Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are fatty acids that are required in the human diet.They must be obtained from food as the human body cannoy synthesize them on its own. The essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or omega-3, and linoleic acid or omega-6.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce triglycerides, reduce the blood’s tendency to clot, reduce inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and improve symptoms of depression in some individuals. Food sources of omega-3 include fish, shellfish, flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts. Supplementation is usually in the form of cod liver oil or fish body oil. The new player in the game is krill oil whose market share is considerably expanding . Krills (Euphausia superba) are shrimplike crustaceans harvested in the Antarctic waters. The oil not only contains significant amounts of EPA and DHA ( omega-3 fatty acids that are only found in marine sources of the fatty acid), but also antioxidants including vitamins A and E, and astaxanthin. This special combination of phospholipids and antioxidants makes krill oil more tolerable and more bio-available than other fish oils.
A clinical trial conducted by Ruxandra Bunea et al. demonstrated that daily doses of 1-3 g of krill oil are significantly more effective than 3 g EPA/DHA fish oil in the management of hyperlipidemia. Another study by Dr. Fotini Sampalis et al. found that Neptune Krill Oil (NKO™) can significantly reduce the emotional and physical symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome, and is significantly more effective for the management of dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain) and emotional premenstrual symptoms than fish oil. A Canadian study conducted by Dr. Luisa Deutsch indicated that NKO™ at a daily dose of 300 mg significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.
As with any kind of supplementation, you should consult your doctor first. However, you should not be consuming krill oil if you are allergic to fish and shellfish and if you are on blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants, antiplatelets). Krill oil might slow blood clotting so taking it with medications that also slow clotting may increase the chances of bleeding.
Krills are abundant. The industry says that they are underharvested and regulations are put in place to make sure that they are harvested sustainably. The question remains: will it always be the case or will we be disturbing yet another ecosystem?
1. Bunea, Ruxandra et al. Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the clinical course of hyperlipidemia. Alternative Medicine Review. Vol 9, Number 4, 2004.
2. Sampalis, Fotini et al. Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the management of premenstrual syndrome. Alternative Medicine Review. Vol 8(2), 2003.
3. Deutsch, Luisa. Evaluation of the Effect of Neptune Krill Oil on Chronic Inflammation and Arthritic Symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. Vol 26, no. 1, Feb. 2007.