Krill Bill: The Hidden Toll of Krill Oil Supplements

There is no better antidote to human hubris than a bathroom scale. For all that we’ve achieved, our species remains a minuscule part of Nature, and unlikely to be missed if we had anywhere else to go to. To put things in perspective, consider the krill – a tiny crustacean that does nothing but feed on plankton. Just one single subspecies of krill would be sufficient to displace the entire mass of humanity – twice.

Fortunately, our race has taken prompt remedial action by harvesting them for food. Their processed remains are now found in animal feed as a form of “protein bulk”, which is effectively a seafood equivalent of the “mystery” in “mystery meat”. As fisheries go they aren’t making huge profits from these sales, but the enterprising plough on nonetheless for a very good reason. It turns out that these little creatures secrete buckets of pure gold.

The benefits of krill oil are now emblazoned throughout health stores; salespeople on commission are tattooing them on their foreheads for good measure. There is at least one promising ingredient in them: a form of anti-oxidant called astaxanthin. Research on its potential health benefits is ongoing, but at least there’s no question of food safety. Most national regulatory bodies already classify it as a legal food colouring additive.

This colourful antioxidant is now poised to steal the fish-oil thunder, by virtue of its relative purity and superior benefits. Of course, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint exactly where the superiority lies, since fish oils contain a larger variety of anti-oxidants, all of which come with proven benefits. (It must be noted that uric acid, the most abundant form of anti-oxidant in the human body, is responsible for gout when it is too readily available.) Omega-3, an essential fatty acid, is also conspicuously absent in krill oils. This is because the oils are derived from deep-sea fish that have been feeding on omega-3 rich microalgae all its life, whereas individual krills have too small a body mass to store anything within its flesh.

The tattooed salespeople would probably remind you at this point that this also happens to be the reason krill oils are free from heavy metal poisons, since they can’t accumulate anything properly. However, any decent manufacturer would put their marine oil products through a rigorous distillation process. With fish oil, you have a purified condensate of fatty acid; with krill oil, you have a purified mixture of colour additives.

So if you don’t want to lose out on the potential benefits of krill oil, there’s one cost-effective solution you can take. Simply buy fish oils impregnated with astaxanthin, and you will have hedged your bets without accidentally upsetting the balance in our ecology, or the balance in your bank account. Do not under any circumstances neglect your omega-3 intake, since it’s now conclusively associated with a wide range of cardiovascular and degenerative disorders.

Besides, when we’re dealing with dietary supplements, the devil you know beats the devil you don’t. Who knows what those shrimp-like creatures are up to anyway? There are so many of them.