the best omega-3 fatty acid supplements, krill oil, comes from creatures less than two inches long.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Is Krill Oil?</header> <p>A reddish oil sold in small capsules, krill oil is loaded with DHA and EPA<sup>4</sup> and offers an easy way to get more omega-3s.</p> <p>Krill are teeny-tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that live all over the world--including the icy Southern Ocean. These creatures may be small, but there’s a lot of them! A single species, the Antarctic krill, has a total biomass of 379 <i>million</i> tons. Krill are mostly eaten by whales, seals, penguins, and fish, but they’re also harvested to feed farmed fish.</p> <p>Recently, though, scientists have discovered that krill can be used to make krill oil supplements that may be a great option for improving your heart health and more.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Which Omega-3 Supplement Should I Choose?</header> <p>Although krill oil may be new to you, its more common omega-3 supplement sibling, fish oil, might sound familiar. Fish oil is known for helping to lower blood pressure and reduce stroke risk. However, it may not be the best omega-3 source! Although more research is needed, some studies show that krill oil may be easier for our bodies to absorb <sup>5</sup>.</p> <p>That’s because krill oil is a phospholipid, a type of fat that makes up most of our bodies’ cell walls. As a result, it may be easier to metabolize than fish oil, which is a triglyceride—a component of body fat instead of cell walls <sup>6</sup>.</p> <p>Krill oil has lower levels of fatty acids like DHA and EPA than fish oil, but because it’s easier to absorb, their effects are almost identical once metabolized <sup>7, 8</sup>.</p> <p>When it comes to krill oil vs. fish oil, the jury’s still out. Both offer many health benefits, and both help you get more omega-3 fatty acids like brain-boosting DHA. </p> <p>One potential reason to choose krill oil instead of fish oil is that it contains an antioxidant, astaxanthin, that fish oil doesn’t. This antioxidant, which gives krill oil its reddish color, protects against oxidative stress, adding to the benefits you’re already getting from all that DHA and EPA <sup>9</sup>.</p> <div class="sub-head">Supplement Sustainability</div> <p>One issue with fish oil supplements is sustainability. Fish oil is often made from so-called “trash fish” like menhaden, which are caught as a byproduct when netting sea bass or tuna. However, menhaden are also an important part of the food chain, feeding fish, birds, porpoises, and more. Past overfishing put the ecosystem at risk, and catch limits have been put in place by many countries <sup>10</sup>.</p> <p>Krill, in comparison, are considered a more sustainable option. There’s just so many of them, and they reproduce so fast, that it’s hard to reduce the krill population by dangerous levels. Overall, humans harvest less than 0.05% of the available krill each year. We could harvest 50 times more and still leave a sustainable population, with plenty for wildlife to eat and to reproduce for the next year! </p> <p>With that in mind, using krill supplements can be a sustainable, ethical option <sup>11</sup>.</p> <p>In general, getting more healthy fatty acids will help you improve your heart and brain health, regardless of whether the source is krill oil, fish oil, or a serving of fatty fish like anchovies. You just need to choose the omega-3 supplement that fits your budget and your values.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Are the Side Effects of Krill Oil?</header> <p>Although the fatty acids in krill oil are fantastic for helping prevent heart disease, lower your cholesterol, fight inflammation <sup>12</sup>, and more, there are a few things to watch out for. Some people may experience:</p> <ul> <li>Slower healing from a cut or bruise</li> <li>More or easier bruising</li> <li>Bad breath or “fishy burps”</li> <li>Mild heartburn or indigestion</li> <li>Loose stool </li> </ul> <p>Always ask your doctor before starting any new supplement. With krill oil, people on blood thinners or who have clotting disorders should be particularly careful and consult their physician.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Is Krill Oil Really Good for You?</header> <p>Many studies have shown the major health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. As a rich source of omega-3s like DHA and EPA, krill oil is a good place to start in the supplement world. On its own, krill oil can help support heart health and fight signs of aging, including cognitive decline. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammation <sup>12</sup>. Combined with other anti-inflammatory supplements like ginger and turmeric, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">krill oil</a> can really put the pep back in your step—literally!</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The role for dietary omega-3 fatty acids supplementation</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease</a></li> <li>Kwantes J, Grundmann O. A Brief Review of Krill Oil History, Research, and the Commercial Market. J Diet Suppl. 2014;12(1):23-35. doi:10.3109/19390211.2014.902000</li> <li>Ramprasath V, Eyal I, Zchut S, Jones P. Enhanced increase of omega-3 index in healthy individuals with response to 4-week n-3 fatty acid supplementation from krill oil versus fish oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2013;12(1):178. doi:10.1186/1476-511x-12-178</li> <li>Schuchardt J, Schneider I, Meyer H, Neubronner J, von Schacky C, Hahn A. Incorporation of EPA and DHA into plasma phospholipids in response to different omega-3 fatty acid formulations - a comparative bioavailability study of fish oil vs. krill oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2011;10(1):145. doi:10.1186/1476-511x-10-145</li> <li>Ulven S, Kirkhus B, Lamglait A et al. Metabolic Effects of Krill Oil are Essentially Similar to Those of Fish Oil but at Lower Dose of EPA and DHA, in Healthy Volunteers. Lipids. 2010;46(1):37-46. doi:10.1007/s11745-010-3490-4</li> <li>Ulven S, Holven K. Comparison of bioavailability of krill oil versus fish oil and health effect. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2015:511. doi:10.2147/vhrm.s85165</li> <li>Pashkow F, Watumull D, Campbell C. Astaxanthin: A Novel Potential Treatment for Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Cardiovascular Disease. Am J Cardiol. 2008;101(10):S58-S68. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2008.02.010</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The Good and the Bad for Atlantic Menhaden. National Geographic Society Newsroom</a></li> <li>Nichols P, Petrie J, Singh S. Long-Chain Omega-3 Oils–An Update on Sustainable Sources. Nutrients. 2010;2(6):572-585. doi:10.3390/nu2060572</li> <li>Deutsch L. Evaluation of the Effect of Neptune Krill Oil on Chronic Inflammation and Arthritic Symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(1):39-48. doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719584</li> </ol> </section> </article>

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