Is krill oil as good as fish oil? What’s krill oil you ask? Krill oil comes from Krill, which are tiny, shrimp like animals that whales and other sea dwellers eat for food. The oil of krill has become an alternative to fish oil supplements mostly because some people say that krill oil doesn't give them a “fishy smell” to their breath –like many report from fish oil. Let’s review the research on krill oil and try to see if it’s right for you.
What is Krill Oil?
The oil of krill is rich in fish oils – EPA and DHA – and contains other things like omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids. Krill oil also contains a carotenoid called astaxanthin, which gives krill and other sea animals pink color. Krill oil is often obtained from Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superb) but other species may be used also.
Krill Oil Health Benefits
Currently, most of the research on krill oil has centered on heart disease and arthritis. Let’s look at the research on each separately.
Does Krill Lower Cholesterol?
Because krill oil has EPA and DHA (the “fish oils”), people often wonder if krill oil can lower cholesterol levels – and other issues of heart disease. In one 3 month study involving 120 people with high cholesterol, Krill oil lowered cholesterol more than compared to a placebo. It also lowered “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and raised “good cholesterol” (HDL).
To get these results, people were given 1-1.5 grams of krill oil daily. At 3 grams a day, krill oil also appeared to lower triglycerides and glucose levels.
The Krill oil used in this study was Neptune Krill oil.
Ironically, in another study – lasting 7 weeks and involving 113 healthy people – Krill oil seemed no better than fish oil at reducing cholesterol levels or other markers of heart disease. Krill oil was no worse than fish oil either. In this study, people were given 3 grams of fish oil per day (which contained 543 mg of EPA and DHA).
Krill Oil and Arthritis
In one animal study, krill oil appeared to prevent arthritis development in mice. The type of arthritis we are talking about is rheumatoid arthritis however osteoarthritis may also be helped. So how much might help people with arthritis?
Well, one study of 90 people noticed that 300 mg of Neptune Krill oil reduced CRP levels by over 19% after 30 days of use, compared to placebo.
This was paralleled by significant reductions in rheumatoid arthritis pain and stiffness also.
Conversely, in the study of healthy people mentioned previously, Krill oil did not reduce CRP levels. Both of these studies used Neptune krill oil. Perhaps if krill oil really does lower CRP, it may work best in people whose CPR is “high.”
CPR is a marker used by some doctors as a measure of inflammation in the body. CPR is often elevated in sickness and in conditions like arthritis.
How much krill oil works?
It’s hard to say at the moment because there really aren’t a lot of big, well-done studies on krill oil (fish oil gets most of the attention). Based on what is currently known, to get the effects that studies have found, it looks like between 1-3 grams of krill oil per day might lower cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides and blood sugar levels.
Lower amounts – around 300 mg per day might lower CPR levels. Because of a lack of good research on this issue, check with your doctor to see how much might be right for you.
Tip. Don’t look at the total amount of krill oil a supplement has. Look instead at how much EPA and DHA it contains. DHA and EPA is likely the main active ingredients in krill oil.
Can Krill Oil Build Muscle?
Here's a quick video outlining the evidence for krill oil having an anabolic effect on muscles
Watch on my Youtube channel if you prefer.
Krill oil or fish oil?
Right now, fish oil has a tremendous amount of medical research supporting its effects. Much less evidence exists for krill oil however what is currently known hints that krill oil may be a viable option for some.
For more on Fish oil read my Fish Oil Facts review.
There are not many krill oil vs. fish oil studies so far, which makes comparing them to each other difficult.
Krill oil does contain EPA and DHA (fish oils) which is likely the main reason for most of its effects. That said, some suggest that the combining of EPA, DHA and phospholipids in krill oil may make this supplement better than fish oil at modifying disease risk factors. Bottom line. this question needs better research before anyone can say for sure if krill oil is better than fish oil.
Tip. Fish oil breath? Having a fishy smell to your breath may be a sign your fish oil supplement is spoiled. Putting your fish oil supplements in the refrigerator might solve this problem by keeping them fresher, for a longer time.
Which krill oil brand is best?
From what I can tell, of the few studies conducted so far, Neptune Krill Oil (also called NKO Krill Oil) has most of the evidence. That doesn't mean other brands won’t work just as well. They probably would if they are quality made.
There are many brands of krill oil. For example, another popular brand you may have seen on TV is Mega Red Krill Oil by Schiff. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for the most up-to-date research on which krill oil brands is best.
Krill oil side effects
In healthy people, I don’t think krill oil is dangerous for most people. Krill oil does have an anti-coagulant effect (because it has EPA and DHA). As such, people who take blood thinner medications need to speak to their doctor before using krill oil supplements. Those allergic to shellfish should also consult their doctor first also.
If your doctor says “take fish oil supplements”, I wouldn’t switch to krill oil before you speak to him /her. If you do decide to switch, the best way to know for sure if krill oil really is working is to get a blood test before starting krill oil supplements and repeat the test in a month or so to see if anything has changed.
What do you think?
Starting krill oil past week starting to itch around stomach area, does anyone have that problem?
Hi Glen, not that I’ve heard of. Did you try stopping Krill to see if the itch goes away?
Thanks for this site.
I’ve been supplementing with fish oil alongside my normal intake of wild sockeye salmon and wild caught sardines. Recently I came across some research that has me calling this regimen into question: brianpeskin.com/BP.com/publications/FNS_SELECT%20Trial%20Results%20Examined-%20Why%20Fish%20Oil%20DHA%20and%20Oily%20Fish%20Are%20Inflammatory.pdf
Check Peskin’s background and you may come away unpersuaded that he is a trustworthy source. His association with a manufacturer of supplements and some of the accusations thrown at him raise questions, and his arguments are heavy on association but light on causation, and heavy on rat studies but light on human studies. But to borrow an old expression, there’s enough smoke there that I’m thinking of steering clear of any fires.
I’d be interested to hear your take on it.
Hi Prazak, honestly I’ve never heard of him (that doesn’t mean much since I live under a big rock :)) I glanced at his site and while I also like human rials more than animal studies, for all I know he may be everything his site says and more, I just dont know. I did find this review on him at QuackWatch http://www.quackwatch.com/11Ind/Peskin/peskin.html take it for what its worth. As a rule, I tend to think the simple answer is the correct answer when it comes to health and wellness.
I keep seeing that weight loss is a benefit to krill oil, but unable to find any testimony that agrees with this. Is this a fact or a myth?
Pete, I’m not aware of any evidence that krill oil helps people lose weight. I did a quick search of pubmed for “krill oil weight loss” and no studies showed up. There is some evidence that people who eat fish weigh less and some might attribute that to the EPA and DHA in fish. But, fish has more than just EPA and DHA so I think its more complicated than that.
Krill oil does have EPA and DHA, but if people say krill oil helps weight loss, I think its because of a misinterpretation of the research.
I hope that helps 🙂
If krill oil has blood thinning effect, people taking medication (aspirin or coumadin) or has low platelet count must avoid it. I read that it can cause depression, too. I think omega 3 “fish oil” (not even omega 3-6-9) is the better choice but always consult with your physician.
Angela, I would agree with that advice also. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Nancy J says
I just started taking krill oil about 10 days ago and now I feel awful. Really tired and blah. Think I might go back to just plain fish oil and skip the krill. Anyone else have the same experience?
Nancy, if you feel bad after taking Krill, stop taking it. hopefully that helps you feel better. if not, go to the doctor.