Although we tend to think of fat as a “bad” thing, there are “good” fats that our body needs in order to function properly – in fact, we can’t live without them.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are in that good fat group. Our body requires them in order to perform a number of different biological processes.
EFAs must be ingested because the body does not manufacture them itself.
A Brief History of Essential Fatty Acids
When EFAs were first discovered to be essential nutrients in 1923, they were called ‘vitamin F’. However, by the early 1930s, they were accurately reclassified as fats. In recent years, awareness of the many health benefits of EFAs – particularly the omega-3 fatty acids – has increased dramatically.
This increased interest in omega-3s was triggered in part by three Danish scientists, who noticed that the Inuit (Eskimo) people of Greenland consumed large amounts of fat from seafood but had almost no cardiovascular disease. In a 1975 study, these researchers compared the blood plasma of the Greenland Inuits with that of Inuits living in Denmark and non-Inuit Danish residents. They found that the blood of the Greenland Inuits contained a remarkably higher amount of certain long-chain fatty acids – the omega-3s now known as EPA and DHA.(1)
EFAs – A Balancing Act
There are two EFAs: alpha-linolenic acid (best known as omega-3 fatty acids) and linoleic acid (best known as omega-6 fatty acids). Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for good health. However, as with everything in nature, maintaining the proper balance is key.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, promote bone health and improve the symptoms of arthritis. Ongoing research suggests omega-3s may also be beneficial for many other conditions such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and depression.
Omega-6 fatty acids play a role in helping to lower cholesterol and supporting skin health. Another important function of omega-6s is to make our blood “sticky” so it’s able to clot and we don’t bleed to death. But when the omega-6s are not balanced with enough omega-3s, the blood can get too sticky. When the blood clots form too easily, they can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Experts say the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is roughly 1:4 (1 part omega-6s to 4 parts omega-3s). Unfortunately, the typical American diet is heavily weighted in the wrong direction, with a ratio of about 20:1 (20 parts omega-6s to 1 part omega-3s).
Therefore, supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids becomes even more important.
Sources of Omega-3s
Although omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for health, the human body can’t make them. The only way to get them is through food and/or supplements. Food sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans and cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut.
Ideally, eating plenty of fish should provide you with the omega-3s you need. However, because so much of the fish today is contaminated with industrial pollutants and toxins like PCBs, mercury and other heavy metals, it can be dangerous to consume a lot of fish.
Therefore, in order to get the quantity of omega-3s our bodies require, most of us need to supplement our diets. While fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements can be good sources, krill oil is considered by many to be the very best source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Differences Between Krill Oil and Fish Oil
Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that pack a big punch of nutrients. They are one of the most abundant sources of seafood omega-3s. There are a number of important differences between Arctic Select Krill Oil™ and fish oil:
• Bioavailability – The omega-3s in krill oil are in phospholipid form, while the omega-3s in fish oil are in triglyceride form. As phospholipids, krill omega-3s can be absorbed into the bloodstream without the need to be first broken down by the digestive process, making them more bioavailable for cell functioning and growth.
• Antioxidants – Arctic Select Krill Oil contains much higher levels of the naturally occurring antioxidant astaxanthin than fish oil. Antioxidants protect our body cells from damage due to free radicals. Astaxanthin also crosses the blood-brain barrier and is thought to help protect the eyes, brain and central nervous system from free radical damage.
• Purity – The krill used in Arctic Select Krill Oil are pure and free of toxins because they are only harvested in the pristine waters of the Antarctic, far from any industrial pollutants. Fish oil supplements are only as pure as the fish they came from. If the fish were harvested from polluted waters, the fish oils will likely contain the same toxins.
• Stability – Two factors make krill oil more stable and resistant to rancidity than most fish oils. (1) Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of phospholipids are far less prone to oxidation than omega-3s in triglyceride form. (2) The antioxidant astaxanthin provides added protection to the omega-3s, prolonging their shelf life.
• Aftertaste – A common side effect of taking fish oils is reflux or belching, which results in a fishy aftertaste. Arctic Select Krill Oil leaves no fishy aftertaste.
While both fish oil and krill oil are good, when it comes to providing omega-3s in their most useable form, krill oil is far superior.
Health Benefits of Krill Oil
Since 1980, more than 60,000 studies have been conducted examining the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
A 2004 study measured the effects of krill oil, fish oil and a placebo on total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides for 120 people after 90 days. As you can see from the table below, krill oil was significantly better than fish oil at lowering total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, while also raising the desirable HDL.
|Effects on Cholesterol: Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil|
|Krill Oil (3 g)||Fish Oil (3 g)||Placebo|
The researchers concluded “with high levels of confidence” that krill oil is effective for the management of cholesterol and is significantly more effective than fish oil.(2)
High Blood Pressure
In a meta-analysis of 17 controlled clinical trials, scientists found that supplementing the diet with 3 g or more of fish oil per day “can lead to clinically relevant BP reductions in individuals with untreated hypertension.”(3)
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Inflammation – Arthritis and Cardiovascular Disease
A 2007 study evaluated the effect of krill oil on 90 patients with inflammatory conditions – cardiovascular disease and/or active rheumatoid arthritis and/or osteoarthritis. All were required to stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs starting one week before the study started. Since inflammation is closely linked to the development of both atherosclerosis and joint disease, C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were measured throughout the study. (CRP is one of the most useful biomarkers of inflammation and appears to be a central player in the harmful effects of systemic inflammation.)
The following chart shows the changes in CRP levels during the 30-day study period. CRP levels declined in the krill oil group even though they had stopped taking anti-inflammatory meds, while they increased for the placebo group.
|Krill Oil Supplement Effect on Inflammatory C-reactive Protein|
|Krill Oil Group||Placebo Group|
|After 7 days||-19.3%||+15.7%|
|After 14 days||-29.7%||+32.1%|
|At day 30||-30.9%||+25.1%|
In addition, after 7 days of treatment krill oil treated patients:
• Reduced pain scores by 28.9%.
• Reduced stiffness by 20.3%.
• Reduced functional impairment by 22.8%.
The study author concluded that a daily dose of 300 mg of krill oil may “significantly inhibit inflammation by reducing CRP as well as significantly alleviate symptoms caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.”(4)
Several studies suggest that omega-3s may enhance calcium absorption, reduce excretion and increase calcium deposition in bone. In a three-year study of elderly women with osteoporosis, those who took EPA (omega-3) and GLA (omega-6) supplements had less bone loss than those who took a placebo. Many of the women also had an increase in bone density.(5)
Brain Development and Function
Omega-3 phospholipids play an important role in the structure and function of brain cell membranes and cell signaling. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is the most common fatty acid found in the brain and is thought to be valuable in maintaining memory and cognitive functioning abilities, which can become impaired as we age.(6) Dementia patients have shown decreased levels of DHA in their brain tissue.
Since omega-3 phospholipids have been shown to be more efficiently taken up by brain tissue than omega-3 triglycerides, Arctic Select Krill Oil is an excellent source of the omega-3s needed for maintaining brain health.
Need-to-Know Information About Krill Oil
Suggested daily use: As a dietary supplement, take two 500 mg softgels daily with breakfast, or as recommended by your healthcare professional.
For adults with coronary heart disease: The American Heart Association recommends 1 gram (1,000 mg) daily.
For adults with high cholesterol levels: The American Heart Association recommends 2 to 4 grams (2,000 to 4,000 mg) daily.*
* Note: Do not take more than 3 grams (3,000 mg) daily without the supervision of a health care provider, due to an increased risk of bleeding.
• If you are taking blood-thinning medications, talk with your healthcare provider before taking krill oil as it could increase the effect of your medication.
• If you are taking diabetes medications, talk with your healthcare provider before taking krill oil as it could decrease the effectiveness of your medication.
* Supplement research writer Karen Lee Richards is the Lead Expert specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, for HealthCentral’s ChronicPainConnection. Karen is co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.
1. Dyerburg J, et al. Fatty acid composition of the plasma lipids in Greenland Eskimos. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975 Sep;28(9):958-66.
Full article: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=1163480
2. Bunea R, El Farrah K, Deutsch L.Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the clinical course of hyperlipidemia. Altern Med Rev. (2004) 9.4: 420-428. Full article: http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/9/4/420.pdf
3. Appel LJ, et al. Does supplementation of diet with ‘fish oil’ reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Arch Intern Med. 1993 Jun 28;153(12):1429-38.
4. Deutsch L. Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Feb;26(1):39-48. Full article: http://www.jacn.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=17353582
5. Kruger MC, et al. Calcium, gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation in senile osteoporosis. Aging (Milano). 1998 Oct;10(5):385-94.
6. Innis SM. Dietary (n-3) fatty acids and brain development. J Nutr. 2007 Apr;137(4):855-9. Full article:
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.