Krill isn’t your average shrimp. (Photo: The Sun and Doves)
Krill oil, logically enough, comes from krill, which are small, shrimp like crustaceans that inhabit the cold ocean areas of the world, primarily the Antarctic and North Pacific Oceans.
Despite their small size–one to five centimeters in length–krill make up the largest animal biomass on the planet. According to Neptune Technologies, the Canadian company that holds the patent for krill oil extraction, there are approximately 500 million tons of krill roaming around in these northern seas, 110,000 tons of which are harvested annually.
Krill oil, like fish oil, contains both of the omega-3 fats, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), but hooked together in a different form…
In fish oil, these omega-3 fatty acids are found in the triglyceride form, whereas in krill oil they are hooked up in a double chain phospholipid structure. The fats in our own cell walls are in the phospholipid form.
Attached to the EPA leg of the phospholipid is a molecule of astaxanthin, an extremely potent anti-oxidant. The phospholipid structure of the EPA and DHA in krill oil makes them much more absorbable and allows for a much easier entrance into the mitochondria and the cellular nucleus. In addition to EPA and DHA, krill oil contains a complex phospholipid profile including phosphatidylcholine, a potent source of reductive-stress-reducing choline, which also acts as a natural emulsifier.
Krill oil contains vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D and canthaxanthin, which is — like astaxanthin — a potent anti-oxidant. The anti-oxidant potency of krill oil is such that when compared to fish oil in terms of ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorptance Capacity) values, it was found to be 48 times more potent than fish oil.
The astaxanthin found in krill oil provides excellent protection against ultraviolet light and UV-induced skin damage. It was for this reason that I started taking krill oil to begin with–-I discovered its other virtues later on.
A number of studies have shown that krill oil is tremendously effective in reducing LDL-cholesterol, raising HDL-cholesterol (up to 44% in some cases), and lowering blood sugar. It has been shown to be effective in treating the pain and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis and aches and pains in general. One large study showed that krill oil has tremendous benefits in terms of symptom reduction in PMS and dysmenorrhea. And it has been shown to be effective in the treatment of adult ADHD. In all these studies krill oil was tested against fish oil and not simply a placebo.
Due to the rapid absorption of krill oil and the high anti-oxidant content there is virtually never the fishy burping and aftertaste sometimes experienced with fish oil. The jury is out right now on if and to what degree there is a problem for those people allergic to shrimp. Until the jury is in, I would be careful in taking krill oil if I had a shrimp allergy.
Are there any downsides to this substance?
Only one. It is a little more expensive than fish oil, but, as with all things, you get what you pay for. virtually all krill oil is produced by Neptune Technologies and shipped to the various supplement manufacturers, so any krill oil you get will have come from the same place and be the same dosage. The only unknown is how long it has been sitting around in a warehouse somewhere, which is, of course, the same unknown with fish oil. At least with krill oil, thanks to the high anti-oxidant content, the shelf life is much longer.
One last thing to remember: popping a couple of fish oil and krill oil caps don’t give the same immediate relief as popping a NSAID [Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like Advil, ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.].
It takes a while–a couple of weeks in my case–for the fish oil/krill oil to provide the same degree of pain relief as the NSAID. The take home message is: don’t take your first dose and compare it to the relief you got with a dose of NSAID. In the study I mentioned in the last post, the subjects took the fish oil for two weeks along with their NSAIDs, then tapered off the drugs and treated their pain with the fish oil alone.
[Two of several clinical studies on Krill Oil (NKO) from PubMed can be found below the author bio.]
About the author of this post:
Dr. Michael Eades is one of the foremost bariatric (obesity treatment) doctors in the US and the first to introduce insulin resistance to the mainstream. He is author of the international bestseller, Protein Power.
“Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids.”
University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.
The omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are orthomolecular, conditionally essential nutrients that enhance quality of life and lower the risk of premature death. They function exclusively via cell membranes, in which they are anchored by phospholipid molecules. DHA is proven essential to pre- and postnatal brain development, whereas EPA seems more influential on behavior and mood. Both DHA and EPA generate neuroprotective metabolites. In double-blind, randomized, controlled trials, DHA and EPA combinations have been shown to benefit attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and aggression. For the affective disorders, meta-analyses confirm benefits in major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, with promising results in schizophrenia and initial benefit for borderline personality disorder. Accelerated cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) correlate with lowered tissue levels of DHA/EPA, and supplementation has improved cognitive function. Huntington disease has responded to EPA. Omega-3 phospholipid supplements that combine DHA/EPA and phospholipids into the same molecule have shown marked promise in early clinical trials. Phosphatidylserine with DHA/EPA attached (Omega-3 PS) has been shown to alleviate AD/HD symptoms. Krill omega-3 phospholipids, containing mostly phosphatidylcholine (PC) with DHA/EPA attached, markedly outperformed conventional fish oil DHA/EPA triglycerides in double-blind trials for premenstrual syndrome/dysmenorrhea and for normalizing blood lipid profiles. Krill omega-3 phospholipids demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, lowering C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in a double-blind trial. Utilizing DHA and EPA together with phospholipids and membrane antioxidants to achieve a triple cell membrane synergy may further diversify their currently wide range of clinical applications.
“Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms.”
OBJECTIVES: a) To evaluate the effect of Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) on C-reactive protein (CRP) on patients with chronic inflammation and b) to evaluate the effectiveness of NKO on arthritic symptoms. METHODS: Randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study. Ninety patients were recruited with confirmed diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and/or rheumatoid arthritis and/or osteoarthritis and with increased levels of CRP (>1.0 mg/dl) upon three consecutive weekly blood analysis. Group A received NKO (300 mg daily) and Group B received a placebo. CRP and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis score were measured at baseline and days 7, 14 and 30. RESULTS: After 7 days of treatment NKO reduced CRP by 19.3% compared to an increase by 15.7% observed in the placebo group (p = 0.049). After 14 and 30 days of treatment NKO further decreased CRP by 29.7% and 30.9% respectively (p < 0.001). The CRP levels of the placebo group increased to 32.1% after 14 days and then decreased to 25.1% at day 30. The between group difference was statistically significant; p = 0.004 at day 14 and p = 0.008 at day 30. NKO showed a significant reduction in all three WOMAC scores. After 7 days of treatment, NKO reduced pain scores by 28.9% (p = 0.050), reduced stiffness by 20.3% (p = 0.001) and reduced functional impairment by 22.8% (p = 0.008). CONCLUSION: The results of the present study clearly indicate that NKO at a daily dose of 300 mg significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.
Posted on: July 23, 2008.