Musings on Fish Oil and Krill Oil – aka Should You Jump Up and Down for Krill?
Musings on Fish Oil and Krill Oil – aka Should You Jump Up and Down for Krill?

Hey mate,

 

I hope this finds you better than ever.

 

Recently we have had a few questions about Krill Oil vs Fish Oil here on the blog.

 

A few months ago I had the following question on the Athletic Greens Facebook wall, and since it has come up again few times, I thought I would share my thinking on Fish Oil vs Krill Oil.

 

The question from Jay:

 

Do you guys have an opinion on krill oil? Recently started taking it because its omega 3’s are phospholipid-based (unlike fish oil) which, supposedly, allows it to get into the bloodstream more easily. 

 

Love the product, btw! It’s officially part of my morning routine and I’m feeling great.

 

 

Hey Jay. Thanks mate! Wooohoooo!!

 

Appreciate the feedback and hope you keep at it. As it happens I DO have an opinion on krill oil.

 

My take is that I LIKE krill oil, I am actually reasonably pro it as a supplement.

 

It has some interesting anti-oxidants in there, the EPA and DHA seems to react very well in the body, however I am not in the jump up and down krill oil is automatically better than fish oil camp.

 

 

It all comes down to WHY you take Krill Oil or Fish Oil, and then what is in the research. 

 

 

I take fish oil for the DHA and EPA content, I like it for my brain, and for the anti inflammatory properties these Omega 3s provide.

 

Ignoring a higher dose intervention protocol (where we would be looking for higher dosing for a period), lets just look at daily ongoing doses. I chase anywhere from between 2 to 4 grams of combined DHA and EPA on a daily basis.

 

Lets look at the jump up and down for Krill Oil crowd and their regular arguments, and I will give you my thoughts on each one.

 

 

1. “Krill Oil is 47 Times More Potent Than Fish Oil” – which the FTC forced a few companies to change to “Krill Oil has 47x more anti-oxidants than fish oil”

 

That’s great, except I don’t take fish oil for the anti-oxidant properties, I take it for the Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.

 

Looking at what they are actually referring too, the Jump Up and Down for Krill Crowd are trying to get you excited because a comparison of the ORAC score (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of Krill Oil showed that Krill Oil had a score of near 300 while fish oil had an ORAC of only about 7.

 

Short version, fish oil does not have much in the way of anti-oxidants. It does however, have a bucket-load of DHA and EPA, which is why we are taking it in the first place. 

 

So for the record, IF Krill Oil is 47 x better than fish oil because it has an ORAC of 300… then

 

Athletic Greens is 16.6 x better than Krill Oil and 714 TIMES better than Fish Oil because it has an ORAC of 5000 (per serve or 41600 per 100g, which is how these things are usually measured). That would mean you could have 1/10 of one serve of Athletic Greens a day, and smoke the Krill Oil. Let’s not count the other cool things about Athletic Greens, that would be silly.

 

But wait, there is more! Wild BLUEBERRIES would be 32 X better than Krill Oil (ORAC 9600) and humble little Oregano would be a whopping 583 TIMES “better” than Krill Oil (ORAC 175,000 per 100g).

 

OUCH for the marketing hot shots who want you to think this is the be all and end all.

 

ORAC is a POOR indicator of herbal potency for your health, do not base your decision to buy or take supplements purely on ORAC value. We have a rocking ORAC value in Athletic Greens, but we don’t make a deal out of it that often. There are many other factors to consider regarding the benefits or side effects of the various compounds within herbs.

 

And on the wonderful Omega 3’s….  let’s get this right out in the open: if you only eat “clean” protein sources such as wild caught fish such as salmon, clean meat such as grass-fed steak, game meats, and pasture raised animals, it is very likely you don’t need ANY omega 3 supplementation whatsoever.

 

 

2. “Fish Oil has no Astaxanthin”

 

This is the specific anti-oxidant they are referring to generally, is an interesting anti-oxidant, and doesn’t occur in fish oil supplements.

 

BUT I am not taking the fish oil for anti-oxidants, like at all. I don’t eat wild caught salmon or grass-fed steak specifically for their anti-oxidant properties either (although they are definitely in there and in far greater quantities than commercially farmed animals).

 

I get a TON of anti-oxidants from the regular vegetables and fruits in my diet, which is topped up by my smart meat/protein selection and choices, and to cover my bases I supplement that with Athletic Greens which has a pretty broad base of solid whole food sourced anti-oxidants. That is all I am taking with regards to anti-oxidants.

 

I highly recommend you go for variety of foods for your anti-oxidant intake. The way nature intended. Nature LOVES Variety.

 

If you want to take Krill Oil for the astaxanthin, and you have the budget, go for it, it seems to be useful stuff, though I do NOT believe it is the be all and end all that people selling krill oil would want you to believe, nor do you get much per serve. See number 1 above if you want to go ranking life based on ORAC value.

 

I take Fish Oil for the EPA/DHA (again, sorry), and it is the EPA and DHA from FISH OIL that has almost ALL the science… so moving right along.

 

 

3. “Absorption of DHA/EPA in Krill Oil vs Fish Oil”:

 

Woohoooo! Now we are trying to compare apples with apples, which officially means we are out of the slant of people trying to sell us something, and “playing with the big kids.”

 

This is the only real point that really has any bearing to me, since this is WHY I am taking fish oil in the first place. The problem is, like most people selling anything, people selling krill oil will cherry pick studies and then categorically state something as a matter of FACT like…

 

FACT: “krill oil has 500% better absorption of Omega 3s than regular fish oil”.

 

 

Ahhh, cherry picking studies, here is the problem with that approach….. there are plenty of other studies that do not show anything anywhere near this.

 

 

Case in point – in November last year, a study by researchers at a university in Lillestrom, Norway recently took Krill Oil and Fish Oil head to head, in HUMANS, in a controlled randomized study measuring the absorption of EPA and DHA directly at the blood stream, and rather than just going with grams of fish oil vs grams of krill oil (which would be ignoring DHA and EPA concentrations) they measured for DHA and EPA going down the gullet as well for each form of oil and then measured blood lipid and oxidative measurements afterwards.

 

 

The results of this apples to apples study showed basically no difference in serum lipids or markers of oxidative stress and inflammation between the groups, however they noted that the DHA and EPA dose in the krill oil was 62.8% (or 3/5ths) of the EPA and DHA dosage in the fish oil.

 

 

What this means to you: yes, there would SEEM to be a greater absorption of the EPA and DHA in the krill than the fish oil, but that level would seem to be about 0.6:1.0. So on the basis of this study you only need 60% as much EPA and DHA from krill vs fish oil. Or you would need to take about 1.6 x the EPA and DHA to equal 1.0 of the same amount of Krill Oil.

 

Once that was said and done there were no differences noted INSIDE the body from the two different sources. 

 

There is no difference in how much Omega-3 is absorbed inside your body. EPA and DHA folks.

NO DIFFERENCE between krill oil and fish oil for blood lipids (triglcyerides and cholesterol etc.)
NO DIFFERENCE between krill oil and fish oil for oxidative stress
NO DIFFERENCE between krill oil and fish oil for inflammation

 

This is only one study I pulled up, and while it is head to head, one study is hardly perfect, but the point is 0.6:1.0 is a very LONG way from stating a FACT for a 500% difference. You can read the abstract below, and feel free to go on to pubmed and have a long look for yourself. (Please note, the majority of the pro Krill Oil studies have in fact been paid for by Neptune Krill Oil, the world’s largest Krill Oil producer, which is like asking a landscaper if you need your bushes trimmed).

 

 

Assuming you are taking the krill oil or fish oil for the EPA and DHA content (which is what I am doing) then just a quick look at the back of the container plus a hand calculator will tell you, on a $ per gram of EPA and DHA per serve, where you are better placed to put your dollars.

 

The answer, every time I have researched and priced it out, is always fish oil. It is a far cheaper source of readily available DHA and EPA, and considering that they both get absorbed, once that happens there is plenty of science to back those two amazing ingredients. 

 

Let me re-phrase that, there is plenty of science on DHA and EPA from FISH OIL.

 

In the word’s of Todd Runestad, on his 10 Commandments, as stated in Functional Ingredients Magazine…

 

“Thou shalt not piggyback flax on omega-3 DHA and EPA fish oil science. Same to you, krill.”

 

 

4. “Contaminants”: Another favorite of the jump up and down crowd….

 

ANY decent company worth their sea salt will only be using wild caught fish, and ensuring it is third party tested for contaminants.

 

The caliber of people reading this newsletter I think are totally aware of this, and make it a buying priority.

 

If you weren’t up to now then you should too, which makes this a moot point – know and trust who you are buying from. This applies for fish oil, krill oil, your steak, and even Athletic Greens. 

 

We test every ingredient inbound and every batch outbound for contaminants, including metals, pesticides, and microbes. Two thumbs up everytime or it never leaves the warehouse.

 

So, don’t buy a fish oil product unless they are a quality company and confirm third party testing, at which point this issue becomes irrelevant.

 

I should also add that Krill Oil is at higher risk of going rancid than Fish Oil, so if you do buy Krill Oil, make sure they are getting it 3rd party tested.

 

 

5. “Fish burbs and getting a fishy after taste” – I don’t have this problem at all when I use a high spec fish oil. In terms of krill oil, and this is one of their larger arguments, I have never had this problem with krill oil either, so using the scientific approach of n=1 (sample size = 1), since I don’t get fish oil burps from either product, then surely they don’t exist? Sorry for the sarcasm, I digress.

 

I would be fascinated to find out what happens when people who do get some sort of fish oil regurg even from a very fresh high spec product start going apples to apples in terms of the amount DHA/EPA intake from their krill oil, if allowing for that 0.6:1.0 ratio, and adjusting to the much higher volume of krill oil one would have to take, and see if that made any difference. (ie 2 capsules vs 8 capsules, see below for more detail).

 

Generally for fish oil once again, I find with my clients and associates that the better quality brands (and specifically muchfresher product) taken mid meal do not tend to have this problem.

 

 

Jump Up and Down for Krill Oil Crowd?

 

Lets Go Apples to Apples for DHA and EPA!

 

 

Lets compare apples to apples at that 0.6 to 1.0 ratio for DHA/EPA and from there price out daily intake.

 

Do this, and the “I’m taking it for DHA and EPA” approach and my rationale should become clear.

 

 

Goal: 1 gram combined EPA/DHA per day

 

IMPORTANT – this would be the lowest dose, most of the good science on benefits from DHA and EPA intake starts around 1.6 grams combined per day, and goes UP. 

 

At our 0.6 : 1.0 ratio, that means 0.6 grams EPA/DHA from krill oil and 1.0 grams EPA/DHA from fish oil to give a 1.0 gram EPA/DHA from fish oil equivalent at the blood stream.

 

Product A – Krill Oil

Price: $44.95

60 capsules

EPA and DHA per capsule: 120mg

Number of capsules required to get to 1gram EPA/DHA = 8.3 (lets call it 8 for pricing)

Price per 1 gram EPA/DHA = $5.99 (lets call it $6.00)

 

But we can get away with 60% of the dose with our 0.6:1.0 ratio so…. It will be 60% of 8.3 which is 4.98 capsule (lets call it 5)

 

Summary:

5 capsules of this krill oil to get to 60% of the 1 gram EPA/DHA equivalent

Price per 0.6 gram EPA/DHA = $3.60  

 

 

Product B – Fish Oil  (the example used was Nordic Natural Ultimate Omega, a refined concentrated product, wild caught, and 3rd party tested for contaminants – available on amazon. See bottom of this post for more comments)

Price: $59.95

180 capsules

EPA/DHA per capsule: 550mg

Number of capsules required to get to 1gram EPA/DHA = 1.81 (lets call it 2)

Price per 1 gram EPA/DHA = $0.66

 

Summary:

2 Capsules of this Fish Oil

Price per 1 gram EPA/DHA = $0.66

 

That is for a daily dose of 1 gram EPA/DHA, look at the two summaries and make your decision. Most of the science on EPA/DHA starts at between 1.2-1.6 grams and goes UP, and I recommend most people consume between 2-4 grams of EPA/DHA per day so you would need to double these numbers. When it comes time for playing with a high dose intervention and you have to double them again…. forget about it.

 

Further studies are absolutely needed, but in light of the current research, and since I am taking the fish oil for the EPA/DHA, I hope that explains my thinking. 

 

My advice, based on goal (or why you would take it) and existing research:

 

Intervention: (the high dose protocol as mentioned in the Food for Fat Loss articles, which lasts generally for 4 to 6 weeks. Take FISH OIL

 

Daily EPA/DHA: focus on eating clean meats and protein sources, and supplement from 1 to 4 grams per day of combined EPA/DHA. I would chose FISH OIL

 

Wanting another source of anti-oxidants, budget not any issue, I would play with KRILL OIL as something to add to my anti-oxidant intake for variety. Nature LOVES variety. If only taking Krill Oil and no fish oil, make sure you LOAD UP and calculate it out to get your 2-4 grams of combined EPA/DHA per day. I hope you have a solid credit limit on your Visa, you may need it.

 

 

I am a New Zealander, and while I don’t live there anymore, NZ is right next to Antarctica, where almost all the yummy krill oil comes from. So, perhaps one day if the science backs it up we could even have a krill oil in our family brand of products…….

 

… BUT, since I am all about hacking away the unessential, and I absolutely rate Fish Oil miles ahead of Krill Oil on the pecking order, then you can see why I put my vote to the executive team at Athletic Greens that we should absolutely go Fish Oil ahead of Krill Oil.

 

I tried to write this in as un-biased format as I can. Nor did I call anyone “idiots” or “liars” or “marketing hogwash” more than once or twice in this post.

 

When I wrote the original version of this post as an email to our Newsletter list mid last year, we did not have a product to sell.

 

Now we do. Please be aware of that and adjust your thinking, as I am officially biased towards the company I work with.

 

Just like you, we had the choice. We could have gone either way. We still can, and we will, but only IF the science and value backs it up.

 

The science backs Fish Oil. The value backs Fish Oil.  We chose Fish Oil.

 

I recommend you do too. Leave the over priced marketing hype to the people selling Krill oil.

 

You can spend the extra $3.00 – $12.00 ($6 if chasing even 2 grams EPA/DHA, $12 a DAY if chasing 4 grams) a day you save on fresh vegetables and plenty of herb varieties… you know, FOOD. 

 

Go buy the vegetables, go invest in the blueberries, the thyme, the oregano, and go for variety in food, the way nature intended you to get your anti-oxidants.

 

If you would like to see how the fish oil product that we came up with compares to the best of the competition, check out this comparison chart here (click on the link below and scroll down) … we lined up the 6 top selling and top ranking fish oil products on Amazon to see how we stood up.

 

Specifically, we went out to beat the Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega product I mentioned earlier…. at a very different price.

 

Fish Oil Comparison Chart – YOU Be The Judge

 

We took the absolute best product on the market (which was the Fish Oil example I used in this post by the way) and went out to beat it.

 

Since ALL our products (including Athletic Greens) are delivered to you at direct from manufacturer pricing, our OMEGA 3 Fish Oil is no exception.

 

We offer an equivalent (I think better, but like I said I are biased) product to the one used in this post for up to 50% cheaper.

 

We believe we offer unbeatable quality and value, but I am biased, so YOU be the judge.

 

While you are there, try plugging the EPH/DHA numbers vs price of ANY krill oil on the market, and in light of this post, you will see in seconds why we voted for Fish Oil.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

It doesn’t have to be Fish Oil VERSUS Krill Oil. Nothing in the world stops anyone from taking both.

 

But in terms of supplement priorities, I would put Fish Oil well ahead of Krill Oil, as my focus with this supplement, is to get the DHA and EPA in.

 

Read the research, make your own conclusions, but most of all, remember, FOOD is First!

 

“100% Focus on Happiness” 

 

That is my mantra, and it starts with phenomenal health.

 

 

Best,

 

Chris “the Kiwi”

 

 

 

Here is that study….

 

Lipids. 2011 Jan;46(1):37-46. Epub 2010 Nov 2.

 

Metabolic effects of krill oil are essentially similar to those of fish oil but at lower dose of EPA and DHA, in healthy volunteers.

 

Ulven SM, Kirkhus B, Lamglait A, Basu S, Elind E, Haider T, Berge K, Vik H, Pedersen JI.

Source

 

Faculty of Health, Nutrition, and Management, Akershus University College, Lillestrøm, Norway.

 

Abstract

The purpose of the present study is to investigate the effects of krill oil and fish oil on serum lipids and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation and to evaluate if different molecular forms, triacylglycerol and phospholipids, of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) influence the plasma level of EPA and DHA differently. One hundred thirteen subjects with normal or slightly elevated total blood cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels were randomized into three groups and given either six capsules of krill oil (N = 36; 3.0 g/day, EPA + DHA = 543 mg) or three capsules of fish oil (N = 40; 1.8 g/day, EPA + DHA = 864 mg) daily for 7 weeks. A third group did not receive any supplementation and served as controls (N = 37). A significant increase in plasma EPA, DHA, and DPA was observed in the subjects supplemented with n-3 PUFAs as compared with the controls, but there were no significant differences in the changes in any of the n-3 PUFAs between the fish oil and the krill oil groups. No statistically significant differences in changes in any of the serum lipids or the markers of oxidative stress and inflammation between the study groups were observed. Krill oil and fish oil thus represent comparable dietary sources of n-3 PUFAs, even if the EPA + DHA dose in the krill oil was 62.8% of that in the fish oil.

 

 

 

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About the author
Chris 'The Kiwi'
So named because he comes from a little country in the Pacific called New Zealand where a small, fat, quasi-blind, and largely defenseless bird by the name of “Kiwi” is the national animal, and what we are called when we land in other countries. He is focused on using what he can remember from his studies for a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and his cumulative years as a nutritionist and strength coach to help other people enjoy amazing levels of health and energy. He enjoys ticking through his list of life goals and meeting new people.
  • Kevin

    Isn’t Krill oil more environmentally sustainable than fish oil? We’re overfishing enough as it is. That’s the biggest concern out of the two.

  • Jackie Hall

    So Chris, living in the United States – post Fukushima, where can one find a fish oil supplement that is guaranteed to not be contaminated by radiation?

  • Anonymous

    Great article. I have wondered about these exact issues often but never gotten around to doing the research and so far was taking Krill Oil.

    I’ll be switching when I run out the next time!

  • Mike

    So sure … if you don’t care about the benefits of the astaxanthin in Krill Oil, then it comes more down to price …. however if I look at the price on amazon for the first Kill Oil product listed, which is wel-rated, it’s giving 300mg omega-3 for each serving of two capsules, with each capsule costing $0.27, so $1.10 for the 0.6g, or under a third of the price of the Fish Oil he compares. The second Krill Oil product listed is slightly cheaper per gram.

    If you’re going to compare price, then at least look at something with a reasonable price. For the tiny remaining price difference when you do a more reasonable comparison, I’d take the Krill Oil given its other benefits.

  • Erica

    Hey Chris,

    I was wondering what you think about Cod Liver Oil….I am thinking that you might say….”if you are taking AG and D3 and Fish oil from me than get the Vit. A from food”….But was wondering what you actually do think! I have read a lot about how important it is before pregnancy and during and just in general and how it used to be a standard supplement in traditional European societies.
    Thanks!

    • Anonymous

      Hey mate

      I like it. Just can’t take it with any degree of regularity.

      Eating liver and organ meats in general a good idea, wherever you can palate it in.
      If you are taking down a big dose of cod liver oil each day, you won’t need our Omega 3. Same applies to any meal of salmon or sardines or anchovies.
      Hope that helps!

      C

      Chris Ashenden

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EBEZTTQ4WFVZNGWDSPYFIYSQIQ t

    Everyone has different reasons for taking either of these supplements. You covered the aspect that was important to you, which is of course fine. I’ll give you my personal experience.

    I have suffered from an extreme case of eczema the past 2 years, with the most horrible rashes going viral on much of my body, and at it’s worst it was ”weeping eczema”, with this gross oozing and inability to heal. Had to go on high doses of prednisone which I currently still am on, months later. A relative gave me some fish oil back 2 months ago as she was told that I may be deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. I took the fish oil for about 5 weeks before it ran out, and saw perhaps mild improvement. I then read an article about krill oil and it’s superior anti-inflammatory capabilities vs fish oil, and so I tried it.

    After 5 days on krill oil, my rashes stopped itching. 10 days into it, my eczema was reduced by 50%. Now 3 weeks into it, my eczema is reduced by 80%. Virtually no itch in the last 2 weeks ! It’s the most incredible feeling, after being tortured for months on end with it. The redness is down 80%, skin that was coarse, flaky, hive-like, almost reptilian to the touch is now soft and normal. I am now in the process of dosing down on prednisone, 20 milligrams daily this week vs 35 milligrams daily three weeks ago. The crunch time is this dosing down to lower levels of prednisone, because previous attempts doing that saw my skin flaring wildly.

    So, 5 weeks of fish oil and I saw perhaps ever so mild improvement. 3 weeks of krill oil, and I’m not far from being eczema-free. I’m a big believer in krill oil. Certainly for any anti-inflammatory purpose.

  • Pingback: Omega-3 Fatty Acids()

  • http://www.facebook.com/maureen.mccormick.barnes Maureen Barnes

    Thanks for laying this article out in “layman terms” for us! It was easy to follow and now I will be changing to Fish Oil and hopefully see better results! I started following Isabel with the BD program and she highly recommends Krill Oil. Sad to say I just followed without doing more research! However, she does share your newsletters, which is how I found you…and I’m glad I did! ;)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Maureen!

      WELCOME – please let me know how you get on

      C

  • Drew

    Christhekiwi,

    I only took Krill for 40 days due to the price so I don’t know much about astaxanthin but I did notice my blood pressure had increased .I got better blood pressure results with fish oil.

  • Drew

    Can you give your two cents on astaxanthin as a supplement in itself?

    Big fan of fish oil over krill, and that won’t change, but it seems like adding an average dose (4-8mg/daily) of astaxanthin to my supplement regime could have countless benefits…

    I read more and more positives on the supp each and every day!

    Really respect your opinions and would love to hear how you feel about adding the product.

    Thanks in advance.

  • http://bozemanchiropractic.com/ Bozeman Chiropractor

    The price is really the kicker, but one aspect that is worth noting is that people who react to shellfish should not take krill oil!

  • http://www.hoveltohaven.com/ Dorothy Pilgrim

    Thanks Chris the Kiwi, I have spent some considerable time thinking about which was better. Now I do not need to think about it anymore. You have sorted it for me. Great Work!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Dorothy! That was the plan, glad I could help out. :)

      C

  • http://desimckinnon.blogspot.com/ Desi

    thank you so much. i needed this breakdown. i was considering purchasing fermented cod liver oil over the fish oil that i’m currently taking. i might consider it after i’m done using the higher doses, but not right now. i might od on the vitamin a and d if i mega dosed fclo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Murphy/100000632409362 Terry Murphy

    I do have one question after reading all of the information concerning Athletic Greens supplement is it still necessary to take a multivitamin and other supplements? Oh, by the way the cost of the product would dictate that I stop other supplements. What are your thoughts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Murphy/100000632409362 Terry Murphy

    Hey just based on cost, and if you are taking fish oil for the EPA/DHA it is a no brainier that Fish Oil is the product of choice.

  • Tloveland

    Great thoughts to ponder!

  • Anonymous

    Chris:

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been so confused over what kind of fish oil to take, krill oil vs. fish oil, etc.

    it’s quite crazy! I’m glad you discussed the differences between all of them…

    Ryan

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