Krill oil is quickly becoming a popular dietary supplement in the United States. Many proponents claim that krill oil benefits supersede and surpass any fish oil benefits, and suggest that supplementation with krill is a superior option. Marketers of krill oil have done a brilliant job making claims like “better absorption than fish oil” and have even skewed comparison studies to make krill appear “significantly more effective” in improving health conditions when compared to fish oil.
It is important to understand that although krill oil may one day end up proving itself to be a better supplement than fish oil, there remains insufficient scientific evidence to support this notion or any other bold krill oil claims. Most studies examining the therapeutic benefits of krill oil have been short-term and conducted with very small sample sizes. That said, there are minimal dangers of krill oil supplementation and many people have experienced first-hand that krill oil decreases symptoms of certain health conditions (e.g. reducing triglycerides).
The Best Krill Oil Supplements & Brands
If you search Amazon.com for “krill oil” – you’ll notice that there are over 850 different options. Although the number of options is minimal compared to the different fish oil brands, it is still difficult to assess quality based solely on user reviews. In fact, it is thought that many companies fabricate reviews and testimonials to entice prospective buyers. Additionally, most people don’t really know how to examine krill oil products – they just buy something, cross their fingers, and hope that it’s improving their health.
Problems with Krill Oil Supplements
There are several problems associated with krill oil supplements that your average buyer doesn’t really understand. These problems include things like: misleading marketing, discrepancies between the ingredients listed and what’s actually in the product, encapsulation modalities, and purchasing expired and/or rancid krill oil.
- Brand name isn’t indicative of quality: First of all, it is important to realize that just because a certain supplement company is reliable with other supplements, doesn’t mean that their krill oil is top notch. It is important falling victim to the trap of assuming that because a particular company makes quality vitamins that they also make good krill.
- Misleading marketing: Most supplement companies want to sell as much krill oil as possible, it’s why they’re in business. Companies often market that you’re getting “the most krill oil for your money,” but getting a lot of oil doesn’t really mean much. If the krill oil is low quality and doesn’t contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, or astaxanthin – this is problematic. Many people assume that if they’re getting a lot of total oil that they’re getting a good deal – this is not the case.
- Ingredient accuracy & listing: The ingredients listed in the krill oil should be accurate with what’s actually in the product. The way many companies dupe people is by listing the amounts per serving on the bottle, but listing the serving size as “2 capsules” instead of one. Many people don’t catch this little tidbit until they’ve already bought the product. It should also be mentioned that some companies don’t even list essential ingredient quantities such as: astaxanthin, phospholipids, or omega-3 fatty acids. They may list that the krill oil contains them, but the exact quantities are unspecified. Companies like this should be avoided, but your average consumer may not know enough to be concerned.
- Expired products: It is very important that you’re purchasing a krill oil that is not expired or has been subject to oxidation. Unfortunately, many supplement companies are pawning off expired krill oil to consumers and misleading them with their purchases. Although the antioxidant content within krill oil helps prevent oxidation, it is not a guarantee that the krill oil you’re buying has not yet become rancid.
- Encapsulation: Some have suggested that the modality of encapsulation may dictate the efficacy and absorption of the krill oil. While this is subject to debate, it is something that should be tested nonetheless. Most experts suggest that both soft gel format and the patented “capliques” provide equal efficacy. It has been thought that certain types of encapsulation may also be better than others in mitigating potential oxidation.
Finding the Best Krill Oil Supplement on the Market
When shopping for krill oil, it is important to place an emphasis on quality over quantity. You need to know that you’re getting pure krill oil from a reliable source. Unreliable sources sell krill oil that is compromised in quality with inaccurate listings of ingredients. Once you have determined the highest quality brands, then you can worry about cost. The cost should never trump the quality of product; you’re better off not taking krill oil than subjecting yourself to a low quality source.
It is imperative to emphasize quality of krill oil supplements over the quantity of the oil that you’re getting for your money. Currently the best predictor of quality can be derived from The International Krill Oil Standards Program (IKOS). This is a third-party testing and accreditation program for all krill oil omega-3 products. The IKOS Program is run by Nutrasource Diagnostics, Inc. – the same company that is responsible for the trusted IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) Program.
The IKOS provides free consumer reports of tested krill oil supplements. While it is free for krill oil supplement companies to send their product in for testing, many would rather avoid this test so that they can (potentially) mislead customers or manufacture a questionable product. The IKOS conducts an evaluation that evaluates krill oil supplements on a 5-star rating scale.
IKOS 5-Star Rating Scale
In order for a product to get a full 5-star rating, it must meet the evaluation criteria listed below. Keep in mind that each product gets a star for passing each of the following tests.
- Product meets EPA, DHA and phospholipid label claims
- Product meets astaxanthin label claims
- Product meets PCB, PCDD/F and DL-PCB standards
- Product meets peroxide standards
- Product meets heavy metal standards
Unlike most lab testing companies, the IKOS doesn’t attempt to promote a particular krill oil brand or product. They are a third-party program that is simply attempting to help consumers avoid impure krill oil products. It is also important to keep in mind that batches of krill oil need to be tested on an annual basis to ensure that the product is still safe. Therefore if you attempt to investigate a particular krill manufacturer, look at the expiration date of the product.
You should also be able to verify that the krill oil you’ve purchased has not expired. Most companies will print an expiration date on their product for you to see. Obviously the krill container and capsules should remain sealed and should not be stored in sunlight. Proper storage of the krill is at room temperature out of the sun; putting it in the refrigerator can cause problems.
- Source: http://www.ikosprogram.com/consumer-reports.aspx
Note: There are other independent lab tests and product evaluations that have been conducted by companies like ConsumerLabs and Labdoor. While these may be trustworthy, it is unclear as to whether their reports could be subject to bias. Nonetheless, you may want to use these resources as supplemental resources to IKOS.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
After you’ve narrowed down your search to only the highest quality krill oil supplements, it’s time to take a look at omega-3 fatty acid content – particularly the DHA and EPA per serving. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids that you’re getting from the supplement will likely determine whether you get any benefit. Krill oil suppliers with abnormally low amounts of omega-3s are unlikely to improve mental or physical health.
The primary reason that people supplement krill oil is to get omega-3 fatty acids. These are considered vital for brain function and health, as well as the health of the body. Unfortunately a large percentage of krill oil suppliers do not provide sufficient omega-3s. Fortunately the IKOS website only gives 5-star ratings for krill oils with at least 60% omega-3 fatty acid concentrations per gram of krill oil; this helps ensure that your krill hasn’t been diluted.
3. Astaxanthin & Phospholipids
Secondary ingredients that you’ll want to look for in your krill oil are astaxanthin and phospholipids. Should your krill be deficient in astaxanthin, you may not get nearly the antioxidant benefit that you would with one containing high levels of astaxanthin. Additionally the potential that your krill oil goes rancid will increase when there’s less overall astaxanthin to prevent oxidation.
You should also analyze the quantity of phospholipids within the krill oil. Low levels of phospholipids mean that the krill oil may have been diluted and will probably not be absorbed as efficiently by the body. Most krill oils should contain at least 40% phospholipids – for every 1000 mg, the phospholipids should be 400 mg. Never buy a krill oil supplement with abnormally low levels of phospholipids as this will decrease absorption.
After you’ve taken the time to weed out the low quality krill supplements and have found the quality brands, it’s time to consider the cost. Understand that in order to find the best value for your money, you’ll want to consider the cost per serving. But you’ll want to take things a step further by analyzing the contents of the: omega-3s, phospholipids, and astaxanthin per serving. Some companies may provide lower levels of these ingredients per serving, hence resulting in a cheaper price.
List of Best Krill Oil Supplements/Brands
It’s difficult to definitively state a particular “best” krill oil supplement brand. Many make quality products, but not many have actually sent their product in for IKOS evaluation. Until more companies get their product independently evaluated by the IKOS Program, it is unclear as to whether their ingredients are accurate, product is pure, and free of toxins.
- Davinci Laboratories
As of now only three companies are willing to have their krill oil supplements independently tested by the IKOS. While this doesn’t mean that companies not listed here are unreliable, it does mean that their reliability and quality of product remains questionable. To take things a step further, ConsumerLab randomly evaluated various krill oil brands and found: 3 products contained lower omega-3s than listed, 3 that were spoiled/expired, and 1 that had more toxins than is considered safe.
Companies that aren’t listed above can be included simply by submitting their supplement for IKOS review. This will provide them with a “Certificate of Analysis” which verifies that their product is safe by IKOS testing standards.
Krill Oil Rankings (Based on Value)
Since you should not be willing to risk quality, all of the “best” krill oils should be evaluated by the IKOS. If they get a 5-star rating, then they should be considered safe for human supplementation. After being considered safe, it is time to calculate the value that you’re getting for your money. Below are the three safest and best krill oil supplements for your money.
- Krill Oil: 1000 mg
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 199 mg
- EPA: 126 mg
- DHA: 73 mg
- Phospholipids: 525 mg
- Astaxanthin: 0.92 mg
- Servings: 60
- Cost: $33
Value: $0.76 per gram of composite omega-3s, phospholipids, astaxanthin
- Krill Oil: 1500 mg
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 299 mg
- EPA: 189 mg
- DHA: 110 mg
- Phospholipids: 620 mg
- Astaxanthin: 1.38 mg
- Servings: 30
- Cost: $25
Value: $0.90 per gram of composite omega-3s, phospholipids, astaxanthin
I should note that Viva Labs Krill is BY FAR my favorite Krill Oil supplement. I initially tested the NutriGold Krill and find that their gelatin caps are leaky and smelly; this isn’t to suggest that they don’t work or provide benefit (Krill likely smells). However, I have concerns with the rancidity of NutriGold Krill and less concern with Viva Labs’ product which is void of the rancid smell and is manufactured in caplique, non-leaky capsules. I recommend this brand to friends and family.
- Krill Oil: 1250 mg
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 260 mg
- EPA: 165 mg
- DHA: 95 mg
- Phospholipids: 500 mg
- Astaxanthin: 1.6 mg
- Servings: 30
- Cost: $27
Value: $1.18 per gram of composite omega-3s, phospholipids, astaxanthin
- Krill Oil: 1000 mg
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 240 mg
- EPA: 150 mg
- DHA: 90 mg
- Phospholipids: 440 mg
- Astaxanthin: 1.26 mg
- Servings: 30
- Cost: $45
Value: $2.20 per gram of composite omega-3s, phospholipids, astaxanthin
Which brand should you pick?
As you can tell by the rankings, NutriGold provides the best overall deal for total omega-3s, phospholipids, and astaxanthin content. By comparison, VivaLabs product is not far behind in terms of value for your money. However, Davinci Labs tends to have an exorbitantly priced product by comparison to the first couple options.
Unfortunately not many companies are willing to put their krill oil supplements through IKOS testing. If they were, we’d have more companies to which comparisons could be made. That said, it should be relatively easy as a consumer now that we’ve figured out who offers the best quality, and of the quality companies, which ones offer you the most value (in terms of ingredients) for your dollar.
Experimenting with krill oil supplements…
When taking a krill oil supplement, it is important to experiment to determine what works best for you in terms of: contents, dosage, and brand. Sometimes certain modalities of encapsulation such as capliques may prove to be superior than soft gels for effect. It is up to you to experiment and find what works.
- Contents: Certain krill oils contain varying amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and phospholipids per serving. You may want to experiment with different ratios and determine which ratio of these ingredients provides you with optimal benefit.
- Dosage: Since krill oil is not considered a standard treatment for any medical condition, there’s no recommended “dose.” If you have concerns about dosing and/or safety, be sure to talk to a medical professional. Most sources suggest following instructions printed on the bottle.
- Encapsulation: The format by which the krill oil is encapsulated may influence its efficacy. If you aren’t experiencing benefit from soft gel formats, you may want to switch to a “caplique” format and assess whether it provides more benefit. Some have speculated that the format of encapsulation may also contribute to slowing (or expediting) the oxidation process.
- Brand: Some people swear by taking certain brands of supplements over others. Although ingredient ratios should dictate differing responses to supplementation, sometimes it may just come down to a particular brand. If there’s a brand that you prefer over the others, go with it.
Note: Keep in mind that not everyone is going to experience noticeable benefit from supplementation of krill oil.
Why are you taking krill oil?
Although you may have heard from a source that krill oil has a ton of health benefits, have you actually conducted research to verify these claims? My guess is probably not. I have taken the time to research krill oil and haven’t been able to gather sufficient scientific evidence to support the recommendation of krill oil vs. fish oil.
Many people have been mislead by trendy marketing of krill. Since it contains astaxanthin (a “super” antioxidant) and phospholipids (for absorption), it must be better, right? Wrong. If you actually do some digging, you’ll find that the best fish oil supplement trumps the best krill oil supplement by a long-shot in terms of omega-3 content and that there is no significant evidence of superior absorption from phospholipids.
Additionally there is no evidence that 5-star rated IFOS fish oil is any less contaminated than 5-star rated IKOS krill oil. If you are concerned about your mental health and brain development, the omega-3 content (DHA and EPA) is what you should be concerned with. Fish oil contains significantly more omega-3 fatty acids per serving (4-5x) compared to krill oil.
While krill oil may eventually prove itself as being superior to fish oil in the future, there is currently no evidence to support current claims of superiority. For individuals that want the astaxanthin, phospholipids, and small amounts of omega-3s, krill oil should do the job. Additionally there is a lot of preliminary evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of krill oil. If you’re going to take a krill oil supplement over fish oil, pick a brand listed above.
- Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24689485