Krill are crustaceans that rank at the bottom of the food chain. Krill is actually the Norwegian word for "whale food", but they are also consumed by seals, penguins, squid and other fish. These creatures are similar to shrimp and measure from 1 to 6 centimeters long. Krill Oil is extracted from the euphasia superba species of Krill, also known as "Antarctic krill". It was recently discovered that krill oil is rich in three components believed to improve health. They are omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids and astaxanthin. These are the reason behing the health benefits of krill oil and why krill oil supplements are becoming increasingly popular.
Until recently, Krill was harvested as aquarium food or fishing bait. Some cultures eat them as food. The most common fishing regions for krill are the Southern Ocean and the Northern Pacific. Scientists consider krill the largest biomass in the world, supporting the entire oceanic ecosystem. For that reason, there are strict regulations on harvesting krill to sustain the supply. Since krill is at the bottom of the food chain, it contains little or no toxins, such as mercury and PCBs. These are often a concern in higher level predatory fish. In addition, since krill reside at such significant depths, this improves the purity of the oil extract. Like other herbal supplements, krill is cold pressed to extract the oil. In this method, no chemicals are used and the krill are not exposed to high temperatures.
Like fish oil, krill oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. However, krill oil also contains phospholipids and astaxanthin which are not found in fish oil. A portion of the omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are bound to the phospholipids, which are better absorbed throughout the body. That means that the effective dose of krill oil is just 1/3 third that of fish oil.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential for good health because of their ability to stabilize free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are usually byproducts of some other biological reaction. They can be imagined as super balls bouncing all over, damaging cells as they make contact with them. Free radicals are known to contribute to poor health and premature aging. Antioxidants, such as the astaxanthin found in krill oils, bind to and neutralize these reactive molecules. A copious dose of antioxidants is crucial to every diet.
Astaxanthin is really beneficial because it is able to cross the blood brain barrier and exercise its influence there. The blood brain barrier is a dense network of vessels and is designed to protect the brain from toxic invaders. It is extremely selective as to what type of compounds can cross it. Having an antioxidant that can reach this region could improve eye, brain and central nervous system function. Krill oil is believed to improve other conditions as well.
Studies have shown that, compared to placebo, krill oil reduced LDL cholesterol by 34% and increased the desirable HDL cholesterol by 43.5%. The study suggests that krill oil lowered triglycerides levels as well. Other studies suggest that a higher dose is required to see this decrease in triglyceride levels.
Krill oil is thought to greatly reduce the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome like bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, irritability and weight gain. One study out of the University of Montreal concluded that krill oil reduces dysmenorrheal. This condition is the root cause of painful and emotional menstrual periods.
The anti-inflammatory ability of the omega-3 fatty acids are thought to reduce the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
Like fish oil, the omega-3 fatty acids found in krill oil reduce the stickiness of platelets in the blood. This could contribute to a reduction in blood clots and better circulatory health.
Manufacturers and promoters of krill oil also claim that krill oil is beneficial for other conditions, such as:
Little research has been conducted on the side effects of krill oil, however, certain assumptions can be made based on what is known about omega-3 fatty acids. Primary concerns surround any medications that thin the blood. Taking omega-3 fatty acids with these medications could be detrimental. Also due to increased chance of bleeding, krill oil should be avoided before surgery.
It is best to check with your doctor before taking krill oil or any supplement. Individuals that have any seafood allergies should be cautious when taking krill oil. Some other unpleasant side effects may ensue such as nausea, heartburn, loose stools, halitosis, and fishy taste.
The dose will depend upon the desired effect of the supplement. The best practice is to follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label.
There are other supplements that provide omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil and flaxseed. Several comparisons between fish oil and krill oil supplements show that krill oil provides the same benefit as fish oil but krill oil offers more with the antioxidant properties and enhanced absorption due to the phospholipids. Astaxanthin, the antioxidant found in krill oil can also be purchased as a separate supplement. It can also be found in certain seafood such as salmon, shrimp and crawfish.
Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, claims about health benefits of krill oil and health benefits of other supplements are sometimes exaggerated or just unfounded. However, in the case of krill oil, there is substantial support for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants. Whether or not it will prevent cancer or cure migraines is really unknown, but it will likely improve general health.
What suppliment has the same powerful effects as krill oil for those of us who do not/ can not eat shellfish, pork, etc. for various reasons? What's our alternative that is more powerful than regular fish oil?
If you are or were using fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil or coconut oil please share your experiences with us and write a testimonial on the results and effects of particular oil on your health.
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