The names sums them up perfectly. Fish oil is oil that comes from fish. Krill oil is similar, but limited to only antarctic krill (that’s a type of small crustacean). Despite being so simple in theory, fish oil and krill oil both have a major effect on the body of a human because of the Omega 3 fatty acids they contain. Getting enough of them is absolutely vital to being healthy.
Here at Pure Nootropics, we all take an Omega 3 source. We’ve begun to think of krill oil as a slightly-superior alternative to fish oil. We’ll talk about the general concepts of fish oil below, and then throughout, go into the reasons why you want to take a krill oil supplement over your standard fish oil one. Of course we offer a krill oil supplement, and that makes us slightly biased, but we sincerely believe it’s better and the entire Pure Nootropics team takes krill oil on a daily basis.
Elements of fish oil and krill oil
You’ve probably heard the terms omega-3 and omega-6 tossed around when fish oil is being talked about. Omega-6 is relatively common in the western diet; omega-3 however is not, and you can only get omega-3 from fish oil (by supplement or through diet by eating fish) or krill oil (through supplement).
Specifically, you need docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These two omega-3 fatty acids are prevalent in algae, which is the start of the aquatic food chain. The omega 3 algae is what krill feed on making them rich in omega-3’s too; the krill is the source of omega-3’s for the fish as the fish feed on krill. Pretty much all fish have DHA and EPA in them although to a varying degree.
Krill have an edge over your ordinary fish – when you take a krill oil supplement, you also get astaxanthin along with your DHA and EPA. It’s an antioxidant. In terms of antioxidant power of potency, it’s been found to be 500x to 6,000x stronger than regular vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin C. We’ll cover why this is so important later on in the chapter.
The human body can’t produce omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids (or astaxanthin) naturally. We have to get them from external sources. Omega-6 is no problem, but omega-3 is not found in many other foods aside from fish. Unless you eat a lot of fish, you’re probably lacking omega-3 fatty acids.
Enter fish oil supplements. You take one to correct the imbalance of fatty acids that our western diets give us. And if you take krill oil specifically, you also get a hefty dose of astaxanthin, which furthers the effectiveness of the supplement even further.
We’ll dive into the correct ratio for omega-6 and omega-3 later on, for now, let’s focus on you and how omega-3 fatty acids affect your body and brain so that you know why we’re recommending taking it; and why we’ve decided to offer a high quality krill oil supplement.
Essentially, there are two ways that fish oil can affect you: 1) getting enough will lead to you functioning at 100%, or 2) not getting enough will leave you feeling terrible, and over time, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids can actually lead to serious health complications.
Fish/Krill Oil is a natural anti-inflammatory
Fish oil has been proven over and over again to have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is a big deal. Think of any disease with the suffix “itis” by and large, those are caused by inflammation in some way, shape, or form. And aside from that, inflammation also has links to more serious diseases including cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Fish oil can reduce your levels of inflammation, even if your diet is conducive to inflammation. An excess of omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation. Even if you never eat fish (some people dislike the taste and/or texture, or you live in a desert), you can still be healthy with a krill oil or fish oil supplement.
Omega-3 is one of the most prevalent fatty acids in the brain
That statement should immediately catch your eye. If something is used by the brain, then you know it’s important. Omega-3’s are one of those most essential nutrients that you can feed your brain, of course many people get Omega-3’s through diet.
On a broad scale, humans have no idea how the brain works. So we can’t say that because you have an excess of omega-3 fatty acids, this happens, and it makes you feel a certain way. But we can study the effects. Although the working mechanism (the “this happens” part) isn’t known, we’ve seen brain boosts over and over again with fish oil supplementation.
Study #1: 2,000 norwegians were asked to write down their diets and then take a cognitive test. Those with fish of any kind were 2-3x less likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests.
Study #2: 3,600+ seniors were tested for silent brain damage – as in, brain deterioration that comes with age. Those who had any non-fried fish in their diets had a 25% lower risk of these abnormalities.
There are countless more studies out there in reputable scientific journals attesting to fish oil being a “brain food”. Although we don’t completely understand what happens, we can see that eating fish (and ingesting fish oil as a result of that) has a positive long-term effect on the brain.
A potential cancer prevention tool
In a study with 1,300 men, those who had fish in their diets were significantly less likely to develop prostate cancer. In fact, those who ate 4-5 servings per week were 64% less likely to develop it. (Guys – prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men. Just FYI.)
Healthier arteries for everything
Postmenupausal Women in Finland and the US were studied. Those who ate 2+ servings of any type of fish per day had significantly healthier arteries than those who are less than two per week.
Can you still have healthy arteries without a fish oil supplement? Absolutely. But adding one in certainly can’t hurt. Healthier arteries lead to increased blood flow, and a more efficient blood flow means that every organ in your body is getting more of what it needs every day.
Let’s get one thing straight – fish oil is not a miracle fat loss supplement. In the past few years as the hype behind fish oil has been built up to astronomical proportions, we’ve seen experts – even trusted ones – making somewhat outrageous claims as to the fat-loss power of fish oil.
Here’s the unbiased truth.
If you’re on the road to losing fat, then yes, fish oil will have an effect on your journey. You’ll lose more fat. But it’s not a weight loss pill – you will not see any effects from fish oil if you’re overweight and not doing anything to actively improve your health.
The two commonly-cited studies are these two:
Study #1: Reykjavik Iceland tested fish oil on young, overweight males. At the end of the study, those that took fish oil experienced, on average, 1kg more in weight loss than their counterparts who did not take fish oil experienced.
Study #2: University of South Australia does another study and finds that participants lost an average of 1-2kg more when adding in fish oil.
As you can see, it’s a potentially helpful addition to your weight loss regimen, but you shouldn’t be relying on it. The direct fat-loss effects are heavily disputed, and there are companies everywhere trying to sway public opinion through funded studies that conclude what they want them to.
When nootropics are being talked about, fish oil is often brought up because of how it affects your cell membranes. Studies have shown that fish oil aids in the repair of cell membranes – while this seems like a small task, it has an enormous impact on your overall well being, and specifically, your memory.
Your cell membranes serve two functions. They determine which elements can enter and leave each individual cell, and they serve as “relays” for your chemical messengers.
Without healthy membranes, your body won’t be able to regulate what enters and leaves each cell. Ideally, the toxins and waste leave while the repair mechanisms enter. If your membranes aren’t healthy, this regulation doesn’t happen at 100% efficiency. Toxins come in, and repairs aren’t carried out as quickly as they could be.
And if your membranes are worn down, chemical messengers can’t communicate (as there is no relay in between each pair), so you can’t recall memories as quickly – if at all.
The above is mostly speculation, but studies have proven correlation between fish oil supplementation and improved memory. Its effects on alzheimer’s patients are also pretty conclusive that it does affect memory in some way, shape, or form. Add in the fact that there is an abundance of omega-3 in the brain and you have a pretty strong case.
Finally, one study has suggested that fish intake (and thus omega-3’s) has been linked to depression, and those that consume less fish have higher likelihood of depression.
Krill oil exclusive: astaxanthin
Antioxidants do all of the following things for you…
- Prevent free radical damage to keep your cells and body tissue healthy
- Prevent age-related diseases (in addition to the preventive power of general fish oil)
- Studies have shown them to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging
- Basically, they get rid of natural toxins to keep you healthy in the long term
The more powerful the antioxidant, the more of the above benefits you get. Astaxanthin happens to be a ridiculously powerful one, and krill naturally have it in them, leading to all krill oil supplements having it, too.
Overall, you should take fish oil for your general health. Eating an imbalanced diet is a big deal if you’re not supplementing correctly. With the proper amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in your system, your body will operate as it should. And if you’re using any other nootropics, you’ll get the maximum effects out of them all.
How much Krill Oil/Fish Oil to take?
Dosage for fish oil varies quite a bit because of the whole omega-6 and omega-3 ratio aspect. If you’re someone who eats foods that are high in omega-6, you’ll need to supplement heavily with fish oil. If you don’t eat much at all, you might be able to get by with the lowest dose. But if you’re a normal human being, you’re not going to be meticulously measuring out how much omega-6 you eat every single day… not only would that take forever, but your calculations would probably be inaccurate unless you could weigh everything that you ate down to the gram.
Let’s make it a little bit simpler…
Overall, most recommend between 1g and 4g of fish oil per day. When we say 1g to 4g, we mean 1g to 4g of both DHA and EPA. All reputable supplement sellers will have the DHA and EPA percentages listed on the ingredients label – make sure that you’re getting an equal amount of each, or somewhat close to an equal amount.
It’s important to note that fish oil has a relatively low bioavailability, meaning that out of 1g to 4g, you only absorb a certain fraction of that. As a result of this, most people end up taking more towards the 4g end of that range.
Krill oil has a much higher bioavailability than fish oil does, so you can take much less of it and get the same effects.
Recommendations for krill oil dosage will still depend on the rest of your diet, but by and large, experts say that closer to 1g in the 1g to 4g scale is better. If you don’t feel your fish oil/krill oil doing anything for you, increase the dosage. If you start getting anxious or you just feel like it’s “too much”, drop it back down. You may also want to consider adding some actual fish into your diet. Tuna is cheap and packed with protein. Swordfish has the same texture as steak, and many say it does not have a strong fishy taste.
Warnings: upset stomach, “fish burps”, and random ingredients
Most (if not all) fish oil supplements are fat-soluble. This means that in order to digest them, you need fat in your stomach. Generally, it is recommended that you take your krill oil supplement with food, or that you at least have something in your stomach from a few hours earlier. If you don’t, you may feel sick and should make efforts to take the supplement with food; obviously if you still have problems regardless of when you take the supplement, then you should consult your healthcare practioner.
As for “fish burps” – a fish burp is when you take fish oil, burp, and unleash a torrent of breath that smells like raw fish. It’s not a desirable scent. In fact, if you’re talking to someone, he or she will probably recoil at it.
To negate the unwanted fish burps, take fish oil with a meal – not just a snack. All of that food will help to mask the odor. And of course, be aware of when you’re burping – don’t belt out a loud one when you’ve just taken your fish oil pill. No one will thank you for it. To avoid fish burps you can check out krill oil as an alternative. Krill oil does not come with the fish burps included. This is partly because krill don’t smell as strongly as the fish that are used for fish oil do, and partly because you have to take less of it (due to its higher bioavailability).
Finally, as with all supplements, read the label. Many fish oil and krill oil supplements have unnecessary fillers and additives. We’re not saying the most expensive option is the best one, but rather that you should do your research. We’ve tried to make this a comprehensive post about the differences between fish oil and krill oil, if you feel we’ve left something out please comment below and let us know. For those of you that prefer videos, I don’t think we could have done a better job than Dr. Rhonda Patrick did in her krill oil and fish oil differences video below: