Are we being fed more hype than truth that krill is better than fish oil? Accredited Practising Dietitian Penny Weigand has the story.
You might have seen the ads on TV where celebrity doctors and trainers claim krill oil boosts brain power, reduces chronic pain, improves heart health and, yes, aids weight loss too. Krill oil, they say, is forty-seven times more potent than common fish oil.
But does krill really outshine its old counterpart fish oil, or is it simply a case of well-managed marketing?
Fish oil and krill oil are both omega-3 fatty acid supplements. They contain the essential long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. We all need these long-chain omega-3s, as they can’t be made by the body. The best way of getting enough is by eating oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
Very high doses of long-chain omega-3s can have anti-inflammatory benefits to help ease arthritis and they also may help in the prevention of heart disease.
Studies have also found long-chain omega-3s may aid macular degeneration, cancer, clinical depression and anxiety.
Most fish oil found in supplements comes from cod, salmon and even shark. Krill oil comes from the tiny prawn-like crustaceans found in the Antarctic and northern Pacific oceans. So what’s so special about krill? Well, krill not only has long-chain omega-3s but also has antioxidants.
However, Associate Professor of nutrition at Deakin University Tim Crowe explains, “the main selling point is the important long-chain omega-3’s in krill are better absorbed [by the body]”.
So in theory, krill oil could be more potent. However, testing on humans is still in its infancy.
“There is certainly promising research available, however it is still in its early day,” says Ass Prof Crowe.
Most of the claims made for krill oil’s curative powers are based on theory and animal-based studies, rather than proven in human trials.
In the meantime, you are paying up to 32 times more for krill oil than fish oil for the same amount of long-chain omega-3s. For people choosing an omega-3 supplement for general health, a message lost among marketing and celebrity endorsements is that food contains long-chain omega-3s.
As Ass Prof Crowe states, “If someone is a regular eater of fish then supplements are not needed.”
Two to three serves of oily fish in your diet every week should provide most of the long-chain omega-3s you need.
But if you feel that you need to pop a pill, or have been recommended a high dose of omega-3s by your doctor, then check the labels. Compare the amount of beneficial EPA and DHA in each capsule to make sure you’re not just swallowing the hype.