Krill versus Fish oil – Short Answer to a Big Question
A common question I encounter: Is Krill oil better than fish oil. Shortest answer is – if it comes from a good manufacturer and is of high quality then yes. Krill oil holds certain advantages over standard fish oil. But that does not mean it is the best choice for you. Lets explore further.
Krill oil comes from small crustaceans that live in very cold northern waters. As such they have developed special coping mechanisms to deal with the frozen waters they inhabit. To keep their blood from freezing these crustaceans have adapted special qualities, one of which is the high content of the pink colored antioxidant astaxanthin and higher levels of phosphotidylcholine. It is this pink astaxanthin that gives salmon their pink color as salmon eat krill. This is also why “wild caught” is great and farm raised is not as farm-raised salmon typically do not get the krill in their diets. In fact farm raised salmon aren’t even pink, they are fed pink dye to fool you.
So what is so special about astaxanthin? Well here is a list of some of its benefits:
- Contains neuro-protective properties beyond being an antioxidant so it’s good for your brain.
- Protects your eyes and retina from oxidative cell damage
- Acts a good anti-inflammatory agent and protects against the oxidation of fat found in cell membranes, so reduces cell damage.
Well that’s great so we should all abandon our fish oil in favor of krill oil right? Well, not so fast. Is krill the only way to get these antioxidant effects? No. Are we willing to say that our creator intended us to swim out into the north Atlantic in order to get these valuable nutrients? Not likely. As we look at cultures around the world that demonstrate great longevity do they all live on boats fishing for krill in the North Arlantic? No. So common sense may dictate that astaxanthin is nice and good for us but not entirely necessary, not a black and white factor in our long-term cognitive health. In fact there are many nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals that all produce an effect similar to krill oil. Maybe less pizza and more vegetables would net a similar result? But for the sake of argument lets say that krill is good and we want it. OK. Well how does it compare to good ol fish oil?
Studies have shown that if we measure blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA (the good guys) after ingestion of krill versus standard fish oil that krill holds a distinct advantage, being absorbed about twice as good. So 200 mg or fish based EPA/DHA would result in a similar blood level as taking 100 mg of krill EPA/DHA. Clear? But the cost of these two elements is light years apart. A well made krill oil will run you around 25 cents per 100 mg of EPA/DHA whereas a good fish oil will cost around 2.5 cents per 100 mg. That’s 10 times less expensive. So if I just doubled the dose of my inexpensive fish oil it would net the same serum level of EPA/DHA for 1/5th the cost of using krill oil. Yep.
I recommend that given our toxic environment and poor diets you should shoot to get a minimum of 1000 mg of EPA/DHA daily for good general health and more if you struggle with inflammation, heart disease, diabetes or other issue. A standard fish oil can provide that for 25 cents per day. A krill oil providing 500 mg of EPA/DHA (remember it absorbs twice as well so use half the dose) will cost you $1.25 per day.
If I have a patient with a serious neurological issue such as seizure, Alzheimers, dementia, Parkinsons, etc then perhaps this extra cost is well worth the added brain absorption and astaxanthin content. But for most folks this benefit is more of a luxury than a necessity.
I want to point out one other feature of fish oils. They come in many forms but the vast majority are “free esters” meaning the original “triglyceride” nature of the fats has been destroyed by the manufacturing process rendering it good but less absorbable. A select few manufacturers undertake an additional process with their fish oil to reassemble it back into a triglyceride form which makes it anywhere from 50 to 70% more absorbable than standard fish oils. I particularly like the Ortho Molecular and Nordic Natural brands because they do in fact under go this extra step to ensure a superior product. I personally take a triglyceride form of fish oil to ensure the best absorption in my body.
So once a gain you get what you pay for. Your standard grocery store shelf fish oil can have serious flaws in its content, toxin level, and delivery. Buyer beware. If you put good oil in your car to maintain its life and reduce repair costs maybe its worth doing the same for your own personal oil change. Cars can be replaced, but your body parts are a one shot deal. High quality fish oil pays dividends in your health.
This was not intended to be an exhaustive study of the literature and there is more we can discuss about this topic but I wanted to provide some broad strokes to help you guide your thinking. I use both Krill and standard fish oils in my medical practice. They both have great benefit and purpose but applying one blanket statement as to which one YOU need is a personalized issue that we can discuss after we have reviewed all the aspects of your health and created a path for your ideal health.
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