Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for our good health. Our bodies cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids so we must get them through food or supplements. While all omega-3s are good for our health, the long-chain variety, such as found in fish, have been found to be more efficiently converted by our bodies than the shorter-chain varieties, like Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is found in canola and linseed (or flaxseed) oils, soybeans and green vegetables.


The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggest a dietary target of 430 mg of omega-3 fatty acids a day for women and 610 mg a day for men. You need to eat at least two meals featuring oily fish a week to get this much and research has shown that more than 75 per cent of us are not eating anywhere near that. That's where the supplements come in!


With all the marketing material out there, it can be hard to know which omega-3 supplement you should be taking. Fish oil has been hailed the wonder substance boasting a variety of healing and health-giving properties. Krill oil is the new darling among the omega-3 products, boasting all sorts of extra special benefits for our health. Here we weigh up the health benefits of fish oil and krill oil.



Fish oil is an oil derived from the fatty layers of cold water fish. This oil is rich in the long chain omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are known to be essential to human health. Evidence has shown that populations that consume larger amounts of cold-water fish have a lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and many other chronic diseases.


Krill oil is a nutrient-dense substance extracted from a tiny, bottom-of-the-food-chain crustacean called krill. It is said to provide the same health benefits as fish oil, but quicker and better, because it is also a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are essential to health.

For making supplements, the favoured species of krill is the Euphausia superba that live deep in the icy waters around the Antarctic. Living in every ocean in the world, krill are considered by many scientists to be the largest biomass in the world. Manufacturers of krill oil products for human use claim that if all the krill in the world were weighed it, it would weigh more than twice the weight of the entire human population.



Thousands of studies have been undertaken over the last 50 years which now undeniably show the many benefits of long-chain fatty acids. Here are some of the known or suggested health benefits of fish oil:


* Cholesterol and blood pressure – research has shown that taking fish oil can reduce levels of triglycerides by 20 to 50 per cent. High levels of triglycerides raise the risk of heart disease.
* Preventing heart disease – Fish oil has been associated with keeping people with healthy hearts free of heart disease.
* Treating heart disease – some research suggests that people who already have heart disease may be able to lower their risk of dying it if they take fish oil.
* Rheumatoid arthritis – fish oil has been found to help people with rheumatoid arthritis get over morning stiffness faster. Some arthritis sufferers have been able to reduce their reliance on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by taking fish oil daily.
* Period pain (dysmenorrhea) – some women who experience acutely painful periods have reported that taking fish oil alone or in combination with vitamin B12 can reduce the pain.
* Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children – some research has linked taking fish oil with improved thinking skills and behaviour in 8 to 12 year-old children with ADHD

With krill oil, research has found that in krill oil the long-chain fatty acids (omega-3s) are packaged differently from fish oils, coming in the form of a phospholipid which is easier for the body to absorb. This phospholipid also has the added bonus of containing another essential nutrient, choline, as well as an antioxidant.

This better absorption rate, up to 60 per cent better than fish oil, means less capsules a day need to be taken to achieve the desired health benefits – such as educing arthritis pain and symptoms, preventing heart disease and other cardiovascular issues, combating inflammation in the body, improving concentration and generally benefiting overall health. For example, people taking fish oil for arthritis, can need to take between nine and 14 standard capsules a day for effect, whereas, according to the krill oil marketing, only one capsule is needed to achieve the same effect. There are also claims that krill oil creates no fishy burps.



According to the experts, there is definitely room in the market for both, but the weight of evidence still rests with fish oil because of the thousands of studies which have been completed on it proving its therapeutic benefits. This is not to say that krill oil will not eventually be shown to be the premium omega-3 supplement on the market – but at this moment there is not enough scientific data to support that claim. Nevertheless, it remains a good source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.


The most important message is that Australians get their recommended daily dose of omega-3s from whatever source they can. Whichever type you choose, look for a reputable brand that follows good manufacturing processes and uses sustainably harvested oil.


Krill Oil product available at your chemist shop are Bio Organics Super Krill Oil 1200, Swisse High Strength Deep Sea Krill Oil, Totally Natural King Krill Oil, Blackmores Eco Krill Oil, Omegagen Cardio, Nature's Own Krill Oil, Blooms Wild Red Krill Oil and Bioglan Red Krill Oil.


Fish oil products available at Your Chemist Shop are Swisse Ultiboost Odourless Fish Oil, Ethical Nutrients Fish Oil, Blackmores Odourless Fish Oil, Nature's Own Odourless Fish Oil.