In the scientific community there is a big debate whether the bioavailability of krill oil is better than fish oil. A recent study tried to compare them, which lead to a discussion between scientists. Helfi tried to examine the available evidence to reach a well-rounded conclusion.
The fats in krill and Fish oil
Both krill oil and fish oil contain EPA and DHA. The many advantages of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) have been described in another Helfi article. Among these advantages are better mood, better cognitive functioning, better heart health and increased muscle mass combined with fat loss for athletes. The impact of EPA and DHA on human health is so deep and wide ranging because EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids. The human body cannot produce these fats on its own, so it has to get them from food. These fats have a very important role in human evolution, and they contributed to the amazing human cognitive abilities and the human brain.
The production process and the environment: krill and fish oil
Krill oil is obtained from krill, a crustacean species which lives near Antarctica. Fish oil is usually obtained from fatty fishes like sardines or anchovies. Fish oil is already contributing to overfishing, contrary to Krill oil. Krill oil production can increase 50 fold worldwide without any risk for the food chain. The reason for this is because the biomass of krill is very large and not in any way threatened. The food that is eaten by the creatures used for fish and krill oil is roughly the same. Both sardines, anchovies and krill mainly eat plankton.
Sometimes big fish like swordfish and sharks are used for fish oil, which is not only environmentally unfriendly, but also increases toxins in the fish oils when they are produced. So Krill oil is a preferred source for long term EPA and DHA supplementation in terms of the environment.
The comparison of fish and krill oil
The difference between fish and krill oil are the other fats included in the oil, besides EPA and DHA. In krill oil the EPA and DHA are bound in phospholipids. In fish oil the fatty acids are bound in triacylglycerols. The difference between krill and fish oil is the bioavailability. When an equal supply of EPA and DHA is present, krill oil shows greater bioavailability.
Krill oil has better cognitive per benefits per unit of EPA and DHA than fish oil. The reason might be that krill oil is better in crossing the blood-brain barrier, because of the phospholipids. When the same amount of EPA and DHA are administered, inflammation is also reduced more with krill oil than with fish oil. The reduction in inflammation might contribute to healthier joints, and could be used for a treatment of arthrosis.
What is one reason for the greater reduction in inflammation? Krill oil contains a very powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, which is responsible for the red coloring of krill oil (and red salmon for example). It lowers oxidative stress and DNA damage. It might increase sports performance. Astaxanthin might also contribute to the creation of new stem cells. More research is needed, but astaxanthin looks very promising. Astaxanthin is only found in krill oil, and not in fish oil.
Fish oil, krill oil and toxins
One last side note: Some fish, and fish oils are contaminated with toxins or heavy metals like mercury or dioxins. Helfi recommends the highest quality and most pure fish oils because mercury for example, might modestly decrease the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil. But even fish oil contaminated with dioxins and mercury, the benefits outweigh the risks. Helfi however, is only interested in the best products!
PriceThe only negative aspect about krill oil is the price. Krill oil is a more expensive per unit of EPA and DHA, but has greater benefits. When possible, use krill oil, when krill oil is too expensive, opt for EPA/DHA fish oil! Both the absorption of krill and fish oil is improved when taken with a meal containing saturated fats. So always combine them with a meal to optimize absorption!
Conclusion: Krill oil is highly recommended!Helfi recommends krill oil because it has more cognitive, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging benefits. Krill oil might be more expensive than fish oil, but is a great investment for anyone that wants to go all the way in terms of lifestyle and performance! And by using krill oil we’re saving the planet!
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