Is Krill Oil better than Fish Oil?

Posted by Sebastien Vanderlinden on

Krill Oil and Fish Oil: Which Omega-3 Supplement Should You Choose?

Fish has long been considered one of the healthiest foods, rich in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, and high in nutrition – but with the continued pollution of our water systems, some fish are now considered among the most polluted foods we eat.

For example, small fish consume plants that have small amounts of mercury in them. Medium-sized fish eat a lot of those smaller ones, and then even larger ones eat a lot of those medium-sized ones – and so on. Mercury doesn’t dissolve; it builds up in whatever eat it. As this continues on up to the most popular fish for human consumption, the concentration of mercury in each fish increases to dangerous levels. Large tuna, mackerel, shark, and swordfish can have levels of mercury in their bodies that are 10,000 times higher than their surrounding environment.

In order to stay safe from the harmful effects of mercury, many people recommend avoiding regular fish consumption. How then do we get our needed omega-3s?

One option is fish oil. It is extracted from oily, deep-ocean fish. But since it still comes from fish, is it the safest option out there?

How do you determine the quality of fish oil supplements?

Since fish oil lacks antioxidants, it is highly perishable. Once inside your body, it can degenerate before the full benefit are absorbed, and can lead to free radical formation. The net result is that, while you may be getting your omega-3s, you are also further increasing your need for antioxidants.

Since the fish from which the oil is extracted are large, predatory fish, they might also have mercury contamination in them, which might be present in the oil harvested from their bodies.

Environmental Impact of Over-Fishing

There is another negative of using fish oil – a long-term environmental one.

Top-predator fish – like the ones used to harvest fish oil – are disappearing at an environmentally significant rate. Some populations have collapsed, and some are on the verge of collapse. As these big feeders move toward extinction, the effects ripple down and outward through the food web, having unexpected – and often negative – repercussions.

Fish farming is not a solution either. Though it has the ability to increase the population numbers of certain fish, the practice causes a great deal of pollution in the ocean due to unnatural food overflow and waste. The effort to save one species in this way, might harm or even decimate others.

How Krill Oil beats Fish Oil Every Time

Krill are tiny creatures, much like shrimp, that live in a wide-ranging ocean habitat, often in cleaner, more remote waters such as the Antarctic regions. They feed on plankton, and so are only one degree above the level of plants in the food chain. Though small, they are numerous, and each of them contains a tiny amount of oil that can be harvested.

Krill oil, like fish oil from predator fish, has high omega-3 content. What is different though, is that the krill oil can be more easily absorbed than other fish oil – it’s also rich in antioxidants, including astaxanthin, the flavonoid that helps make the oil more easily absorbed by humans.

Because krill is near the bottom of the food chain, just above the producers, it contains lower amounts of mercury. Unlike larger fish that build up mercury levels over many years – and then we concentrate it even further over years of eating big fish – krill have short life spans and are the first level of consumption. That results in an overall decrease in the net amount of mercury we are potentially consuming.

NO Danger of Over-harvesting Krill

Isn’t this just another species we could over-harvest? It’s a necessary question, but lucky for us, the answer is no. Even though krill make up a significant part of the diet of many sea creatures, like whales and seals, the vast majority of krill are never consumed. They live out their whole lifespan and continue to multiply.

In fact, krill is thought to make up the largest biomass on Earth. It is large enough to harvest significant amounts without endangering the population as whole, or those creatures that depend on it. The krill-harvesting industry is also one of the most carefully regulated, and there is even a catch limit placed upon the species, even though it is not in danger of extinction.

This shows wisdom, foresight, and reflects that we can learn from the hard lessons of the past.


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