The Latest Clinical Research on the Benefits of Krill Oil

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Scientific and medical research points to excessively high amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and a very high ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids, as present in the modern Western diet, promotes the development of numerous diseases and conditions, ranging from cardiovascular disease and cancer to inflammatory and autoimmune disease. The reverse ratio may have protective mechanisms against these diseases.

Limiting the amount of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially from processed seed and vegetable oils, can reverse the unhealthy ratio. Additional ways to reverse this ratio is to add fish and other foods high in omega-3s or to take a high-quality krill oil supplement.

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 While fish oil has been a popular addition to reverse this trend, there is a body of research to conclude that krill oil provides multiple benefits, especially with regard to oxidative stress and an anti-inflammatory response.

1. A multi-center, three-month, prospective, randomized study followed by a three-month, controlled follow-up of patients treated with 1 g and 1.5 g krill oil daily. Study results demonstrate within high levels of confidence that krill oil is effective for the management of hyperlipidemia by significantly reducing total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, and increasing HDL levels.

At lower and equal doses, krill oil was significantly more effective than fish oil for the reduction of glucose, triglycerides, and LDL levels. Krill oil 1-3 g per day (BMI-dependent) was found to be effective for the reduction of glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, and HDL, compared to both fish oil and placebo.

2. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study investigated the effect of krill oil on C-reactive protein in patients with chronic inflammation and to investigate the effectiveness of krill oil on arthritic symptoms.

Ninety patients were recruited with confirmed diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and/or rheumatoid arthritis and/or osteoarthritis and with increased levels of CRP (>1.0 mg/dl) upon three consecutive weekly blood analysis. Group A received krill oil (300 mg daily) and Group B received a placebo. CRP and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis score were measured at baseline and days 7, 14 and 30.

The results of the present study clearly indicate that NKO at a daily dose of 300 mg significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.

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3. Several studies have found benefits of krill oil against oxidative and inflammatory damage. Krill oil improves intestinal barrier integrity and epithelial restitution during inflammation and controls bacterial adhesion and invasion to epithelial cells. Thus, krill oil may represent an innovative tool to reduce intestinal inflammation.

In inflamed cells E-cadherin and ZO-1 decreased, with loss of cell-cell adhesion, and F-actin polymerization increased stress fibres; krill oil restored initial conditions and improved wound healing, reduced bacterial adhesion/invasion in epithelial cells and survival within macrophages; krill oil reduced LF82-induced mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines

4. Supplementation with n-3 LCPUFA is efficacious in the amelioration of depressive symptoms and quality of life in the treatment of depressed elderly female patients, as concluded by an 8-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. A group of 22 depressed women received supplementation, compared to a control group of 24 women. All were evaluated by the Geriatric Depression Scale to determine an endpoint of improved depressive symptoms.

 The mean GDS at 8 weeks was significantly lower compared with the n-3 group. The SF-36 physical and mental components were significantly increased in the intervention group. Compliance was good, as confirmed by erythrocyte membrane phospholipid FA concentrations, with a significant increase of EPA and DHA in the intervention group.

5. A study investigated the effects of krill oil and fish oil on serum lipids and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation and evaluated if different molecular forms, triacylglycerol and phospholipids, of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) influence the plasma level of EPA and DHA differently.

One hundred thirteen subjects with normal or slightly elevated total blood cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels were randomized into three groups and given either six capsules of krill oil (N = 36; 3.0 g/day, EPA + DHA = 543 mg) or three capsules of fish oil (N = 40; 1.8 g/day, EPA + DHA = 864 mg) daily for 7 weeks.

A third group did not receive any supplementation and served as controls (N = 37). A significant increase in plasma EPA, DHA, and DPA was observed in the subjects supplemented with n-3 PUFAs as compared with the controls, but there were no significant differences in the changes in any of the n-3 PUFAs between the fish oil and the krill oil groups.

No statistically significant differences in changes in any of the serum lipids or the markers of oxidative stress and inflammation between the study groups were observed. Krill oil and fish oil thus represent comparable dietary sources of n-3 PUFAs, even if the EPA + DHA dose in the krill oil was 62.8% of that in the fish oil.

6. Astaxanthin is a coloring agent which is used as a feed additive in aquaculture nutrition. Recently, potential health benefits of astaxanthin have been discussed which may be partly related to its free radical scavenging and antioxidant properties. Our electron spin resonance (ESR) and spin trapping data suggest that synthetic astaxanthin is a potent free radical scavenger in terms of diphenylpicryl-hydrazyl (DPPH) and galvinoxyl free radicals.

Furthermore, astaxanthin dose-dependently quenched singlet oxygen as determined by photon counting. In addition to free radical scavenging and singlet oxygen quenching properties, astaxanthin induced the antioxidant enzyme paroxoanase-1, enhanced glutathione concentrations and prevented lipid peroxidation in cultured hepatocytes.

Present results suggest that, beyond its coloring properties, synthetic astaxanthin exhibits free radical scavenging, singlet oxygen quenching, and antioxidant activities which could probably positively affect animal and human health.

7. Experimental evidence concludes that DHA-derived NPD1 regulation targets upstream events of brain cell apoptosis, as well as neuro-inflammatory signaling, promoting and maintaining cellular homeostasis, and restoring neural and retinal cell integrity.

NPD1 is promptly made in response to oxidative stress, as a response to brain ischemia-reperfusion, and in the presence of neurotrophins. NPD1 is neuroprotective in experimental brain damage, in oxidative-stressed retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, and in human brain cells exposed to amyloid-beta (Abeta) peptides.

NPD1 may be a protective sentinel, one of the very first defenses activated when cell homeostasis is threatened by imbalances in normal neural function. We provide here, in three sections, recent experimental examples that highlight the specificity and potency of NPD1 spanning beneficial bioactivity during initiation and early progression of neurodegeneration: (1) during retinal signal phototransduction, (2) during brain ischemia-reperfusion, and (3) in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and stressed human brain cell models of AD.

8. Krill Oil can significantly reduce dysmenorrhea and the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and is shown to be significantly more effective for the complete management of premenstrual symptoms compared to omega-3 fish oil.

In 70 patients with complete data, a statistically significant improvement was demonstrated among baseline, interim, and final evaluations in the self assessment questionnaire (P < 0.001) within the NKO group as well as between-group comparison to fish oil, after three cycles or 45 and 90 days of treatment.

Data analysis showed a significant reduction of the number of analgesics used for dysmenorrhea within the NKO group (comparing baseline vs. 45- vs. 90-day visit). The between-groups analysis illustrated that women taking NKO consumed significantly fewer analgesics during the 10-day treatment period than women receiving omega-3 fish oil (P < 0.03).

9. Recent findings suggest that fatty fish consumption may be protective against autoimmune diabetes in children; a Norwegian study found a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes in children who were given dietary supplementation of cod liver oil during first year of life. Likewise, a US study showed that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, was inversely associated with islet autoimmunity in genetically susceptible children.Fish intake has also been associated with a reduced risk of other autoimmune diseases in adults such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis

It has been suggested that intake of fatty fish may protect against both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Hypotheses rest on the high marine omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid+docosahexaenoic acid (EPA+DHA) and vitamin D contents, with possible beneficial effects on immune function and glucose metabolism.

10. Compared to normal weight adolescents, obese adolescents have lower serum omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) concentrations, augmented inflammatory activity and endothelial dysfunction. A study assessed whether n-3 supplementation increases the serum n-3 PUFA concentration, improves vascular function and morphology, and lowers inflammation in obese adolescents. Daily supplementation with n-3 capsules increases the serum n-3 PUFA concentration, improves vascular function, and lowers the degree of inflammation in obese adolescents.

Twenty-five obese adolescents (14 females, 11 males, age 15.7±1.0 years, BMI 33.8±3.9) were randomized to receive capsules containing either 1.2g/day n-3 or placebo for 3 months. The study was performed using a double-blind, cross-over design with a 6-week washout period. Anthropometry, blood pressure measurements and fasting blood samples were obtained before and after each treatment period. The vascular structure and function was measured after each treatment period.

The Bottom Line

Krill oil either equals or outperforms fish oil as a protective mechanism against numerous health conditions, according to numerous scientific studies. Krill oil supplements manage cholesterol profiles, from decreased LDL and triglycerides to increase in HDL. In addition, krill oil provides anti-inflammatory properties that protect joint health. 

Astaxanthin in krill oil provides anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The benefits of krill oil extend to adolescents and children, providing protection against autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, as well as benefiting vascular health. 

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