Krill oil is a trendy, higher-priced alternative to fish oil. But, as anyone knows, higher price does not mean higher quality. And when it comes to krill, higher price certainly does not mean safety. For a tiny percentage of the population, the chief krill oil danger is that krill is potentially deadly.
What are krill? Krill are, well, mostly feces. These tiny ocean shrimp swim in schools of up to 100,000 individuals in a single cubic meter of water. To get a mental picture of what this looks like, imagine 100,000 shrimp in a large home aquarium.
Krill like to live next to icebergs. The bottom of an iceberg is home to enormous amounts of algae. During the night, the krill can dive hundreds of meters (up to 1,000 feet) to feast on the watery plankton. The chyme of water and algae bloats the krill and they float back to the surface.
The krill digest the plankton, fill with feces, and the denser feces sends them back to the bottom of the iceberg for their next meal. The older the krill, the deeper it dives, keeping it from competing with younger krill.
Not exactly appetizing? That's not the real problem. The real problem with krill oil is that krill oil isn't just oil.
Antarctic krill, which are most of the krill crop, contain high amounts of a protein called tropomyosin. This is the protein in shellfish that triggers allergies. If you are allergic to shrimp, crab, and/or lobster, this is what sets off an attack.
Larger shrimp in antarctic waters contain minimal amounts of tropomyosin, and are less likely to trigger allergies. If you had only eaten those shrimp, you might not even know you had a shellfish allergy until you used a poorly processed krill oil.
And allergy isn't the only problem with krill oil. Here are three more.
- Krill shells contain so much natural fluoride that they are toxic to humans. Krill are so tiny that they have to be mechanically shelled, and tiny bits of shell work their way into the final product. Were you to take an improperly processed krill oil over a period of months, one of the krill oil side effects you would notice first would be brown mottling on your teeth. Then you might experience other, more serious symptoms of fluoride poisoning.
- Krill oil has less DHA and EPA than fish oil. To be fair, the DHA and EPA in krill is more easily absorbed than the DHA and EPA in fish oil, but you have to take a lot more krill oil to get the same amount of essential fatty acids.
- Krill pick up ocean-borne water contaminants. Even in polar waters, there is some pollution. It's not as concentrated in krill oil supplements as in fish oil supplements that are not distilled, but krill are not toxin-free.
- Despite what manufacturers tell you, krill is not free of ocean pollutants.
One of the most important krill oil facts is that krill oil costs about five times as much as fish oil, and you need to take more krill oil to get the same benefit as fish oil.
When you consume antarctic krill oil, you are taking food away from penguins. When you consume arctic krill oil, you are taking food away from walruses, seals, otters, and ocean going fish.
And while there are only thousands of studies of the risks and benefits of fish oil, there have been only two studies of the risks and benefits of krill.
If you use fish oil, you can find molecularly distilled products that are fortified with astaxanthin and coenzyme Q10. Or if you use microalgae, you can find exceptionally pure products that are grown, rather than "fished," from the sea. Krill oil is potentially dangerous, and even if it weren't, it's not the best choice.