Dangers Of Krill Oil
Krill are tiny shrimp-like sea creatures with a hard external skeleton (known as crustaceans) that make up among the largest biomasses on the planet - between 500 and 800 million tons, weighing almost double that of humans. There are roughly 85 species of krill living in the world's oceans. However, the species that swims in the pure Antarctic waters, E. superba, is currently most popular for its nutritious oil and meat. In fact Antarctic krill is a so-called keystone species on which many of the oceans' predators depend on for their food, including whales, seals, squid, penguins and many species of birds.
Antarctic krill oil contains a highly nutritious blend of omega-3 fats, antioxidants and choline. Omega-3 fats are some of the most heavily researched supplements in the world. The omega-3 fats found in pure krill oil are predominantly EPA and DHA, the same as found in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. While the typical krill oil dose has less DHA and EPA than fish oil, the omega-3 fats in krill oil are bonded to phospholipids, as opposed to triglycerides in fish oil. Because of this, some health experts believe that omega-3 fats in krill oil are more easily absorbed.
Omega-3 supplements and fats are well-known for their many beneficial health effects including cholesterol reduction, lowering risk of heart disease, myocardial infarction, etc., asthma, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, depression, brain and retina development in infants, anti-aging and much more. Numerous professional organizations, such as the American Heart Association (AHA) now recommend regular consumption of omega-3 fats.
The potential for side effects from taking krill oil is very low, with a few exceptions. The phospholipids and antioxidants typical to krill oil have been consumed by humans for centuries. Individual components such as EPA, DHA, astaxanthin and choline have a well-established need and safety profile. EPA, DHA and choline can be considered conditionally essential, which means they are essential under some circumstances since our bodies cannot make enough to meet biological needs. Krill oil has also achieved affirmed GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status with the FDA.
Krill oil for human consumption is tested in numerous ways. First of all, salmonella, E. coli or staphylococcus must not be detectable by standards established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in krill products. Beyond these, testing is done for yeast, mold and water, which must not be present at all, or in no greater than amounts that are established as safe. Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as are found in krill oil, are susceptible to natural oxidation and can easily go rancid. The presence of antioxidants arrests this process. Krill oil already contains a powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin, because krill eat Antarctic algae, which is very rich in the astaxanthin found underneath the sea ice. Vitamin E, another antioxidant, is also typically added to krill oil formulations by manufacturers.
Further the UN, WHO and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set standards as to how many parts per million of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic and others any substance that is to be ingested can contain. Because krill is at the very bottom of the food chain, and because krill eat algae, these contaminants don't accumulate in the krill's system as much as they do in predators higher up the food chain. In other words, krill oil products are relatively free of dioxins and PCBs. Krill has a short life span, perhaps as short as two years - and they also reproduce quickly. Proper krill oil processing is necessary to reduce PCB contaminants. In general, krill oil suppliers report PCBs in the very low parts per trillion levels and below detection for some of the more harmful PCBs. The US FDA has set the tolerance level for PCBs in fish at 2 parts per million (ppm). The nearly undetectable levels of PCB in krill supplements easily fall within the FDA safety standards.
There are some dangers associated with the use of krill oil. For instance, it may have been harvested from contaminated fishing areas, mixed with another type or oil or not been tested for oxidation and rancidity. Krill oil should not be refrigerated because the cold air breaks down the gelatin capsules which can allow the oil to leak. Also, if people are allergic to shellfish, they may also be allergic to krill or fish oil capsules. Finally, patients taking anticoagulants or blood thinners such as warfarin, heparin or high dose aspirin therapy should be aware that krill oil can worsen the anti-coagulating properties of their medication, possibly prolonging bleeding time. It may also lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, so patients taking medications for these conditions should check with their healthcare giver before beginning krill oil therapy.