The Health Benefits of Krill Oil – Separating Fact from Fiction
There has been a lot of talk lately about the health benefits of krill oil, but it is important to separate the fact from fiction. The benefits of fish oil have been well established, but even that older therapy still has its controversies. The history of krill oil as therapy and a dietary supplement is shorter, so it is even more important to assess its effects – and its possible risks – objectively and scientifically.
There is certainly reason to think that krill oil would have some healthy effects on the body. As with cold-water fish, the tiny crustaceans known as krill are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Those fatty acids have been shown to have a protective impact on the heart, and that raises the hope that krill oil might be able to prevent heart attacks and long-term heart disease.
What Do the Studies Say?
Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are essential in studying any nutritional supplement, including krill oil. In one such study, 120 individuals with high cholesterol received either fish oil, krill oil or a placebo for three months. The results showed that krill oil, given in dosages that ranged from 1-3 grams per day based on body mass was more effective at lowering cholesterol than fish oil at a dosage of 3 grams per day. That same study also found that krill oil was effective at reducing blood sugar levels.
It is important to note, however, that not every study found these same positive effects on blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. A subsequent clinical trial of 113 individuals with normal or slightly elevated cholesterol levels found no difference in cholesterol levels between krill oil and a placebo.
That study gave participants either 3 grams of krill oil, 1.8 grams of fish oil or a placebo every day for a period of 7 weeks. Some people have suggested that krill oil is most effective in treating very high levels of cholesterol, and that its therapeutic effects may not extend to those with normal or slightly elevated cholesterol levels.
Safety Issues of Krill Oil
One thing krill oil has going for it is its relative safety. While many pharmaceutical medications have serious side effects, so far krill oil appears to be very safe for daily use. In past studies of the efficacy of krill oil, very few side effects were found, and those side effects tended to be very mild.
Some study participants reported occasional digestive issues like stomach upset when taking krill oil, but no serious gastrointestinal issues were noted. This is consistent with what people taking krill oil on their own have reported.
The bottom line is that krill oil appears to be effective at lowering cholesterol levels in those with moderate to severe cholesterol problems. Those with lower levels of cholesterol may not see those same benefits, but the fact that krill oil is very safe can make it a safer alternative to traditional cholesterol medications.
As with any nutritional supplement, those thinking about krill oil should consult their physicians before starting. While krill oil is generally safe, those with bleeding disorders or liver problems could be at risk. Talking with your doctor before starting any medication is an important way to safeguard your health.