Within the ocean, krill is available in massive quantities.
Whilst swarms of krill in the southern oceans are increasingly being exploited by man for commercial benefits, many view Antarctic krill as a sustainable source.
Within Antarctica, the harvesting of krill is regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is part of the Antarctic Treaty System. Less than one percent of the krill population is harvested each year.
Provided minimal volumes of Antarctic krill are harvested, projections have shown that this practice can continue for centuries without any noticeable effects on the krill population.
This compares drastically to fish stocks in many parts of the world, which on occasion have been exploited to the degree where fisheries have collapsed.
Studies have shown that wild caught fish contain a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids . This is due to the omega-6 rich foods, farmed fish are fed.
From this it is reasonable to expect krill oil derived from wild caught krill to have higher ratios of omega-3 to omega-6, compared to fish oil from farmed fish.
Compared to fish oil, krill oil may be of a much higher quality. High quality krill oil, derived from cold Antarctic waters, may be of greater purity compared to fish oil derived from seas exposed to more pollutants and the influence of man.
Compared to wild caught Antarctic krill, there is a higher risk of contaminants in fish from more polluted waters, which may contain traces of dioxins, PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury.
Krill are at the lower end of the food chain, unlike fish which are more likely to accumulate contaminants in greater quantities from dietary sources further down the chain.
Unlike many fish oils, Antarctic krill oil comes from a continent where there are fewer contaminants in the environment. However, it should be stated that there are commercially available, high quality brands of fish oil which use wild caught, naturally fed fish from unpolluted waters; these include Nordic Naturals fish oil.
Unlike fish oil, krill oil has no fishy aftertaste. This makes krill oil more palatable and more perhaps more likely to be taken by those who experience the fishy after taste of fish oil, a possible side effect of omega-3 based fish oils.
In balance it should be noted that in many cases moderate doses of fish oil omega-3 does not produce a fishy after taste.
Unlike fish oil, krill oil contains an important and powerful antioxidant called axtaxanthin. Quality krill oil supplements will contain high levels of axtaxanthin. Astaxanthin as an antioxidant, helps to make krill oil less perishable, unlike fish oil which is easily damaged when it is exposed to air.
When fish oil oxidizes, more antioxidants are required to neutralize the free radical molecules. Hence, under some circumstances more antioxidants should be taken alongside fish oil if the oil starts to perish.
Quality supplements like Mercola Krill Oil supply the oil in capliques. Capliques are hard shelled 2 part capsules in which a band is sealed around the join. The sealed band helps prevent the krill oil come into contact with oxygen which would make the product more perishable and reduce its effectiveness.
A biochemical property of krill oil is that at the molecular level a phosphate molecule is attached. The presence of phosphate molecules classes krill oil omega-3's as phospholipids.
Phospholipids significantly increase the absorption or bioavailability of krill oil omega-3's. This means the beneficial omega 3 from krill oil is more readily available to important areas of the body such as brain tissue.
One advantage of the high bioavailability of krill oil when compared to fish oil, is that you need far less krill oil to achieve the same benefits of omega-3. For example, dosage of omega-3 rich fish oil may be up to 5 grams, compared to only 1 gram of high quality krill oil.
Which is better?
From the information presented it's clear that Antarctic krill oil, a rich high quality source of omega-3, has several advantages when compared to fish oil.
It should be stated however, that supplementing the diet with omega-3 is generally a good thing regardless of whether it is from a krill or fish oil based source. Many benefits of omega-3 may be experienced through taking either type of oil.
For those on a budget, fish oil based supplements may be the better option as they tend to be cheaper, provided they are of sufficient quality. Norwegian based Nordic Naturals fish oils are a popular supplier of fish oil which have a guaranteed purity.
However, as krill oil is rich in omega-3 phospholipids which have a high degree of absorption by the body, lesser amounts are required which may offset the extra expense of this type of oil.