Is Krill Oil a Help or a Hoax?

Do you ever feel like you are living in Wonderland, where nothing is as it seems? This thing is good for you, then it’s not, then it’s good again. Which swing of the pendulum are we to believe? Now they don’t know what to tell us about the nutritional supplement Krill Oil.

Krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the cold waters of the Antarctic Ocean. They are only about two inches in length but are of immense importance in the global food chain, providing sustenance for hundreds of different creatures, including penguins, fish, seabirds and whales.  Oils that are extracted from their bodies are a source of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA,phospholipids, and antioxidants, all of which have known health benefits.

It’s incredible how they can extract these oils from a two-inch creature, but they do. Krill contain enzymes that cause rapid self-destructiononce they are caught, so theextraction must be accomplished right out at sea for the best yield. The most common and economical method to do this uses solvents. Although the solvents are removed once the process has been completed, there is concern about how much mightremain in the oil, which would thenwind up in the supplement to be consumed. These chemicals may pose a threat to the environment, as well. There are other methods of extraction that are safer,but they are less efficient,more expensive, and/ormore time-consuming.

The benefits of omega 3’s are numerous. They can keep blood from clotting, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and curb inflammation, allof which are important to heart health. They are believed to lower the risk of depression, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and a host of other conditions for which research looks promising. The best omega 3 action is gained from eating oily fish, although that must be consumed in moderation due to mercury content. Fish oil and krill oil supplements are alternatives to those who aren’t crazy about fish, butscientific studies have not yet proven that these supplements provide health benefits to the same degree as eating fish.

Krill oil manufacturers claim superiority over fish oil supplements,but are they right? D r. Frank Shallenberger doesn’t think so. He said, “I’ve been a practicing MD for over 35 years. While I’m a conventionally trained doctor, I always advocate effective, natural solutions whenever possible. But when it comes to krill oil, I’m not a fan. I think it’s one of the most over-hyped, over-priced supplements ever sold.”  But then, again, he is hawking his own products in this article.Some of the evidence available on the benefits of krill oil is insufficient, and studies on long-term effects  are ongoing. It is not without side effects, either. Krill oil can cause gastrointestinal disturbances; can increase the risk of bleeding for those with clotting disorders; and can interact negatively with certain medications.

One of Dr. Shallenberger’s concerns is shared by some scientists: sustainability.There are millions to billions of tons of krill in the waters around Antarctica, so it would appear that the sustainability of krill should be constant. However, recent studies indicate that the krill population has declined by 85% since the 1970’s because of ice loss due to climate change. Partner this with a burgeoning demand for krill, and sustainability might not be a foregone conclusion.

How can be sure we are not messing with the marine ecosystem, putting massive numbersof ocean creatures at risk by the over-harvesting of krill? Do the pros of krill oil outweigh the high price, the risk of ingesting solvents, not knowing long-term effects,and potentially endangering the environment? Maybe. Maybe krill oil will be found to be every bit as beneficial as we are being told, and the cons will prove to be insubstantial. And maybe not. Only time and further research will tell.


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