Krill are small crustaceans similar to shrimp, and they are a major food source for whales, penguins, seals, and fish. Krill oil is typically extracted from a species of Antarctic krill, and it is sold as a dietary supplement, mostly in capsule form. Like fish oil, krill oil is a highly concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids. The oil contains other fatty acids derived from phospholipids, and it is a good source of astaxanthin, a type of carotenoid. Patients have used krill oil to help with conditions such as high blood pressure, premenstrual syndrome, osteoarthritis, and depression. While more research is needed on the potential benefits of using this oil as a treatment for certain medical conditions, patients interested in taking this supplement can consult their physician about whether krill oil might be useful for their individual health needs. When taking a krill oil capsule, the capsule must be swallowed whole; puncturing the capsule is not recommended. Patients who are pregnant may need to avoid krill oil during their pregnancy due to its mercury content. In addition, individuals having surgery will need to stop taking these supplements at least two weeks before their operation. Krill oil should not be taken by patients who are using blood thinners.
Some of the major benefits of krill oil are outlined below.
Infection and injury can both trigger inflammation, the process by which the body attempts to fight damage and heal itself. While this response is healthy in the short term, long-term (chronic) inflammation is a major risk factor for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and metabolic syndrome. Research suggests krill oil supplements may be helpful to patients experiencing this type of inflammation. In fact, the unique makeup of krill oil could enable it to be more easily absorbed by the body as compared to fish oil. In a laboratory study conducted in test tubes, scientists found krill oil successfully reduced the production of inflammatory substances by intestinal cells after they were introduced to harmful bacteria. Research in humans has shown similar results. A study of ninety subjects who all had chronic inflammation concluded the daily use of a three hundred-milligram krill oil supplement reduced levels of a single inflammatory marker by as much as thirty percent over one month. A smaller investigation of twenty-five patients with high cholesterol found taking one thousand milligrams of krill oil provided a greater reduction in a specific inflammatory marker than a two thousand-milligram supplement of purified omega-3 fatty acids did.
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