The health benefits of healthful omega-3 fatty acids are extensive. In the media, both fish oil and krill oil are often considered to be a superfood, for a good reason. For many years, fish oil has been promoted as the best oil for getting the right amount of healthy omega-3 acids; however, in recent years, krill oil has become more well-known, and now there is an ongoing debate on whether krill oil vs. fish oil is best.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential and need to be a part of your diet. Benefits include lowered cholesterol, heart and brain health, and decreased inflammation. Our bodies are not capable of making omega-3’s on their own, which makes it even more vital to include them in our diets. But which is better, fish oil vs krill oil? Here’s a look at fish oil, krill oil, EPA, DHA, and which source of fatty acids are better.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil comes from fatty and oily fish. While some people get their fish oil from pills, other people prefer to eat fatty fish one or two times a week. One concern that some people have is that fatty fish can have high levels of mercury, PCB’s, or other contaminants.
Fatty fish with the lowest mercury levels include salmon, canned light tuna, sardines, catfish, and pollack. Fish that are known for having high levels of mercury include shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel. Fish oil supplements do not have mercury in them.
There are a few common side effects of fish oil to know. Those side effects include upset stomach, belching, diarrhea, and heartburn. While sometimes uncomfortable, those side effects are considered typical and are not caused by mercury or any other additives.
Fish oil has the two types of omega-3’s that are necessary for your health: DHA and EPA. Because fish oil has been a mainstream supplement for decades, it is well-studied, more than krill oil, making the debate between krill oil vs fish oil confusing for some.
What is Krill Oil?
While fish oil has been known and used a lot longer, krill oil is taking the health world by storm, making a name for itself because of its benefits. Krill are tiny crustaceans that look like shrimp and live in cold-water. Krill oil comes from krill only and is not made up of any other types of crustaceans or fish. Because they are on the lower end of the food chain, they don’t live long enough to accrue contaminants or high levels of mercury.
Krill oil has a lower concentration of DHA and EPA compared to fish oil; however, research shows the DHA and EPA that comes from krill has more antioxidants and is also able to be absorbed by the human body better than fish oil.
Taking krill oil as a supplement can cause some gastrointestinal upset but does not cause belching.
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What are EPA and DHA?
EPA and DHA are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is often described as the more crucial fatty acid, but the truth is that both types serve different roles and are essential.
EPA is the most critical type of omega-3 fatty acid for reducing cellular inflammation. The more EPA in your diet, the less inflammation your body can create. For many years, EPA was thought to be less prevalent in the brain, and not necessary for neurological function; however, it is actually vital for reducing inflammation in the brain. It was mistaken as not being present because once it enters the brain, it is oxidized rapidly, unlike DHA. What that means is that high levels of EPA are essential to help control cell inflammation in the brain, which helps people with ADHD, depression, brain traumas, and more.
While EPA is necessary for reducing inflammation, especially in the brain, DHA is also noteworthy for many reasons. DHA is vital for your nervous system, and also for its anti-inflammatory benefits. More than that, proper amounts of DHA are associated with insulin sensitivity, improved moods, better sleep, and muscle growth. Through all stages of life, DHA works to make sure that the cells in the eyes, heart, brain, and whole nervous system develop and function correctly. Also, your body is able to turn EPA into DHA, making both types of fatty acid important.
Understanding the differences between fish and krill oil, and also the importance of EPA and DHA leads to determining which is better: krill oil or fish oil.
Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: Which is Better?
Determining the better choice of krill oil vs fish oil is complicated. Because fish oil has been around a lot longer, it has been studied longer and more thoroughly. Krill oil is sometimes dismissed because it has not been around long enough for studies as extensive as fish oil. However, there are considerations in the great oil debate.
While research shows that fish oil provides more EPA and DHA content to your body, research also shows that krill oil is better absorbed. Therefore, a smaller amount of krill is needed to achieve a healthy amount of omega-3’s in your blood.
The naturally occurring phospholipid that the krill oil fat comes in acts as a natural delivery system to the phospholipids occurring in your body, which means krill oil is quickly absorbed and quickly released into your tissue. For people with digestion issues or who experience adverse side effects from fish oil, krill oil is a better choice.
Another significant benefit of krill oil vs fish oil is that krill oil contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid antioxidant, and fish oil does not. Astaxanthin is highly protective of your mitochondria, and also has extensive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. More specifically, astaxanthin preserves health. Some of its protective qualities include:
- Protection from UV rays, including sunburn prevention and UV protection for your eyes
- Protecting the heart and cardiovascular system
- Helping with liver detoxification and general function
- Boosting the immune system
- Protecting against neurodegenerative diseases
- Protection from cancer
While the benefits of krill oil are impressive, fish oil benefits are also significant, and many people are more comfortable with fish oil because of the longevity of results that have remained consistent over time.
Like most supplements, the answer to the question of fish oil vs krill oil is that it depends on the person and their health needs.
For someone who has poor nutrition or a significant omega-3 deficiency, like dry hair and skin, emotional and mental suffering, or leaky gut symptoms, fish oil can be a better choice. Fish oil would put more EPA and DHA in their system.
For people who have issues with absorption of supplements, have digestive side effects from fish oil, or have problems with their nervous system, krill oil may be better. If cholesterol is an issue, this 12-week study of krill oil vs fish oil for cholesterol health showed that krill oil outperformed fish for being able to reduce total cholesterol numbers.
Ultimately, it comes down to individual needs and preferences.
How to Take Fish Oil
After understanding how vital omega-3 fatty acids are for your diet, you may feel the urge to put as much fish or krill oil in your diet as possible; however, it is not advisable to overdo it. Fish oil and krill oil are both available as capsules, liquid, or chewable forms. The recommended dose is 1 to 3 grams per day. Talking to your doctor is a good idea because they may recommend more or less, depending on your health needs.
Eating or ingesting too much fish or krill does not provide faster results, or give any extra health benefits and actually, taking too much can increase the risk of side effects, some being serious.
Final Thoughts on the Krill Oil vs Fish Oil Debate
The importance of omega-3 fatty acids is evident in all research. Our bodies need omega-3’s for many reasons, including heart and brain health, joint function, emotional and mental health, liver function, optimal nervous system health, and more.
The two most essential fatty acids for our bodies are DHA and EPA. Both fish oil and krill oil are capable of providing the right amounts of DHA and EPA our bodies need. Fish oil has been around for decades, is reliable, has had extensive research, and is sought out for people who need more significant amounts of DHA and EPA in their bodies.
Krill oil is a newer option for getting enough DHA and EPA. While it has less DHA and EPA than fish oil, it is more easily absorbed in our human bodies, making it an excellent choice for people who have adverse side effects from fish oil. As krill oil becomes more accepted in the medical community, the cost will decrease, and its prevalence will increase.
Over time, research will lend more answers to the debate between fish oil and krill oil. For now, talking to your healthcare provider is a great way to determine which type of oil is best for you.