Almost any health expert will agree without any dispute that Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for maintaining a healthy body.
With all the various sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, the question that often comes to our minds is: Are all sources of Omega-3 fatty acids the same and if not, which is the best source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids?
Let's examine the different sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
Plant based sources
Plant based foods rich in Omega-3 are usually rich in Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA). However, these sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are not the best source of getting the all essential Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) into our body.
We need to look further into animal based food sources for that. Our best options here are eating fatty fish that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
To know more about Omega-3 types, read: Omega-3 vs Omega-6 - Knowing how to balance them is important
Fresh Sea foods
A diet rich in fish products has many health benefits and is an important component of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered as one of the healthiest diet in the world.
Unfortunately, most people will find it difficult to carefully formulate a diet based on sea foods that has all the desired quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and consume it on a regular basis.
Another important factor to take into consideration is that most popular fish items that have the desired levels of omega-3 fatty acids may also be contaminated with high levels of mercury, which is very toxic for human beings.
These fishes may also be contaminated with other industrial pollutants like PCBs, heavy metals and other dangerous toxins. Therefore, we have to carefully select the type of fishes we include in our daily diet in order to get Omega-3 fatty acids into our diets.
We can also supplementing our diets with the help of fish oil, cod liver oil or krill oil.
Fish oil or Cod liver oil supplements
Using commercially prepared fish oil or cod liver oil supplements may seem like a better option at this point, but here again we have exercise caution. Consumers have to make sure that the manufactures have very high quality control mechanisms in place that can detect and purify fish oil that may have mercury, PCBs or heavy metal contamination.
Manufactures have to be very carefully with the manufacturing process in order to preserve the Omega-3 fatty acids that they extract from the fish oil.
Some recent study conducted after testing commercially available fish oil and cod liver oil supplements have concluded that many manufactures fail to completely eliminate these dangerous toxins from their products irrespective what the packing label claims.
Similar studies have also found that many of the fish oil or cod live oil supplements available commercially may not be very effective because the omega-3 fatty acids may have been damaged during extraction, processing, packing and storage.
This leaves us with the last best option, that is Krill oil which is considered as a fairly new omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
What is Krill oil?
Krill is a tiny (1cm – 6cm) shrimp like creature that lives in oceans in large schools and is an important diet of whales, sharks, sea birds and other small fishes.
Harvesting Krill for its oil requires specialized harvesting and processing techniques because traditional fish trolling is not suitable for this purpose.
The processing techniques used for extracting and packing krill oil is very complicated and expensive. Therefore, Krill oil is much more expensive than fish oil.
Why is Krill oil red in color?
Krill oil is bright red in color because of the antioxidants Astaxanthin. This is the same pigment that gives the red or orange shades to other popular sea foods like shrimp, crab, lobsters and salmons. It is important to note that the deeper the color in these food items, the higher the concentration of antioxidant Astaxanthin in them.
Antioxidant astaxanthin makes Krill oil very stable when compared to fish oil and this prevents Krill oil from oxidization damage.
What is Antarctic Krill Oil?
One species of krill know as Antarctic Krill (Euphausia superba) found in the pristine waters around Antarctic ocean is considered as one of the cleanest source of pure, toxin free krill oil.
Krill is very low in the food chain and have a relatively shorter life span, this gives the added advantage of Krill oil being less contaminated with toxins like mercury, PCBs, heavy metals and other industrial toxins.
Why is Krill oil better than fish oil or cod live oil?
The following properties make Krill oil a superior source of Omeag-3 fatty acids:
Absorption: It is easy for the body to absorb the Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) from Krill oil. EPA and DHA from Krill oil is more bio-effective in the cells when compared to EPA and DHA from fish oil, therefore you just need a much smaller dose of Krill oil for the same effect.
Size: With a smaller dosage comes a smaller capsule size. Krill oil is easy to consume when compared to fish oil due to their more compact capsule size.
Manufacturing technique: Fish oil is usually manufactured by a process called molecular distillation, which helps in the purification of fish oil from toxins. Unfortunately, this process also changes the basic molecular composition of the Omega-3 fatty acids, thereby making it less readily available for the cells to use. Krill oil is not altered in this manner.
Bioavailability: Krill oil is available in its phospholipid form while fish oil is usually available in ethyl ester form or triglyceride form in some very high quality fish oils. Unfortunately, fish oil in both these forms are less readily available for cell use inside the body when compared to Krill oil.
Better quality: DHA found in krill oil is more readily utilized by the brain when compared to DHA available in fish oil. DHA is an important nutrient for brain development and function. Red blood cells also prefer DHA from krill oil over fish oil DHA.
Antioxidants Astaxanthin: Is one of the most potent antioxidants and is available only in Krill oil and not in fish oil. Astaxanthin helps protect cell DNA from getting damaged by harmful radiation (like sunlight UVB).
It also helps prevent cell damage cause by free radicals, improves immune function, increase HDL (good) cholesterol while reducing negative effects of bad cholesterol (LDL) by protecting against LDL oxidation.
Astaxanthin can also ease signs of ageing, ease symptoms of certain neurodegenerative diseases. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce risk of developing certain cancers and helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Taste: It does not create a fishy odor in mouth or breath. It is also well tolerated by your stomach and is reflex free.
Side effects of Krill oil
- If you allergic to sea food or had side effects with fish oil, most probably you will experience the same type of side effects with krill oil.
- Krill oil is relatively a new product in the market and there are not many large scale scientific studies examining the health benefits of Krill oil unlike fish oil. In order to confirm any of its claimed health benefits, larger and more detailed studies would be required. Same goes for future possibility of discovering any side effects with krill oil.
Finally, if you look into sustainability issues Krill oil may be a superior choice over other animal based omega-3 sources.
With the current day scenarios of overfishing and increasing consumer demand, it will be difficult to sustain the growing demand in the long run. Krill on the other hand is abundant in the oceans and is in fact the single largest biomass available in the oceans today.
While shopping for Krill oil, look out for a natural product, that is made 100% from Krill and carries the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal which assures that the Krill was harvested from sustainable sources.