Similar in some ways to ultra-popular fish oil, krill oil is beginning to find its way into the health regimen of an ever-increasing number of people.

But what exactly is krill oil?

Where does it come from?

Let’s take a dive deep for answers to those and other questions about krill.

Found in all of the world’s oceans, krill, translated from Norwegian as “small fry of fish”, is one of the planet’s largest biomasses helping to sustain a diverse array of species in the natural world. Krill exist near the bottom of the food chain, feeding on phytoplankton and zooplankton. The krill convert these food sources into energy and in turn become the main diet for an incredible amount of sea life, including baleen whales, seals, penguins, squid, and fish.

One species in particular, the Southern Ocean’s Antarctic krill is especially abundant, with an estimated biomass of 500 million metric tons—making it a super source of energy for other living organisms. And it is this species in particular that finds its way into krill oil nutritional supplements.

Krill oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While the metabolic effects of krill oil are similar to those of fish oil, unlike fish oil, krill oil also provides antioxidants and phospholipids, which enhances its stability and bioavailability. Along with EPA and DHA, krill oil contains other fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, B12, and folate, and because krill feed on marine phytoplankton, krill oil also contains astaxanthin, a super-antioxidant.

The health benefits of krill oil are many. They overlap with those of standard fish oil, in that they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But they also stand apart in a number of ways. Here are the top three science-based benefits of krill oil:

Krill oil improves heart health

Krill oil has been shown to increase good cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol, which is associated with a lower risk of heart problems.

Some human studies of krill oil supplementation have shown that krill oil can reduce C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker that can predict cardiovascular issues.

In a mouse study of atherosclerosis the addition of krill oil to mouse diets inhibited plaque development and reduced the incidence of atherosclerosis. Another rodent study showed that krill oil reduced blood pressure.

Krill oil promotes healthy brain function

Of the two primary omega-3 fatty acids found in krill oil, docosahexaenoic acid is essential for brain development and regeneration, while eicosapentaenoic acid helps regulate mood and behavior.

The phospholipids in krill oil have additional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Phospholipids like phosphatidylcholine can reduce damage from oxidative stress and may prevent depression, dementia, and other forms of mental and cognitive dysfunction.

In a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 45 men aged 61-72, taking two grams of krill oil per day for twelve weeks improved their performance of mental calculations as well as working memory tasks.

A study of the effects of dietary krill oil in aging mice found that the supplement enhanced task performance, protected against oxidative damage, and helped prevent neurodegenerative disease.

Krill oil helps reduce inflammation

Chronic inflammation is linked to arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and other health issues, but taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements like krill oil can reduce inflammation in your body.

In a study of 90 patients with heart disease or arthritis, taking krill oil reduced their inflammatory markers compared to placebo and also reduced their stiffness, impairment, and pain. Additional human and animal studies of krill oil for arthritis have found similar results.

A separate study found that krill oil reduced inflammatory markers after exercise in rowers.

Studies of krill oil in mice have found that it can also lower an inflammatory maker called tumor necrosis factor alpha.

Additional studies, including in vitro and in vivo experiments, have demonstrated that krill oil could also provide anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, women’s health, neuroprotection, and anti-cancer benefits.

Krill oil has demonstrated its health benefits in numerous studies and holds even more promises to turn your body into a healthier, happier, well-oiled machine.

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