OUR DIETS are deficient in Omega-3s, thanks to changing food habits and increased dependence on processed foods. These essential fatty acids are good fats that our body cannot produce and hence need to be supplied through diet. These fats can be obtained both from plant and animal foods, each one giving us a different kind.
The Omega-3s are important family of healthy fats as they play a key role in several metabolic functions and help in reducing inflammation, facilitating healthy brain function, lowering blood fats, maintaining blood pressure levels, regulating heart rhythms, and boost immunity and lung function. These make them useful in conditions like arthritis, asthma, auto-immune disorders, ADHD, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Today, the scientific consensus is so strong that health policy makers worldwide, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), agree that Omega-3s maintain health and help prevent diseases. Reports on health benefits have led to increased demand for products containing marine omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs (poly-unsaturated fatty acids)).
Most people have been using fish oils and recently, flaxseeds to boost their Omega-3 levels. Since fish is a restricted source, there is a growing interest in exploiting alternative sources of the good fats. The latest to enter the Omega-3 delivery system is the Krill Oil, found in the southern coast of Antarctica. Krill, tiny sea creatures, about two inches long are shrimp- like crustaceans that are a dietary staple for whales, small fish, and seabirds. Krill or Okiami, as the Japanese call it, has been a cherished food source in many Asian countries since the 19th century or even earlier.
The metabolic effects of Krill oil are essentially similar to those of fish oil but at lower dosage of EPA (Eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexanoic acid), the fatty acids found in these. Krill has less Omega-3 concentration but is more bio-available, that is they are more readily and effectively absorbed by the body. Krill oil contains an antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been found to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease triglycerides. Phospholipids found in Krill oil too have been found to increase the good cholesterol. Unlike fish oils, krill oil carries omega-3s in the form of phospholipids, which are readily absorbed by the body. Findings from a study conducted at McGill University in Montreal and published in 2004 in the Journal Alternative Medicine Review indicate that krill oil helps lower (bad) cholesterol levels more effectively than fish oil. Another study published in 2013, in the European Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that while fish oil and Krill oil are comparable dietary sources of omega-3 fats, krill oil seems to have greater potential to improve lipid profiles and lower inflammation, at similar doses.
American Heart Association dietary guidelines recommend 2 servings of fatty fish per week. According to studies, 3 grams of Krill oil will work out to be equivalent to similar benefits. Although a food based approach for achieving omega-3 PUFA is recommended, but may not always be possible. Therefore, for some individuals omega-3 supplements may be needed, who do not like fish or for other reasons do not choose to include fish in their diet. Supplementation with Krill oil will be a good source of omega-3 fats. The downside of Krill oil is its high cost and some environmental concerns. Check with your physician for any possible drug interaction before starting. Like in fish oils, beware of cheap and inferior varieties due to risk of contamination.