Less than a decade ago, fish oil caused quite a stir. Almost 19 million adults in the U.S. used fish oil supplements by 2012, making it the most popular natural product used that year.1 The widely-studied benefits of fish oil and the healthy omega-3 fatty acids it provides made this supplement an obvious choice. But recently, nutritional researchers and health-conscious consumers alike are turning their attention toward krill oil for a few excellent reasons.
Like fish oil, krill oil is naturally loaded with healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids — namely Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Omega-3 essential fatty acids may support cardiovascular health, healthy cognitive function, joint health and a lot more.2 But krill oil may offer some advantages over other marine oils for getting your daily dose of omega-3s.
Difference Between Krill Oil and Fish Oil
With krill oil supplements becoming so popular, many people are wondering about the most significant differences between krill oil and fish oil. You may have taken fish oil for a long time and now wonder if it’s worth switching from fish oil to krill oil, or you may be new to taking omega-3 supplements altogether. Either way, in this article we hope to answer all your questions about the differences between the two oils and the potential advantages of both.
Fish Oil vs Krill Oil
There are several differences between fish oil and krill oil including the sources of the oils used in supplements, the nutrients and nutritional values within the supplements and how your body absorbs those nutrients.
1. Is Krill Oil the Same as Fish Oil?
Although both supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids and the sources for both supplements are ocean-dwellers, the two oils come from very different places.
Fish oil can come from a variety of fish including anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, cod and albacore tuna. The fish used for making fish oil supplements may be either wild-caught or farmed.
Krill, on the other hand, are very tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the waters of Antarctica and feed on plankton.3 Because they are in the same family as shrimp, people who have shellfish allergies should avoid taking krill oil supplements.
2. Krill Oil May Be Absorbed Better Than Fish Oil
Research suggests that although both supplements contain EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, the fatty acids from krill may be absorbed better by our bodies.4 The omega-3 fatty acids in krill are bound to phospholipids4 which allows them to be released into the bloodstream and cells at a more efficient rate. As a result, you might be able to take less (which could mean smaller, potentially easier to swallow pills) and still enjoy the same health benefits of fish oil. And as a bonus, krill oil doesn’t cause fishy burps like fish oil.
3. Krill Oil Contains Other Nutrients
Krill oil also contains other nutrients such as phospholipids, choline, and astaxanthin, the carotenoid antioxidant. Choline is an essential precursor to acetylcholine, a stimulatory neurotransmitter. It is involved in healthy brain function and essential for normal function of all cell.
Astaxanthin is a high-powered antioxidant with a molecular structure that makes it very effective at neutralizing free radicals. This super-carotenoid offers many benefits of its own that are complementary to the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including supporting healthy skin,5 eyes,6 weight,7 and brain health. You can read more about astaxanthin in the article Astaxanthin Benefits.
Is Krill Oil Better Than Fish Oil?
The omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil may be more accessible for your body to absorb, and you get a few bonus nutrients in krill oil as well, but there are some situations in which fish oil may be a better choice. Most importantly, people who are allergic to shellfish shouldn’t take krill oil supplements, but if they don’t have allergies to other types of fish, they may be able to take fish oil (just read the label carefully and consult with your doctor).
Fish oil may also provide other advantages, including higher total concentrations of DHA and EPA per supplement, and fish oil is usually less expensive than krill oil. But remember that your body may absorb the omega-3 fatty acids from krill more readily than fish oil, so the lower amount of DHA and EPA in krill oil may be better absorbed than the higher amounts listed in fish oil.
Which is Better, Krill Oil or Fish Oil?
To demonstrate some of the differences between the nutrients in fish oil vs krill oil, we’ve broken down a few of our favorite fish oil and krill oil formulas:
- High Concentrate Omega-3 (SWE095) — 1.14 grams contains 680 mg EPA/DHA combined, sourced from a blend of anchovies, herring, mackerel, and/or sardines
- Lemon Flavor Omega-3 Fish Oil (SW1253) — 1 gram contains 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA, sourced from anchovies and sardines
- Super EPA Fish Oil (SWE026) — 1 gram contains 300 mg EPA and 200 mg DHA, sourced from anchovies, sardines and mackerel
- 100% Pure Krill Oil (SWE059) — 1 gram (2 500 mg capsules) contains 120 mg EPA and 55 mg DHA, plus 80 mcg astaxanthin, sourced from krill
- Maximum Strength Krill Oil (SWE065) — 1 gram contains 120 mg EPA and 55 mg DHA, plus 80 mcg astaxanthin, sourced from krill
Krill Oil Dosage
There is no standard intake of fish oil, krill oil, or any other omega-3 supplement. An appropriate dose depends on age, health and other conditions.8 If you’re not sure how much you should take, check with your doctor or nutritionist first, but research has provided some intake suggestions. Studies have shown that consuming at least 200 mg of DHA9 and 220 mg of EPA10 daily is linked with potential health benefits, including heart health, cognitive support, behavioral health, mood support, and more.8,10 And the American Heart Association recommends 1 gram of combined EPA and DHA daily to support heart health.11
Since the omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are more easily absorbed than standard fish oil, you may be able to take smaller doses of omega-3 fatty acids from krill oil and still get the same benefits. Most krill oil supplements are available in doses of 1 g, providing around 120 mg of DHA and 55 mg of EPA per dose, along with 80 mcg of astaxanthin.
Our Commitment to Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Krill Oil
Promoting your personal health without putting the health of the environment or marine ecosystems in jeopardy is the best scenario for all. Environmentally conscious consumers are concerned that commercially harvesting krill could threaten the many marine animals that rely on krill as the main component of their diet. At Swanson Health, we completely understand those concerns and we think it’s essential to opt for sustainable supplements, which is why we work with suppliers that care as much about sustainable, eco-friendly practices as we do.
The krill biomass is among the largest on the planet, and just a small fraction is caught each year for human nutrition. We would need to consume much more krill to cause overfishing, and to make sure that doesn’t happen, we use Superba2™ krill oil for many of our supplements.
Superba2™ krill oil is produced by Aker BioMarine of Norway, which uses patented Eco-Harvesting technology to ensure optimal freshness and prevent unnecessary bycatch. Eco-Harvesting results in minimal environmental impact, reflecting Aker’s commitment to sustainable fishing practices. In fact, when the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership released its sustainability overview of fisheries for 2015, Aker BioMarine was the only fishery to receive an “A” rating!
Krill Oil or Fish Oil?
In short, this oil is krillin’ it in the omega-3 nutrition scene. Given the potential advantages of krill oil over fish oil, it should come as no surprise that krill oil is quickly becoming the most popular source of essential fatty acids.
We hope this post has helped you better understand the differences between krill oil vs fish oil, and we would love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried one or both of them? Did you take fish oil supplements then switch to krill oil? If so, did you notice a difference? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.
1 Most Used Natural Products. Fish Oil. https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/NHIS/2012/natural-products/omega3 (Accessed 1/31/2018)
2 Omega-3 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center. https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids (Accessed 1/31/2018)
3 Krill. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/krill/ (Accessed 1/31/2018)
4 The Health Benefits of Krill Oil versus Fish Oil. University of Washington. http://depts.washington.edu/nutr/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Krill-vs-Fish-Oil2012.pdf (Accessed 1/29/2018)
5 Preventative effect of dietary astaxanthin on UVA-induced skin photo aging in hairless mice. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5295690/ (Accessed 1/23/2018)
6 Effect of Multiple Dietary Supplement Containing Lutein,
Astaxanthin, Cyanidin-3-Glucoside, and DHA on Accommodative Ability. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997915/ (Accessed 1/23/2018)
7 Natural products and body weight control. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336927/ (Accessed 1/23/2018)
8 Krill Oil Overview, Uses, Side Effects. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1172-krill%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=1172 (Accessed 1/31/2018)
9 Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479465 (Accessed 1/29/2018)
10 Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). University of Maryland Medical Center. https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa (Accessed 1/29/2018)
11 Vitamin Supplements: Hype or Help for Healthy Eating. American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/vitamin-supplements-hype-or-help-for-healthy-eating. (Accessed 1/31/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Updated 5/13/2021 (Originally Published 2/27/2017)