Krill oil is a nutrient-dense substance extracted from krill.
Krill are small crustaceans of the order of Euphausia superba. They are tiny, bottom-of-the-food-chain creatures, found in all the world's oceans, especially where the water is cold, as in oceans off Antarctica. They have the appearance of tiny shrimp. They have a pink or red colour due to the plankton that they consume as their food source and the production of the antioxidant astaxanthin. They serve as an important food for other animals in the ocean, for example whales, seals, penguins, squid and fish. There is some concern that the commercial harvesting of krill could threaten the species that consume it for food.
Commercial uses of krill include salmon aquaculture farming and harvesting for extraction of krill oil for human supplements, as food for home aquariums, and as a human food source.
Krill, known as Okiami, has been harvested by the Japanese as a human food source since the 19th century, and is also consumed in South Korea and Taiwan.
Krill contain an oil that is similar to fish oils. Both krill oil and fish oils are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids, mainly Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).
EPA and DHA in krill oil are bound mostly to phospholipids. Unlike fish oil, in which these omega-3 fatty acids are attached only to triglycerides, in krill oil, the majority are attached to phospholipids, while the remainder are attached to triglycerides. The phosphorus part of the phospholipids is further linked to an organic, hydrophilic, headgroup, and is also attached to the glycerol backbone of the phospholipids. This difference in structure results in different chemical behaviour: triglycerides are highly hydrophobic, thus they do not mix with water. Conversely, phospholipids are amphipathic because they contain a hydrophilic headgroup on one end and hydrophobic chains on the other end. Due to this unique structure, phospholipids are able to mix with water. As a result, the bioavailability of krill oil (the ease with which it can be absorbed into the body) is far superior to fish oils (up to 60%, according to manufacturers).
Krill oil also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which gives the krill its distinctive red colour (see my May 2011 newsletter Astaxanthin - A Superior Antioxidant).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That is not the case for omega-3 fatty acids. Hence they are called essential fats. The body can't make them from scratch, but must get them from food.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Vegetable oils
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Flax seeds and flaxseed oil
- Leafy vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids are special since they are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body, and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of arterial walls and inflammation. They also bind to receptors that regulate genetic function. Likely due to these effects, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis and may play a protective role in cancer and other conditions.
There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:
- DHA. EPA and DHA are often referred to as 'marine' essential fatty acids, since they mainly come from fish and krill.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This is the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets, and is found in vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseed and oil, leafy vegetables and some animal fat, especially that of grass-fed animals. The human body generally uses ALA for energy, and conversion into EPA and DHA is very limited.
The Ratio of Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Omega-6 Fatty Acids
In modern day Western diet, the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids can be as high as 30:1.
Ideally the ratio should approach 1:1, or at least no higher than 3:1 or perhaps up to 6:1.
Supplementing with krill or fish oil will help reduce the ratio.
However, this supplement needs to be combined with a lifestyle change, in particular excluding or at least reducing the intake of those foods that are high on omega-6 fatty acids. A list of these foods (mainly refined and processed foods) can be accessed at Foods Highest in Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Telomeres
Telomeres are vital endcaps that seal off the tips of your cells' chromosomes to prevent DNA strands from unravelling. Every time a cell duplicates, its telomeres become shorter, until the chromosomes unravel and the cell dies.
What can protect the telomeres, and delay or slow down or even prevent their shortening?
Telomeres, and how to protect them, has been discussed fully in my August 2010 newsletter Telomeres. One of the key substances that protect telomeres and delay their shortening (in combination with other recommendations: glutathione, exercise, diet and lifestyle change) are the omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that high levels of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA result in longer, healthier telomeres. Researches have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids activate telomerase, the enzyme responsible for rebuilding your telomeres. This all adds up to anti-ageing!
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is Krill Oil.
It is almost impossible to get enough omega-3 fatty acids from the diet.
Supplements are the best way to boost your EPA-DHA levels.
When selecting a supplement, read the label and check the source.
By way of example, a reputable product is 'Now' brand available from :
Neptune Krill Oil 1000 contains:
|Krill oil||1000mg (1g)|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||230mg|
Daily dose is one capsule (1000mg krill oil)
Unlike fish oil, krill oil generally does not leave a fishy aftertaste, reflux or belching of fish flavours.
For health, and as a delay in the ageing process, a daily supplement of omega-3 fatty acids would appear to be the order of the day. The best source of bio-available omega-3 fatty acids is krill oil.
*Copyright 2015: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.Back to the list Print friendly version