Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil: Battle of the Omega-3 Fats
By: Dave Asprey
December 1, 2014
Omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil and krill oil are getting a lot of attention in the media as superfoods and healthy fats, and deservedly so.
EPA and DHA are necessary for proper functioning, particularly in your brain. DHA plays a very important role in your nervous system functioning, provides anti-inflammatory benefits, and is also associated with improved mood, insulin sensitivity, muscle growth, and better sleep.
And your body can actually turn EPA into DHA if your desaturase enzymes are working…
So which is better for you, krill oil or fish oil? Watch it here:
Taking adequate amounts, around 1 gram a day, of krill oil or a high quality fish oil, can do wonders for keeping your brain performing at its highest levels. You can also eat seafood, something I heartily encourage on the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap (get it for free here).
Why Krill Over Other Omega 3 Oils?
Krill oil is a superior source of EPA and DHA because the polyunsaturated fats are packaged as phospholipids, which can be used immediately by your body. The EPA and DHA in fish oil, on the other hand, are typically packaged as triglycerides and have to undergo additional processing in order to make them bioavailable. Krill oil is also more stable because it includes astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant, that protects the fragile fats from oxidizing. I take extra astaxanthin every day!
Animal-based omega-3’s from krill and fish oils are both better sources than vegetable-based omega-3’s, such as the Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) in flax oil. Only about 1-4% of ALA is converted into DHA, so getting those higher potency sources from krill and fish is more efficient. Vegetable-based sources also contain oxidized inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, which is another reason that they aren’t Bulletproof.
Taking too much EPA and DHA can be detrimental since they do cause blood thinning, they can suppress healthy levels of arachidonic acid (AA), and delicate fish oils can be inflammatory since they break down so easily in light or heat or air.
The reason why the phospholipid form found in krill oil is easier for the body to use is that the majority of every cell membrane in the body is made of phospholipids. Cell biologists talk about all the other components in cell membranes floating in a sea of phospholipids. Omega-3s phospholipids make cell membranes more fluid and flexible. Meanwhile, triglycerides are how lipids are stored for later use and transport in the body, such as in adipocytes (fat cells), so it takes more steps to get fish oil omega-3s into cell membranes where they’re needed the most.
Watch out – low quality supplement manufacturers make “krill oil” that has a small amount of krill and a lot of much cheaper fish oil. Be sure you’re getting 100% krill oil! Quality matters.
When taken incorrectly, the less desirable effect of fish oils may be due in part to them being oxidized so quickly and overwhelming the liver. Because of the astaxanthin, krill oil doesn’t likely carry the same risk. To learn more check out “The Great Fish Oil Experiment,” by Ray Peat.
Your Dose of Omega-3 Knowledge For The Day
Omega-3s are one of the most popular health-related search terms ever – for good reason! For an awesome explanation of the science behind healthy and high quality fats check out this science post on omega-3 versus omega-6 fats.
As you’ll find on the Bulletproof Diet, amazing sources of omega 3s include wild salmon, grass-fed beef, algae oils, sardines, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, walnuts and flaxseeds. You can also optimize omega 3s through superior supplements like Krill oil. There are three common types of omega 3 fatty acids for you to know about: EPA, DHA, and ALA.
1 and 2) EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – both are long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and both come from animal sources. DHA is the really good one: it keeps your nervous system functioning and provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Higher consumption correlates with improved mood, greater insulin sensitivity, increased muscle growth, and better sleep.
3) ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – this is a short chain omega 3 fatty acid. ALA comes mostly from plant sources, and most animals can’t really use it, so they convert it to the super-powerful DHA we just talked about.
Herbivores and opportunistic omnivores like mice and rats are great at converting ALA to DHA. Humans, on the other hand, can only convert about 8% of ALA to DHA. That’s one reason why chia seeds and flaxseed oil don’t rank particularly high on the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap. The people selling chia seeds are quick to tell you that their product is high in omega 3s; what they fail to mention is that the omega 3 isn’t the right kind. You still convert some of it to DHA, but getting your DHA directly from animal sources is much more efficient.
TLDR? Take small quantities of the highest-quality source possible (whole wild salmon or krill oil or whole wild salmon oil) and you’ll be a happy camper.
- Article: read more on how krill oil can help improve your sleep
- Article: read here for the recommended list of optimal supplements