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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

A reexamination of krill oil bioavailability studies

Norman Salem* and Connye N Kuratko

Author Affiliations

Nutritional Lipids, DSM Nutritional Products, 6480 Dobbin Road, Columbia, MD 21045, USA

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:137  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-137

Published: 26 August 2014

Abstract

It has proven difficult to compare the bioavailability of krill oil (KO) vs. fish oil (FO) due to several of the characteristics of KO. These include the lower concentration of the active ingredients, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n3), in KO as well as differences in their ratio relative to FO as well as the red color due to astaxanthin. In addition, the lipid classes in which EPA and DHA are found are quite different with KO containing phospholipid, di- and tri-glycerides as well as non-esterified fatty acid forms and with FO being primarily triglycerides. No human study has yet been performed that matches the dose of EPA and DHA in a randomized, controlled trial with measures of bloodstream EPA and DHA content. However, several claims have been made suggesting greater bioavailability of KO vs. FO. These have largely been based on a statistical argument where a somewhat lower dose of KO has been used to result in a similar bloodstream level of EPA and/or DHA or their total. However, the magnitude of the dosage differential is shown to be too small to be expected to result in differing blood levels of the long chain n-3 PUFAs. Some studies which have claimed to provide equal doses of KO and FO have actually used differing amounts of the two major n-3 fatty acid constituents. It is concluded that there is at present no evidence for greater bioavailability of KO vs. FO and that more carefully controlled human trials must be performed to establish their relative efficacies after chronic administration.

Keywords:
Fish oil; Krill oil; Bioavailability; Omega-3 fatty acids