Krill is a Norwegian term meaning whale food. Indeed, this small shrimp-like crustacean forms the bulk of the diet of many marine mammals with baleen (a filter-feeding system inside the mouth), such as beluga and minke whales. It is part of the diet of squid, penguins, numerous fish and marine birds and makes up 98% of that of crabeater seals.
The best-known species of krill is Euphausia Superba, also known as Antarctic krill, as it is primarily in these southern polar regions that it lives and reproduces. It feeds there on phytoplankton and releases secretions which in turn provide nutrients back to the phytoplankton (1).
With an estimated total biomass of between 125 and 175 million tons, krill is thus an essential link in the marine food chain.
It has also been consumed in dried form for centuries by human populations in Northern Europe, Russia and Japan, where it features in many recipes (particularly soups).
However, it was only with the discovery in 2000 of an oil-extraction process which did not destroy the beneficial compounds of this amazing crustacean, that krill really began to be consumed by humans on a larger scale (2).
Why look to produce krill oil when fish oil is easier to obtain, has been widely used for centuries and is full of beneficial properties? Quite simply because, in addition to containing two specific types of omega-3 essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA), krill oil also contains phospholipids and astaxanthin(3).
So consuming krill oil provides both the benefits of fish oil, as well as an additional intake of astaxanthin. To obtain the benefits of a high-quality krill oil, free from pollutant residues, you could, for example, try the product Krill Oil (8).
Omega-3 and omega-6 are two groups of fatty acids termed essential, which we have to obtain from our diet. In fact, not only is the body unable to produce them, but it has to use them to synthesise other essential fatty acids(9).
Modern Western diets tend to be very high in omega-6, which is found in particular in pork and poultry reared on corn or soya, the two main types of feed for such farm animals. As a result, Western populations generally have a sufficient intake of omega-6, and as a rule, there is absolutely no need to increase your intake of omega-6.
Similarly, the growth in consumption of processed food since the 1950s means that many people in the West have a diet that’s too high in trans fatty acids which have an adverse effect on health.
In contrast, Western diets tend to be too low in omega-3. For example, the body might produce essential fatty acids from the DHA and EPA provided by dietary omega-3, but it does so in insufficient quantities.
In 2008, based on a review of all the studies conducted on the different fatty acids, a French researcher concluded that it was necessary to increase intake of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 precursor), as well as that of oily fish which contain omega-3 (10-11).
In order to obtain a good balance between omega-3 and omega-6, you therefore need to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of oily fish, either maintaining or reducing your consumption of meat, and avoiding processed foods.
By directly supplying the body with DHA and EPA, krill oil also helps to meet the urgent need for a higher intake of omega-3.