Is krill better than regular fish oil?

     A  reader recently asked me a question about fish oil. She wanted to know if krill oil is better for you than fish oil. Of course, the answer’s never simple when it comes to your nutrition. So let’s first start by discussing the ABCs of fish oil.

The catch-22 of fish oil

     As you’ll recall, omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish or cod liver oil) are basic building blocks of good health. In fact, that’s why we call them "essential" fatty acids. These vital nutrients support your immune system, heart, mood, blood sugar, joints, brain, and so much more. But they also increase free radicals in your body.

     Free radicals are charged molecules that can speed up the aging process. In addition, many scientists believe that free radicals can damage your DNA. They disrupt the natural life cycle of your cells, which over time can lead to diseases like cancer.

     That’s why I always remind you to take plenty of antioxidants (especially vitamin E and selenium). These antioxidants neutralize free radicals.

Finding the right fish oil

     Our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids for survival, but we can’t produce the essential omega-3 ourselves. So we’ve got to get it from the foods we eat. Unfortunately, very few of us do.

     In that case…

     A bottle of high-quality fish oil capsules should always be a staple in your kitchen cabinet. Find a brand that you trust. Look for the bottle to say 99.99 percent purified fish oil.

     But don’t worry. The last .01 percent doesn’t contain mercury. Just small impurities that are nearly impossible to refine away. (It’s the same with gold. You’ll only find 99.99 percent pure gold. There’s no such thing as 100 percent pure gold.)

     So if you can find good fish oil, what’s the big deal about krill…?

The pros (and cons) of taking krill oil

     As far as I can tell, there are four big reasons why people opt for krill instead of fish (or cod liver) oil.

     First off, krill oil contains a decent dose of the antioxidant astaxanthin. So some natural medicine practitioners say you don’t need the added vitamin E and selenium when you take krill. But I disagree. Even if you opt for krill oil, you should still take a natural mixed tocopherols-type vitamin E along with it.

     Secondly, some people like taking krill better. There’s less of a fishy aftertaste. (This isn’t a huge problem in my book, especially if you take your fish oil before meals. But I know that trick doesn’t work for everyone. And some people don’t like to belch fish.)

    Thirdly, sometimes people take krill because they want a "more pure" product. You see, fishermen catch krill in the deepest, darkest waters of Antarctica. So some people believe this pretty much guarantees that your krill oil won’t contain any pollutants or heavy metals. (But as I said earlier, I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you find a major brand of fish oil that says 99.99 percent pure on the bottle.)

     The last benefit to taking krill has to do with the environment. You may have seen the recent TIME magazine article about fish oil. Apparently, the market for fish oil supplements has skyrocketed to $1 billion since 1996. As a result, some environmentalists say we’re putting certain types of fish at risk.

     Scientists have seen declining numbers of one type of fish used primarily for their oil, called menhaden. These fish eat algae in the ocean. But when menhaden levels drop off, algae grow out of control. This depletes oxygen in the ocean and—according to some environmentalists—upsets the ocean’s ecosystem.

     From this point of view, krill’s a great option. It’s a "sustainable" or "renewable" form of fish, which means even if everyone on your street starts taking krill; the fish won’t disappear off the planet.

     One of the biggest reasons against taking krill has to do with the cost. A 30-day supply of krill oil costs at least twice as much as regular fish oil does. Plus, research for this relatively new supplement is still pretty limited. I’ve yet to see overwhelming research convincing me that nutritionally it’s any better for you than regular fish oil. So unless you feel strongly about one of other the reasons cited above, the benefits might not warrant the big price tag.

Decide for yourself

     Look at the pros and cons and decide for yourself about krill oil. I do take it from time to time. Though, it’s certainly much more expensive than regular fish oil, so I really only take it when I’m feeling extravagant!

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Dr. Allan Spreen

Dr. Allan Spreen

Nationally acclaimed as America’s “Nutrition Physician,” Dr. Spreen has been helping people stay healthy and disease-free as a private doctor, published author, and noted researcher.

In addition to his role as a Senior Member of the prestigious Health Sciences Institute Advisory Panel in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Spreen also coaches diving at the international and Olympic levels. NorthStar Nutritionals is proud to have Dr. Spreen as our Chief Research Advisor.

Dr. Spreen also writes the Guide to Good Health.

Please let us know what you think about this article. All comments will be moderated before being posted publicly.


  1. Chris John says

    Dr. Spreen – thanks for this informative article. I was considering switching to krill oil supplements but after reading through some articles (including your blog) I feel I’m better off with my regular pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements (Triple Strength Omega 3. Until there’s more research done on krill oil I would rather stick to something that has proven efficacy. Thanks.

  2. Seg says

    Dr Spreen neglected to mention the biggest PROS for Krill Oil and that is the ABSORPTION factor which is highly due to the from in which the omega 3’s are carried which is phospholipds.
    See below:

    “Unlike fish oils, pure krill oil carries omega-3s in the form of phospholipids — liposomes or little packages that deliver the fatty acids directly to your body’s cells.

    Scientific evidence to date has shown that the safest and most effective carriers of EPA and DHA are these phospholipids.

    Unfortunately, standard fish oils (and inferior krill oil brands) lack this phospholipid complex. Instead they contain omega-3 fatty acids in the less-beneficial form of free triglycerides.

    Why are phospholipids important?

    They are the building blocks for your cell membranes, regulating cellular transport by functioning as ‘gate-keepers.’* In this role, they protect cell membranes from free radical attack.*

    This unique relationship between the phospholipids and omega-3 fatty acids greatly facilitates the passage of the fatty acid molecules through your intestinal wall.* This helps you in two ways…

    Makes the omega-3 fats in New and Improved Krill Oil significantly more bioavailable than those in fish oil by allowing EPA and DHA to directly enter your cells.
    Improves your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
    Another important fact: The most predominant phospholipid in pure krill oil is phosphatidyl choline, which is partially composed of choline.

    Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of choline in brain development, learning and memory.* In fact, choline is particularly important for fetal and infant brain development in pregnant and nursing women.*

    Choline is the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which sends nerve signals to the brain) and for trimethylglycine, a recognized liver protector.*

    Further, it also boasts a full complement of necessary antioxidants not seen in fish or cod liver oil”.

  3. Rachel Morris says

    Astaxanthin embeds itself in cellular membranes. It is unique among carotenoids because it traps free radicals at both ends of the molecule.* Once trapped, free radicals are passed into cellular fluids where they become neutralized by vitamin C.

  4. Lori says

    There’s really no such thing as “pharmaceutical grade” fish oil unless you’re taking a prescription and then it’s been tweaked since a natural substance can’t be patented for prescriptions. If it’s not a prescription, then it may be maufactured in an FDA approved facility. There are international quality standards for fish oil, but that doesn’t necessarily imply pharmaceutical grade.

  5. Explorer08 says

    I recently had a prostatectomy and the final post-surgical Gleason score was 9. My urologist virtually demanded that I stop taking anything containing Vitamin E. Vitamin is death, he said. So I am switching to krill immediately, seeking one that contains no Vitamin E. Given the recent study results on Vitamin E and prostate cancer, my urologist is absolutely correct, in my view. What Vitamin E I may need will come only from food sources, not supplements. This danger, by the way, is compounded when Vitamin E is combined with Selenium. So, krill it is. (I’ve discovered that Vitamin E is in fish oil primarily as a preservative, not as a nutritional additive.)

  6. ronald jim says

    The appropriate dose of krill oil depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for krill oil. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using. My Father used this twice a day for 3 months as he is suffering from depression, Krill Doctor Professional Brand oil is really effective to fight against these diseases.

  7. Anonymous says

    Krill is better.. New research suggests krill oil is more powerful and potent than fish oil.. Just watch the new dr oz show 😉

  8. Anonymous says

    I hate to tell you, your urologist is wrong, he failed to tell you the truth about what Vitamin E was used in the study, it was a synthetic form that is utterly useless and downright harmful, they came up with that concoction and of course they knew it was not going to work, all just, to bad rap natural vitamin E which is a well respected antioxidant, I wish your Dr as well as others will find out first about these so called studies, specially the notion that natural vitamins will be harmful this is a number one indication that the study is bogus, and as usual bad advise.JAM

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