Krill oil is a triglyceride anti-oxidant mix derived from krill; cute little shrimp like crustaceans that whales and other marine mammals and fish just love to gobble up. This oil has also become a minor disruptive force in causing mass confusion in the omega 3 world and for no good reason. It has all the benefits of fish oil (which are many), but has one glaring flaw. Here’s my story.

At least a couple of times a week customers ask me if we carry krill oil. Despite having krill oil manufacturers within arms reach just itching to find a place on our shelves, we’ve deliberately chosen to not carry krill oil on the basis discussed below, or until new and convincing evidence changes our minds. When the first person several months ago asked for krill oil I thought to myself “Hmm…nobody has asked me for that in over 5 years and even then it was unpopular.” When I get asked for it for the 12th time, I start to wonder what marketing machine is now at work, and it usually always starts with health celebrities (I dare not mention names)

Why do I use terms like “marketing machine”? Well, much like vitamin D, omega 3 fats are immensely popular and here to stay, and the market is saturated with suppliers producing boring old “fish oil”. Krill provides those exact same oils to you in new and exciting ways (rarely ever true) that advertisers and celebrities can’t stop talking about……………..at approximately 1/10th the concentration, or nearly 10x the price depending on how you like to do your math. You either pay 10 times as much or take 10 times as many capsules and both of those options are less than ideal. Some common health conditions require upwards of nearly 30 krill oil capsules, imagine taking 3 fish oil capsules instead – sound nice?

Krill oil manufacturers often claim that their products have higher bioavailability (absorb better), are less toxic, and less likely to go rancid.  The research that supports these claims are incredibly niche and have yet to get mainstream acceptance amongst scientists and health professionals.  Given the disadvantages in potency and cost with krill oil, such claims have to be well-substantiated.  Furthermore, several studies that I've seen tend to stack the methodology in favour of krill oil which indicates a clear level of bias.  Other times when krill does demonstrate an advantage over fish oil, the reasons aren't clear and desperately need to be addressed. 

Let’s start with the first concern – absorption. Studies that have compared fish oils to krill oils show that differences are subtle, and in most cases statistically non-significant. For krill oil to have the upper hand here it would need to be absorbed over 10x better; which is unimaginable based on current reports.

Second; toxicity. While krill oil are likely to be less toxic based solely on their place in the food chain, both fish oil and krill oil supplements are required to adhere to strict standards of purity during manufacture in Canada and both krill and fish supplements contain levels of PCB, mercury, dioxins and other contaminants FAR below those of consuming the food itself and are nearly undetectable.

Thrid; product stability. Perhaps krill’s only real strength is that is contains a naturally occurring anti-oxidant called astaxanthin. Due to the presence of this anti-oxidant, krill oil has a naturally longer shelf life free of peroxides. Of course, fish oil manufacturers could just add a fat soluble anti-oxidant like vitamin E or ascorbyl palmitate to the oil to prevent rancidity and give fish oil a long shelf life…..which they already do. While astaxanthin itself is an impressive anti-oxidant it’s certainly an expensive one. Despite comparisons marketed by krill oil manufacturers that have astaxanthin trouncing other anti-oxidants, it’s important to remember that these comparisons are based on a gram for gram equal playing field. Example 500mg of vitamin C is about twenty cents compared to 500mg of astaxanthin from krill oil which costs over $600. See the problem here, as great as astaxanthin is, the pracital realities of cost means that you can get a plethora of anti-oxidants that are arguably more powerful at a tiny fraction of the cost.

With good reason, fish oil has been investigated in over 10,000 published academic articles (compared to less than 30 for krill) brimming with positive research about the health advantages of omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in particular. Depending on your unique health condition(s), there are certain concentrations and even certain ratios that have been identified for their positive effects on the management of disease. By default, krill oil is certainly no worse that fish oil in this regard; it has EPA and DHA omega 3 fats just like fish oil, it’s a clean omega 3 source just like fish oil (after filtration), and it contains a naturally occurring anti-oxidant which is quite nice. But at nearly 1/10th the value, money would have to be “no-object” to warrant a purchase, and in good conscience we feel it necessary to make the public aware of these issues.

To help you digest some of these numbers, allow me to leave you with this simple chart below, comparing one of our basic professional high-quality brand of fish oil to one of the most inexpensive online sources of NKO (Neptune Krill Oil) I could find, both standardized to 60 capsule containers:

            Vitazan Wild Omega 3 Fish Oil 60 caps                     NOW Krill Oil 60 caps

EPA                         660mg                                                                    75mg

DHA                         330mg                                                                    45mg

Cost             $26.00 ($0.44 per 1000mg)                                    $39.99 ($5.55 per 1000mg)