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Consumer Reports Asks: Fish Oil or Krill Oil?

Tim Boyer's picture

In comparing krill oil supplements to fish oil supplements, researchers at Consumer Reports state in the March 2012 issue of their magazine that both fish oil and krill oil supplements provide the same healthful omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA we need to maintain good health. However, there are some differences between the two supplement types.

One of the differences is the source of their omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil pills get their omega-3 fatty acids from…well, fish naturally - in particular, cold-water oily fish such as sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel and anchovies.

Krill, on the other hand are not fish, but food for fish and many other species such as seals and whales. Krill are tiny shrimp-like marine crustaceans that are typically described as the multicellular organisms that are the closest to the bottom of the food chain. Their food chain designation is based on the fact that they feed on the smallest single-celled life forms of ocean algae such as many species of phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Because omega-3 fatty acids are labeled as “essential fatty acids” (meaning that we cannot synthesize them ourselves and thereby require them in our food) researchers have investigated whether there are any significant health benefits between sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

For the Heart

The potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were first proposed when researchers studying Inuit tribes from Greenland found that the local natives had virtually no signs of cardiovascular disease. The natives’ diet consisted primarily of large amounts of fat from fish that has been found to have a profound effect on reducing heart rate, blood pressure, triglyceride levels and hardening of the arteries.

Consumer Reports mentions one 2011 study published in the journal Lipids where researchers from Norway and Sweden analyzed data from study participants who got their omega-3 supplements from either fish oil or krill oil. What they found was that both sources of omega-3 fatty acids increased blood levels of DHA and EPA in comparison to a control group, which suggests that krill oil derived omega-3 fatty acids are released into the body just as well as fish oil sources are.

For the Joints

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In another study analyzing krill oil on human health, Consumer Reports tells us that krill oil is believed to help reduce pain, stiffness, loss of function and inflammation associated with arthritis. Arthritis marked by chronic inflammation is measurable by levels of a serum C-reactive protein called CRP in the blood.

In a 2007 study, krill oil was found to reduce arthritic pain much more than a placebo and that CRP levels were 31 percent lower in participants taking a krill oil supplement in comparison to placebo control participants whose rose CRP levels rose 25 percent.

For Premenstrual Syndrome

Consumer Reports found one 2003 study that compared fish oil to krill oil with women experiencing PMS. The study found that krill oil supplements were superior to fish oil supplements in managing self-reported emotional symptoms, breast tenderness and joint pain related to PMS. However, Consumer Reports also notes that the researchers of the study also worked for the krill oil supplement industry.

Krill Oil Conclusion and Warning

Consumer Reports concluded that additional medical research is needed to derive a conclusive finding in comparing fish oil and krill oil supplements and points out that most individuals can get enough DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids just by eating cold water fish like sardines at least twice a week.

However, many people do not like the fishy after-taste of sardines and fish oil pills, which at this time appears to be one of the marketing points of krill oil supplements—no fishy after-taste. But if you do take a supplement, either fish oil or frill oil, Consumer Reports advises that you let your doctor know because fish oil and krill oil may adversely interact with some medications such as blood thinners.

Follow this link to a recent article about a Consumer Reports brand comparison of fish oil supplements that were found to be over-priced.

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: Consumer Reports on Health, March 2012



Or you can eat an apple a day.
Please note that there is NO CONTRAINDICATON with fish oil for folks taking anti-coagulant (Plavix) or anti-thrombotic (Coumadin) medication . This mythology occurred as a result of the high amounts of Vitamin E, a known anticoagulant, and/or the release of alcohol from fish oil in ethyl ester form. Purified Fish oils in the re-esterified triglyceride form have no impact on clotting. Am J Cardiol 2007;99[suppl]:44C–46C
I appreciate that on a personal level. My mom's doctor tried to take her off fish oil for poorly understood reasons during her chemotherapy. I had to fight to get her back on them by asking the pharmacist to intervene and tell her physician there was no contraindication for her.