Neptune krill oil (NKO) is a dietary supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids that comes from a small crustacean that is similar to shrimp, a species of krill called Euphausia superba. These krill are harvested from Antarctic fishing zones and North Pacific oceans. Krill are the primary source of food for whales – ‘krill’ is a Norwegian word that means ‘whale food’.
Even though their small size puts them at the bottom of the food chain, there is an estimated 500 million tons of krill in the ocean. This means that quality krill oil is plentiful. Neptune Technologies, the company which holds the patent on krill oil extraction, has reported that 110,000 tons of krill are harvested yearly.
Health Benefits of Krill Oil
Krill oil offers many important nutritional benefits. It contains potent antioxidants which offer excellent cell protection benefits. Antioxidants have been linked to rejuvenation of the body and reducing the signs of aging, such as wrinkles.
Some research has indicated that krill oil may be helpful in protecting skin from ultraviolet (UV) light and the damage induced by it by fortifying cell membranes. This is largely due to the presence of the antioxidant, astaxanthin.
Krill oil also can help to improve cognitive functions like memory and help keep the mind quick and active into old age.
It may also be helpful in reducing inflammation and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions and diseases, treating the symptoms associated with PMS and dysmenorrhea and suppressing autoimmune murine lupus. Improvements in the health of various organs in the body, including the heart, brain and liver have been noted in individuals who supplement with krill oil.
Studies have also shown it to be effective in lowering blood glucose levels, making it an excellent option for controlling diabetes.
Several recent studies have shown that krill oil is an effective treatment for controlling cholesterol levels. Studies indicate that 1 to 1.5 grams of krill oil taken daily can reduce levels of LDL, the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol. As with omega-3 fatty acids, it also helps to increase levels of LDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol. An increased daily dosage also showed that levels of blood fat triglycerides were also substantially lowered, if up to 3 grams was taken per day.
A low ‘bad’ cholesterol level is essential for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, and helps prevent heart conditions and cardiac arrests.
Some studies suggest that 300 mg daily of krill oil helps reduce the inflammation and pain of arthritis. After 30 days of taking 300 mg per day, joint health seemed to be improved as joint pain had been lessened and function improved. Joint pain is associated with elevated levels of triglycerides, and krill oil studies have shown that levels of triglycerides were reduced by approximately 27%. Clinical studies showed that symptoms of premenstrual tension were lessened with 2 grams of krill oil per day over the period of a month.
Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In September of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States declared that health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids were strongly supported by scientific studies. These benefits were almost all focused on the cardiovascular system, and so health claims pertaining to this system or the heart were upheld to be legitimate.
Because omega-3 fatty acids affect the circulatory system, they may help improve varicose veins as the fatty acids help prevent clotting of the blood, one of the causes of blockages in the veins. They are likely to reduce blood pressure as a side effect of this benefit.
This leads to an increase in heart health, with several studies concluding that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acid reduced triglyceride levels which helps protect you from the risk of heart attacks.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-carcinogenic properties. Studies done on mice show that omega-3 fatty acids help to slow the growth of prostate tumors. A 2007 study of omega-3 fatty acids showed that oral supplements containing high levels of omega-3 fatty acids helped cancer patients across the board and improved their quality of life by raising their appetite and weight.
Krill eat algae that produce a vibrant rouge pigment, astaxanthin, which in turn gives the krill its own red color. As astaxanthin is an anti-oxidant, it will help to prevent free radicals in the body from damaging cells. It also passes from the blood into the brain, where it can also protect the brain and nervous system from damage from free radicals, something which many antioxidants cannot do.
Krill Oil vs Fish Oil
Krill oil is similar to fish oil in that it contains the omega-3 essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). However, the similarity ends there. Oil from krill contains around 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil and has a superior phospholipid structure whereas fish oil has a triglyceride form. It also has an addition to EPA called astaxanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant. This makes the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value of krill oil 48 times more potent than fish oil.
When compared to another popular antioxidant supplement, Coenzyme Q-10, the oil from krill softgels was found to be 34 times more potent.
Krill oil is much more easily absorbed by the intestinal lining than fish oil, and so a smaller amount needs to be ingested while still providing the same long-term effects as fish oil. Typically, the amount of krill oil able to be absorbed by the body is five times greater than that of fish oil supplements.
For many consumers, though, the most noticeable advantage of krill oil over its fish oil cousin is its rapid absorption, which eliminates the “fishy” aftertaste and belching. There is also far less concern over potential mercury or lead poisoning.
Safe to Use
Research does not show any major side effects from krill oil and is considered safe for adult consumption.
Studies of Neptune krill oil have found it to have no toxicity, even when taken over the recommended amount for long periods of time. In animal studies, it showed no toxic effects on the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, stomach, kidneys, reproductive organs or skin.
A minor side effect of krill oil is that it slows the speed at which the blood clots. It may cause problems if you are going to be undergoing surgery in the near future, so it is advised to stop taking krill oil prior to surgery.
It is also recommended that individuals who are taking anti-coagulants (blood thinners) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications seek medical advice before beginning Neptune krill oil supplementation.
If you have any allergies to shrimp or other seafood, use caution when supplementing with krill oil as it may trigger an allergic reaction.
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- Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms.
- Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the clinical course of hyperlipidemia.
- Elucidation of Phosphatidylcholine Composition in Krill Oil Extracted from Euphausia superba.
- Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the management of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea.