Krill Oil Health Benefits
Krill oil health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties that may help with BPH and prostatitis and CPPS, and some anticancer activity against prostate cancer. Shrimp-like crustaceans called krill are the source of krill oil, which is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. The krill themselves are food for fish, penguins, seals, and whales. In fact, in Norwegian the word “krill” means “whale food.”
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil, like fish oil, is a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties and have been acknowledged by the American Heart Association for their ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and sudden death, lower blood pressure, and decrease arrhythmias. (Lichenstein 2006)
How Krill Oil Health Benefits Work
Krill oil has a phosphate molecule attached, which makes the EPA and DHA in krill oil phospholipids. This is important because phospholipids significantly increase the absorption or bioavailability of the EPA and DHA in krill oil, allowing the omega-3s to be more readily available to the body. Fish oil is less bioavailable. Krill oil’s higher bioavailability means that much less krill oil is needed to achieve the same benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Krill Oil Health Benefits: Studies
Krill oil health benefits can be achieved with lower doses of EPA and DHA than can fish oil. In a seven-week study, 113 participants were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: 3 grams of krill oil daily (543 mg of EPA and DHA each), 1.8 grams of fish oil daily (864 mg of EPA and DHA), or no supplements.
Participants in both the fish oil and krill oil groups had similar increases in plasma levels of EPA and DHA, but the krill oil achieved these increases with about a third less EPA and DHA. Thus the bioavailability of the omega-3s from krill oil is more efficient than those from fish oil, which are in triglyceride form. (Ulven 2011)
Studies show how men who eat fatty fish rich in EPA and DHA may reduce their risk of prostate cancer (Chavarro 2008; Hedelin 2007; Leitzmann 2004), but so far there are no studies that indicate krill oil health benefits are the same. However, because krill oil is rich in EPA and DHA and these omega-3 fatty acids are readily bioavailable, the findings from the studies of fish intake and prostate cancer may be extrapolated to include krill oil. One study reported that krill oil was effective in inhibiting cell growth of colon cancer cells. (Zhu 2008)
The anti-inflammatory activity of omega-3 fatty acids also may reduce the risk of BPH and prostatitis. Studies have shown that blood levels of omega-3s are lower in men who have BPH. However, again there are no specific studies linking use of krill oil and either BPH or prostatitis.
Krill Oil Health Benefits vs. Fish Oil
Among krill oil health benefits is the likelihood it is much less likely to accumulate toxins (e.g., dioxin, PCBs, mercury) than is fish oil. The oil is generally produced from krill harvested from cold Antarctic waters, which tend to be less contaminated than waters from which fish are harvested for fish oil. However, some fish oil supplements are made from fish caught in unpolluted waters as well.
Unlike fish oil, krill oil health benefits include being less perishable. That’s because krill oil contains higher levels of astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and oxidative stress.
One major problem with fish oil is that it oxidizes, which means every time you open the bottle, the oil loses a bit more of its potency. Oxidation also leads to the formation of harmful free radicals. Fish oil capsules mostly eliminate this problem.
One major concern about krill oil is that krill and plankton make up the Earth’s largest biomass, which is a critical and basic source of food for marine animals. While krill oil makers and krill harvesters insist krill are easily renewable, not everyone agrees, especially given the declining state of health of the oceans.
How to Take Krill Oil
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week, which is equivalent to about 250 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Consult your healthcare provider before taking krill oil supplements. Krill harvested from the Antarctic is usually the species Euphausia superb, which should be indicated on the supplement label.
Krill oil health benefits can be achieved when the supplement is taken as recommended and for no longer than 3 months. Although krill oil side effects have not been studied as extensively as have those for fish oil, they appear to be similar. They include bad breath, heartburn, loose stools, nausea, and upset stomach. However, krill oil usually does not cause fishy breath or fishy burps. Krill oil has blood-thinning properties, so do not take it without first consulting your doctor.
Chavarro JE et al. A 22-y prospective study of fish intake in relation to prostate cancer incidence and mortality. Am J Clin Nutr 2008 Nov; 88(5): 1297-303
Hedelin M et al. Association of frequent consumption of fatty fish with prostate cancer risk is modified by COX-2 polymorphism. Intl J Cancer 2007 Jan 15; 120(2): 398-405.
Leitzmann MF et al. Dietary intake of n-03 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. Am J Clin Nutr 2004 Jul; 80(1): 204-16.
Lichtenstein AH et al. Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation 2006; 114:82-96
Ulven SM 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 2011; 46:37-46
Zhu JJ et al. Effects of krill oil on serum lipids of hyperlipidemic rats and human SW480 cells. Lipids Health Dis 2008 Aug 29; 7:30