The word krill comes from the Norwegian term for ‘small fry’, and krill oil benefits are derived from tiny shrimp-like crustaceans. There are 85 different types of krill, and the seas contain an estimated 750 million tons of them, making krill the largest biomass and food source on the planet
Krill are found in all the oceans of the world but congregate in particularly high numbers in the Antarctic Ocean, as they prefer pure waters that are not contaminated by mercury or other pollutants.
Krill oil is a rich source of omega-3s and antioxidants
Krill are almost at the bottom of the food chain. They feed on algae from which they obtain the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, plus two powerful antioxidant pigments, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. These pigments, which are the same as those from which flamingos obtain their attractive pink plumage, give krill oil a lovely ruby-red colour.
Krill oil therefore combines the benefits of omega-3s and antioxidants to offer important nutritional support for healthy joints, circulation, brain and exercise performance.
Krill oil is more absorbable than other fish oils
The omega-3 oils present in krill oil are bound to phospholipids, which appears to boost their absorption into the body and make them more bioavailable. Two studies have investigated the absorption of EPA and DHA when the same amount was provided as krill oil or as fish oil. These suggest that more EPA and DHA is absorbed and incorporated into red blood cell membranes when given as krill oil, although more research is needed to confirm this.
Krill oil benefits for joints
Both the omega 3s and the antioxidants in krill oil have anti-inflammatory actions which can help to reduce joint pain, stiffness and swelling in people with arthritis.
A trial involving 90 people with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis measured blood levels of an inflammatory marker called CRP. Taking krill oil (a relatively small dose of 300mg per day) reduced CRP levels by 19% within 7 days, whereas in those taking placebo CRP levels increased by 15.7%.
After 14 days treatment, CRP levels fell by around 30% with krill oil, but increased to 32% in those taking placebo. At the same time, joint symptoms showed significant improvement, with noticeable reductions in pain scores (28.9% reduction), stiffness (20% reduction) and joint function (22.8% improvement) seen within a week.
Krill oil supplements have also been shown to reduce the amount of pain-killing ‘rescue’ medication needed such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Krill oil benefits for cholesterol
Krill oil supplements can significantly improve cholesterol balance by reducing circulating levels of ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol and increasing ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol.
Data from 7 trials, involving 662 people, suggests that taking 1g krill oil per day for 12 weeks lowered LDL-cholesterol by 32%, reduced triglycerides by 11% but increased ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol increased by 44%. These are exactly the sort of changes needed to improve heart and circulatory health.
Krill oil benefits for brain health
The brain consists of at least 60% omega 3 fatty acids and phospholipids similar to those found in krill oil. Researchers have found that omega 3 fish oils have beneficial effects on brain function, learning, cognition, mood and depression, and that krill oil could be even better.
Krill oil benefits for painful periods and PMS
Omega 3 fish oils can reduce painful periods and cramping through its effects on production of hormone-like prostaglandins within the lining of the womb.
Krill oil may also reduce symptoms associated with PMS, such as breast tenderness and mood swings, according to a pilot study involving 29 women who took krill oil for 90 days, in addition to vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, soy isoflavones and rosemary extracts (CleanMarine for Women).
Symptoms of anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches and forgetfulness improved by at least 70%, although there was no placebo with which to compare these.
Krill oil benefits for immunity
The omega-3s and antioxidants within krill oil may boost immunity after exercise. A small study involving 37 male and female adults tested 2g krill oil per day against placebo, for 6 weeks. Incremental exercise tests and cycling time trials were carried out before and after the trial, and blood samples taken. In those taking krill oil supplement, improvements in the activity of immune white blood cells (mononuclear and natural killer cells) were seen within three hours of exercise in both healthy young males and females.
Laboratory studies also suggest that krill oil may suppress the proliferation and induce natural destruction (apoptosis) of colon cancer cells.
Krill oil benefits for skin
Like other sources of omega-3s and antioxidants, krill oil may reduce skin inflammation to improve dry skin conditions, eczema and psoriasis.
Preliminary studies involving cell cultures suggest that krill oil combined with co-enzyme Q10, lipoic acid, grape seed oil, resveratrol, vitamin E and selenium, had remarkable anti-inflammatory properties to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Krill oil may also have anti-ageing properties to slow the development of skin wrinkles.
Krill oil dose
The usual dose is 500mg to 2g krill oil daily.
No significant side effects have been reported.
Krill oil should be avoided by those with a seafood allergy.
Ensure your krill oil supplement is derived from sustainable sources that do not impact on the feeding grounds of marine animals such as baleen whales, Antarctic Fur Seals and Adelie penguins. Sustainably derived krill oil products are endorsed by the Marine Stewardship Council an international, non-profit organisation that works to safeguards seafood stocks.
Have you taken krill oil? Please share your experiences via the comments below.
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