There have been many studies about the many advantages and some disadvantages of omega-3 fatty acids. Some disadvantages may be attributed to the source of omega-3 but the disadvantages far outweighs the disadvantages. Most experts suggest to go for the natural route, meaning to enhance one’s diet with foods that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They also stated that food contains other mineral and nutrients required by the human body to function normally. Taking supplements are not bad, but expert suggests to consult a trusted physician to guide you to get the best omega-3 supplement that will fit your needs.
One of the best omega-3 sources that holds second place in popularity is krill oil. The oil is harvested from shrimp-like crustaceans that are approximately 1-6 cm long. Krill lives in the ocean where it feeds mostly on phytoplankton. Krill is categorized near the bottom of the food chain but are the primary food source of big ocean animals like giant squids, whales, seals and fish. Commercial harvesting of krill is mostly made in the southern ocean and the north pacific ocean that runs across Japan and Canada. Krill that are caught are used for aquarium feeds, aquaculture, sport fishing bait, eaten as food and for oil to processed as krill oil omega-3 supplement. The oil is sold in health food stores or online in capsule form. The levels of omega-3 fatty acids are same as fish sources, and it's one of the reasons why krill is one of the popular choices as a supplement. Another reason why krill oil is popular because it contains the antioxidant called astaxanthin. The algae that krill eats creates and produces the red pigment in astaxanthin that gives crustaceans their pink-reddish color.
Antioxidants help protect the body from cell damage due to free radicals, or any unstable substances that can contribute to two different chronic illnesses. Astaxanthin found in krill can cross the blood barrier that helps protect the eyes, central nervous system, brain and liver from free radical damage. Most health conscious people use krill oil for the same reasons they use calamari, fish or algae oil, to get the required levels of omega-3 fatty acids. As compared to fish, krill does not cause any fishy aftertastes or fishy burps that are common to fish oil. With the popularity of krill oil supplements, there have been concerns about its effect on the balance of the marine ecosystem since it's one of the primary food sources in the ocean.
The liver is considered one of the most essential organs in the human body. One of its main function is to filter different toxins and waste products from the bloodstream as it normally flows in the digestive system. It is also responsible for protein synthesis and the production of biochemicals that are required for digestion. The liver is essential for survival and currently, there is no other way to compensate for the loss of liver function in the long term. The liver plays a very important role in metabolism and other body functions such as glycogen storage, plasma proteins, synthesis, decomposition of the red blood cells, detoxification and hormone production. The liver produces bile, which is an alkaline compound that helps in digestion through the emulsification of lipids. The specialized tissues of the liver have the ability to regulate a wide variety of high-volume chemical reactions that include the breakdown and synthesis of small and complex molecules which are essential for the body’s normal and vital functions. Because of the liver’s strategic location and many functions, the liver is prone to many diseases and infections like or due to alcohol damage, fatty liver, cirrhosis, cancer, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. These illnesses and diseases can interfere with the liver’s function and can lead to derangement of the normal liver process. However, the liver has the ability to regenerate and has a large reserve capacity. It will manifest symptoms after extensive damages. These diseases and illnesses can be prevented by good health and a balanced diet. Numerous studies and research have also linked omega-3 fatty acids maintaining good liver health.
One study that was published in the journal “Frontiers In Genetics” about the effect of omega-3 fatty acids from krill in the liver. The study involved laboratory mice in finding out the effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It was known by the researchers that dietary fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA have beneficial health benefits that includes improvements in glucose, lipid homeostasis and the modulation of inflammation. To evaluate the efficiency of the two polyunsaturated fats, the researchers performed a gene expression that profiled the lab mouse liver that was supplemented with either fish oil or krill oil. It was found that the omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil has downgraded the activity of the pathways involved in hepatic glucose production and the improved cholesterol and lipid synthesis. They also found that krill oil supplements increased the activity of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, while fish oil, DHA and EPA just modulated fewer pathways and did not modulate some key metabolic pathways that was regulated through the krill oil that includes lipid metabolism, glucose metabolism and the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Additionally, fish oil raised the cholesterol synthesis pathway which is the opposite effect of krill oil supplements. Both fish oil and krill oil did not make changes in the plasma lipid levels, insulin or glucose. The reason for this may be that the mice used in the study were younger and were fed a low-fat diet. The researchers added that the levers are essential in controlling the levels of carbohydrates in the body and lipid metabolism by using omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as natural sensors for nutritional state. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have the ability to focus and target specific transcription factors like the sterile regulatory element binding protein, the Max-like protein X and PPRA alpha.
However, the researchers added that the mentioned and specific regulatory effects are not shared by the fatty acids. EPA and DHA are linked to many beneficial effects on the human health and disease prevention and has the ability to regulate gene expression. The levels of these long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are both high in krill oil and fish oil, although they differ in their structural form. Fish oil, DHA and EPA are in the form of triglycerides while krill oil is in the form of phospholipids. As mentioned earlier, krill oil also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has the ability to protect the unsaturated bonds from oxidative damage. These differences in structural form can affect the incorporation into cells, the bioavailability that results in different molecular effects, the different tissue specifics and the susceptibility to peroxidation.
The omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are stored and formed differently as compared to fish oil. Many of the polyunsaturated fats are stored as phospoliphids which has a simpler digestive process as compared to omega-6 fatty acids. Previous research also found that the body can absorb the fatty acids in krill oil, although more studies are needed to establish these findings. One Canadian study found that krill oil helps women in managing their emotional symptoms of PMS and painful monthly periods. The study reported that women that took krill oil regularly reported needing fewer painkillers as compared to women taking fish oil.
Another study that was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has reported that krill oil has the ability to reduce inflammation specifically heart related diseases. The study was conducted by measuring the presence of CRP (C-Reactive protein) levels in the blood. The study subjects were divided into 2 groups, one group was given krill oil supplements and one is the placebo group. During the study, the CRP levels were measured 3 times – at the beginning of the study, seven days and 14 days after. The placebo group’s CRP levels increased by 15.7 percent after 7 days and again increased by 32.1 percent after 14 days. The krill oil group reduced their CRP by 19.3 percent after seven days and went further down to 29.7 percent after 14 days.
Although the mentioned research showed many promising results, further studies are still needed to establish the effectiveness of krill oil. If you decided to take krill oil as a supplement, consult your doctor first, especially if you have a history of allergic reactions to shellfish, crustaceans and other seafoods. Knowing the best supplement that will fit you will surely give benefits for a long time.
~ We would like to thank guest author Rose Fernandez for this informative article about how krill oil helps liver function.