We don’t always get all the nutrients we need, with healthy Omega-3 fats often falling to the wayside in favor of more convenient options. Fish oil supplements can be a good way to fill in the gap, but quality and potency varies between sources and brands. Krill oil proponents claim they have a better product, but do they have the science to back it? Here’s what we know.
Many marine animals feed on and take in rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many proven health benefits. These healthy fats reduce triglyceride levels in the blood, which could improve heart health. They also reduce inflammation, making them a good choice to combat inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
Fish oil has also been researched for its possible effectiveness in improving mental health and cognition, benefiting diseases of the retina and macula and possibly even reducing some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. More research is needed in some areas but many doctors recommend taking Omega-3 supplements to their patients and many people want to claim all of the benefits of these supplements, too.
Krill oil can cost between two and 30 times as much as fish oil, and proponents market it as an alternative that spares users from “fishy burps.” According to actual studies, krill oil contains between 45 and 200 milligrams of EPA+DHA (the two important fatty acids in Omega-3s) per serving. However, a typical fish oil supplement contains 300-2,250 milligrams, over 11 times that value.
Krill oil may be more readily absorbed, however. Its other fats tend to be phospholipids, which are efficient at delivering EPA+DHA throughout the system while fish oil generally contains triglycerides or ethyl esters along with its Omega-3s, which may be less effective in helping the body process them during absorption. This benefit might not always make up for the generally smaller pill size (one of their marketed perks) and lower nutrient levels, although findings have been mixed and research in this area is still ongoing.
Krill oil also contains an antioxidant called astaxanthin, which is prevalent in salmon and cooked shellfish, as well. Little research has been conducted on this nutrient, so we’ve yet to become aware of the potential additional benefits it may offer. Astaxanthin isn’t in most fish oil supplements.
Supplements might look like an easy solution to an incomplete diet, but they might not always deliver what they say they will. Omega-3 fatty acids are among many fats that oxidize quickly, and fish oil supplements of all kinds typically go through several processing and shipping stages before they even reach the bottling plants. As a result, many supplements could be ineffective by the time they hit sales shelves. Consumers should also be aware that taking oxidized Omega-3s could introduce a source of possibly disease-causing free radicals instead of providing the beneficial anti-inflammatory they thought they were taking.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to our health, and in cases where diet alone isn’t cutting it, a high-quality fish or krill oil supplement might help. Be sure never to take any supplement that smells or tastes rancid to ensure better quality. Whenever possible, try to get Omega-3s from the source — chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring and oysters are great choices.
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