Fish oil comes from oily fish, such as tuna, herring, or sardines. Krill oil comes from a small, shrimp-like animal called krill.
Krill oil has a distinctive red color while fish oil supplements are typically yellow or gold. Krill oil is usually more expensive than fish oil.
While each supplement type contains omega-3 fatty acids, there are various risks and benefits in taking each supplement type. Read on to find out more.
Benefits of krill oil and fish oil
Both krill oil and fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the most popular and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
When consumed in fish, these fatty acids have been shown to boost a person’s overall heart health and reduce the risks of heart attack and coronary artery disease. However, while research has shown eating whole fish can have heart-protecting benefits, scientific studies have not yet proven that taking omega-3 supplements offers the same benefits as eating fish.
However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the specific benefits of taking omega-3 supplements include:
- Reducing high triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
- Relieving rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence suggests that omega-3 supplements may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Relieving dry eye symptoms. Some studies have indicated that omega-3 supplements help to improve eye moisture and reduce the symptoms of dry eye disease. However, other large-scale studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements are no better than a placebo for eye dryness, so more research is needed.
Drug stores and online supermarkets sell both fish oil and krill oil supplements.
Taking omega-3 supplements in the forms of krill oil and fish oil does not appear to carry any significant side effects, but minor side effects may include:
- bad breath
- a headache
- unpleasant-smelling sweat
- upset stomach
Also, omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil and fish oil, have the potential to interact negatively with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). This is because omega-3 fatty acids have mild anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. However, a person must usually take between 3 and 6 g of fish oil a day for these adverse interactions to occur.
According to the ODS, an estimated 7.8 percent of adults and 1.1 percent of children in the United States take omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the forms of fish oil, krill oil, or animal-free alternatives, such as algal oil or flaxseed oil.
The evidence is still inconclusive about whether krill oil works as well as or better than fish oil. So far, most of the research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has been carried out using fish oil. There is not a lot of research on krill oil.
Taking omega-3 supplements can offer benefits in terms of lowering triglyceride levels and reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, the evidence is inconclusive regarding whether they can reduce heart disease or improve overall cardiovascular health to the same extent as eating whole fish.
According to the NIH, eating oily fish, including tuna and salmon, can offer a greater variety of nutrients than supplements, and has been shown to improve heart health.
On balance, taking either krill oil or fish oil supplements can help to boost a person’s overall levels of omega-3 fatty acids, though it is unclear whether one is better than the other.
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