If you have heard of fish oil, then you will no doubt have heard of krill oil, the latest kid on the healthcare supplement block.
As with any type of new supplement, it’s important to do some in-depth research, before you can decide whether or not this is the answer to your health issues. Remember, the supplement world is largely unregulated, and that means that anyone can place a product up for sale and tell you it’s fantastic. The only way you can really be sure is by doing your homework, reading reviews, and finding out all you can about it.
Let’s explore krill oil in more detail, and specifically the side effects which may be associated with taking this type of supplement on a regular basis.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is an omega 3 supplement which is very similar to regular fish oil supplements. There are a few differences, which we will outline shortly, but overall, krill oil is one of the best ways to get a daily dose of heathy fats and omega 3s into your diet.
Omega 3s are vital for many reasons, with two of the most important being DHA and EPA. These are found within all krill oil supplements. The benefits of regular omega 3 fatty acids within the diet, either through food or supplements are:
- Reduced blood pressure readings
- Lower amount of triglycerides
- Slows down the presence of plaque which forms within the body’s arteries, otherwise causing a risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore reducing the chances of having a stroke or a heart attack
- Can help to lower the chances of developing a heart rhythm which is abnormal
- May help to reduce the chances of experiencing a sudden cardiac death for people who already suffer from heart disease
These are the basic benefits of omega 3s, but krill oil also brings extra benefits in addition, including:
- Reducing pain and discomfort for those who have joint pain, e.g. arthritis
- Helps to fight general inflammation within the body
- Can help women who suffer from troublesome PMS symptoms
- A boost to the immune system thanks to the introduction of a powerful antioxidant contained with krill oil naturally, called astaxanthin
What is astaxanthin?
The inclusion of Astaxanthin is one of the biggest difference between krill oil itself and regular fish oil, and we will explore a few more differences shortly. Astaxanthin is the reason why krill oil supplements may seem to be more red in colour, compared to the regular golden shade of the fish oil capsules you might have been used to in the past.
Astaxanthin is, as we have mentioned, an antioxidant and it is renowned for helping to boost the immune system, reducing blood pressure, and in some cases helping to treat or manage cancer symptoms. Astaxanthin is ideal for boosting heart health and also for improving skin conditions and general appearance.
Why Take a Supplement?
Many people find it difficult to get enough omega 3 fatty acids into their regular diet, because it mainly comes from fish. Not everyone likes fish to the degree that they want to incorporate it a few times per week into their diet. If that is the case then a supplement is the best way to make sure that you get your omega 3 content within your routine.
It is better to take a supplement than not to include omega 3s into your routine at all. Whilst it’s always best to go the natural route and try diet, the fact many people find this difficult means that the supplement market is booming.
Finding the ideal krill oil supplement is a process of research and reading reviews, whilst also arming yourself with all the necessary information on different products. This will help you find the best supplement for your needs.
You can read our review of the top krill oil supplements here.
Why is Krill Oil Different to Regular Fish Oil?
Krill oil is derived from a tiny crustacean which lives in the Arctic ocean. Krill is the food of choice of large sea mammals, such as whales, as well as penguins and seals. Krill is extremely abundant, but the harvesting process is a little more difficult than regular fish oil. As a result, the price of krill oil supplements is higher, but not significantly so. The hope is that as the harvesting process is streamlined and made easier, prices will also fall a little.
In addition to this, krill oil is not as easy to find as regular fish oil. You’ll find fish oil supplements at all regular healthcare stores and supermarkets, but krill oil is really something you’ll only find online. Again, this may change in the future.
The major differences between regular fish oil and krill oil are:
- Smaller capsules which are easier to swallow
- No fishy aftertaste, which is so common and famous with regular fish oil capsules
- A red appearance to the capsules, due to the presence of astaxanthin, the powerful antioxidant which occurs naturally within krill oil
- Krill oil may be absorbed by the body faster than regular fish oil, because its make up is a phospholipid but regular fish oil is a triglyceride. Phospholipids are thought to be easier to absorb, and therefore may give faster acting results
- As before, prices of krill oil are higher, and you can’t find the supplements as easily on the High Street, compared to regular fish oil capsules
Potential krill oil side effects and interactions of krill oil
We have talked about what krill oil, how it is slightly different to regular fish oil, and we’ve also talked about the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids generally, as well as the benefits of krill oil in particular. For completeness’ sake, we now need to talk about the possible side effects of krill oil, any interactions with medications, and who shouldn’t consider taking such supplements.
A lot more research and studies need to go into the exact benefits of krill oil, but also into their possible side effects.
Krill oil is considered to be safe for most adults, however there are always anomalies. The following people should not take krill oil, or should discuss with their doctor carefully before taking it:
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding
There isn’t enough evidence about krill oil in terms of its safety or otherwise during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and as a result, it is far better to avoid use during this time and wait until after birth, or after you have finished breastfeeding completely
Anyone who has a seafood allergy
There is no reliable evidence to suggest that krill oil is or isn’t safe for anyone who has a seafood allergy, but to air on the side of caution, if you do have a seafood allergy then it’s best to avoid these types of supplements, until further concrete evidence is known.
Anyone who has a known bleeding disorder
Krill oil is known to slow down the speed of clotting and that means that anyone who has a specific bleeding disorder may be at risk of bleeding. Again, more studies need to go into this risk to find out the specifics, so avoiding or using with caution is advised. Always speak to your doctor before you start to take any krill or fish oil supplement, if you have a bleeding disorder of any kind.
Anyone who is due to have surgery in the near future
Again, this is down to the clotting issue, but there is a concern that anyone who is due to have any type of surgery in the near future, e.g. around two weeks, should stop taking krill oil. The advice is to stop krill oil supplements two weeks before surgery and then to discuss with your doctor when it is safe to restart.
Anyone who has diabetes
Again, more research needs to go into this particular issue, but it is thought that krill oil can lower levels of blood sugar in those who have diabetes. Anyone taking krill oil who is diabetic should therefore monitor levels carefully and watch out for any signs of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Those who are very overweight or obese
Again, this is down to blood sugar levels, but those who are overweight or obese may experience a higher risk of developing diabetes or heart disease because of the link with lowered blood sugar and how insulin works within the body
Speak to your doctor
Before you seriously consider taking krill oil, if you fall into any of the above categories, speak to your doctor first, and if you get the green light to continue make sure you monitor your symptoms and how you feel during that time.
There are a few interactions to take into account also. If you are on any of the following medications, be sure to speak to your doctor before you take krill oil:
- Any medications that are designed to slow down blood clotting, such as anticoagulants or anti-platelet medications. A few specific medications in this bracket include Aspirin, Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, Heparin, Warfarin, and Clopidogrel, to name just a few. There are several others, so again, check this out with your doctor first
- Orlistat, Xenical, or Alli. These are drugs which are prescribed for obesity and when taken with krill oil there is a higher chance of decreased absorption into the gut, because the Orlistat is used to prevent fats (dietary) absorbing. It’s best to wait two hours between taking the two medications, but again, speak to your doctor first
General krill oil side effects
There are some general side effects of krill oil to consider, however these are not considered to be dangerous and if you do notice any, it’s best to simply monitor them and see how you feel. If they do not go away from a week or two of taking the supplements (i.e. your body gets used to them), they become worse, stop taking the krill oil and speak to your doctor.
The most common general side effects of krill oil are:
- Stomach aches and general stomach discomfort episodes
- A decrease in general appetite
- A change in the way things taste
- Excess gas
- Occasionally fishy aftertaste, or ‘fishy burps’, however these should be short-lived as krill oil is known to not have the aftertaste that regular fish oil has
Another side effect to be aware of is an increase in blood pressure, but this is a rare side effect to experience. If you have blood pressure problems, speak to your doctor before taking krill oil and simply monitor how you feel generally whilst taking the supplements. If you suspect your blood pressure might be on the rise, go and see your doctor to have it checked out.
Krill oil dosage guide
It’s important to know how much krill oil to take and how often. Every supplement is likely to be slightly different, so it’s important to read the label to see what the manufacturer advises. Remember, the supplement world is not regulated, so it isn’t a one size fits all experience. You should also speak to your doctor if you’re not sure, or if you have any concerns.
To give you a general idea however, the recommenced dose of krill oil is:
- 800mg per day for those who are classed as having a small body, or low body weight
- 1200mg per day as a regular maintenance dose
- 1800mg for those who are larger, e.g. heavier or large in body shape, and then reduce down to 1200mg as a maintenance dose
- Never exceed 2000mg per day
Krill oil is considered to be a great source of healthy fats to include in your diet, and is ideal for anyone who struggles with getting enough fish into their regular diet. Just one supplement per day is often enough to get your healthy dose of omega 3 fatty acids and therefore grab the major benefits, including a big boost to your heart health, one of the most important aspects of the body!
Be sure to shop around for your ideal supplement and read reviews to get the honest low down from previous users.
Writer, Product Tester.
Adele is a budding content writer with a passion for all things health and fitness related. In her time off Adele enjoys reading, travelling and exploring Sydney’s culinary delights.