What is it?
Most of us have heard of omega-3 fatty acids – the healthy fats found in oily fish. However you may not know that krill provide a new way to get these essential fats.
Tiny shrimp-like crustaceans, krill are found in every ocean around the world. But the oil comes from a specific type of krill (Euphausia superba), which live in the cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean. Like fish oil, it’s rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), but they’re packaged differently. Fish oil omega-3 is bound to fats known as triglycerides or ethyl esters, whereas krill oil are bound to a type of fat called a phospholipid, which is easier for the body to absorb. This is key, because although krill oil contains around 60 per cent of the omega-3 found in fish oil, its effects are similar to those of fish oil at a lower dose, so you need less to get the same benefits
Unlike fish oil, krill oil also contains choline, an essential micronutrient, and the antioxidant, astaxanthin. What’s more the low levels of contaminants in the Antarctic Ocean, mean krill oil is virtually free of heavy metals and mercury, which can be a concern with oily fish, although not purified fish oils.
Is it good for heart health?
Canadian research has shown that krill oil lowers blood cholesterol, particularly the so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, as well as other dangerous blood fats that have been linked with heart disease risk, while increasing ‘good’ HDL levels. Another study also found that when overweight people took krill oil for a month their blood pressure dropped.
Arthritis Oiling your joints thanks to the humble krill is effective for arthritis, reports a study in the Journal Of The American College Of Nutrition. A seven-day trial using 90 patients, researchers found their inflammation and joint stiffness reduced by 20 per cent while their pain scores fell by nearly a third.
In a Japanese study, healthy older people took either krill oil or sardine oil, and underwent memory and calculation tests to check their grey matter. Researchers found that fatty acids boosted cognitive function, and the krill oil trumped sardine oil. It’s thought that phospholipid form of omega-3 in krill compared to the triglyceride form of omega-3 in sardines, is what made it more effective.
A study published in Alternative Medicine Review that had women take krill oil supplements for 90 days found that it helped with both the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS, from breast tenderness to low mood to skin outbreaks, with participants consuming krill oil taking significantly fewer painkillers.
How do I get it?
While krill provide fodder for whales and sharks, we humans will have to be content with a supplement. It’s best to taken in the morning so that it gets straight to work at providing relief and promoting optimal health throughout your day.
How much do I need?
UK recommendations for EPA and DHA are 0.45g daily, around 2g of krill oil*, so check supplement labels. Research backs this: in one study blood levels of EPA and DHA significantly increased when people took between 0.6g and 2g of krill oil daily, while in another, when people took 1 to 1.5g of krill oil daily for three months they managed to significantly lower total and LDL cholesterol.
*If you are pregnant, breast-feeding or under medical supervision, consult your doctor before taking supplements. Krill oil is not advised if you are taking blood thinners.