Krill oil is one of the most exciting new supplements on the market. Just like the other fish oil alternatives such as Omega XL’s ingredients, krill oil is trying to differentiate itself from pack. Released as a “superior” rival to the widely-consumed fish oil products, krill oil’s proponents claim that it does everything fish oil does, but better! In fact, supplement manufacturers have marketed krill oil explicitly as a better alternative to fish oil. So in the fight of krill oil vs fish oil, who wins?
Which is better for heart health, krill oil or fish oil?
Which is best for your joints?
Is there even much difference between krill oil and fish oil?
Is there an alternative omega 3 source better than both fish oil AND kill oil?
In this article, we’re going to look at krill oil and fish oil individually and explain the differences, similarities, and what we make of them as supplements. To kick things off, let’s look at fish oil.
Fish oil – typically in the form of cod liver oil – is usually oil obtained from cold water fish such as cod or mackerel. Fish oil supplements are probably the single most widely-used nutritional product, the only potential rival being multivitamins.
The underlying reason why people consume fish oil is because of the high concentration of omega 3s. Omega 3s are a group of fatty acids with similar structures. Three omega 3s – DHA, EPA, and ALA – have physiological functions in humans. It is these fatty acids that people are after when they take a fish oil supplement. In particular, people prize DHA and EPA because of their relative paucity in the typical Western diet (although you can make EPA and DHA out of ALA).
People take fish oil for a wide variety of reasons because omega 3 fatty acids have such diverse roles within the body.
There’s the cognitive benefits associated with omega 3 consumption. Studies have shown that regular consumption of a DHA-rich foods or supplements improves cognitive performance over the long term. This makes sense, as DHA is a structural component of your brain’s gray matter.
Then there’s the cardiovascular benefits; consuming a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids is positively correlated with better heart health and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Another important but often overlooked benefits of omega 3 consumption is improved joint health. High omega 3 consumption is closely correlated with better joint health and greater flexibility, especially in older people who are at high risk of fractures.
There are other touted benefits of consuming DHA/EPA-rich fish oil, such as better gut health, lower blood pressure, better skin, and more. But the effect omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil have on the brain, the heart, and the joints are the main reasons that millions of people use them every day.
Krill oil effectively promises all of the same benefits as fish oil, but it claims to be more effective, purer, and better value for money.
For starters, krill oil supposedly contains far less of the pollutants found in larger fish like cod. Wild cod is, unfortunately, now jam-packed with heavy metals, plastics, and other pollutants.
Our seas are incredibly polluted, and so are the fish that live there. SMaller fish like krill consume the same pollutants, but then larger fish like cod consume smaller marine animals (like krill, shrimp, and squid), which gives them a HUGE payload of mercury and plastic.
This is why the higher up the marine food chain you go, the greater the risk of mercury poisoning!
Krill oil is also said to contain more antioxidants than cod liver oil. This claim does indeed seem to be true; krill oil is richer in antioxidants than your average fish oil. Krill oil also contains astaxanthin; an extremely powerful antioxidant which is not found in fish oil at all.
Finally, there’s the bioavailability argument. According to some manufacturers, krill oil is significantly more bioavailable than fish oil. By this, they mean that the body can more readily digest, absorb and utilize krill oil compared to fish oil.
We have not seen any convincing evidence that this is the case. Studies indicate that bpth krill oil and fish oil spike blood EPA/DHA levels shortly after consumption; there’s no meaningful difference between the two.
Fish oil or kril oil: Which is better?
There is very little difference between krill oil and fish oil in practical terms.
Both provide lots of EPA and DHA. Both will contain the same pollutants and heavy metals, although cod liver oil is likely to contain far more as the “payload” of mercury, etc. from their food is much larger.
Krill oil does contain astaxanthin; an antioxidant known to have a plethora of health benefits, from reducing cholesterol to improving vision.
But the presence of astaxanthin alone doesn’t justify the massive price disparity between fish oil and krill oil, the latter usually costing FAR MORE than the former.
Ultimately, neither krill oil nor fish oil will give you the same purity and DHA richness as an algae-derived omega 3 supplement.
Fish oil and krill oil both contain high concentrations of DHA and EPA; two very important omega-3s. Fish oil has a higher concentration of DHA and EPA than krill oil by a substantial margin. However, the DHA and EPA in krill oil is thought to be more absorbable and usable by the body. What’s more, krill oil is thought to contain more potent antioxidants than fish oil. Ultimately though, neither of these two sources of EPA and DHA are as pure and as rich as algae (which is where these animals get their DHA and EPA from in the first place). Krill oil and fish oil obtained from sea life both contain heavy metals and other contaminants. Neither krill or nor fish oil contain much ALA, which your body can use to make both EPA and DHA.