Finding the best krill oil supplements is a matter of being a knowledgeable consumer and reading the label. Here's how:
Let’s first review the krill oil labels on the major brand supplied by Aker BioMarine of Norway.
Schiff Mega Red Krill Oil:
Presently Schiff Mega Red Krill Oil is the largest-selling brand of krill oil. As you see from the label above, the company has chosen to market its product based not on the amount of phospholipids contained, but on the amount of omega 3s (EPA & DHA) in the product.
Also, there’s a bit of marketing psychology involved here. Mega Red Krill Oil comes in smaller capsules (300mg) than other major brands' capsules. Thus you are paying less per bottle, but you are actually getting a smaller amount and fewer total nutrients than if the capsules were 500mg each. Even 90 capsules of 300 mg each is 10% less than 60 capsules of 500 mg each. Most clinical krill oil studies were done with 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg krill oil dose per day. In one study one sub group showed some benefits from a 300 mg dose. That’s why most brands recommend 1,000 mg per day. That dose balances cost and clinical efficacy. The recommendation of 300 mg daily dose may be excellent marketing, but is not as solidly grounded in clinical research as a 1,000 mg dose.
Also, note that there is no mention of astaxanthin content on the label. Astaxanthin is a powerful anti-oxidant that accumulates naturally in krill because krill eat astaxanthin-containing algae that grows in the Antarctic ice. Sometimes more astaxanthin is added to the supplement as a precaution against oxidation. Such added astaxanthin is extracted from algae.
Research has yet to confirm this, but some scientists speculate that astaxanthin may synergistically enhance the effects of the phospholipid-based omega 3s in krill oil. Therefore, strong astaxanthin content may be important. Some consumers feel that the combination of krill oil and astaxanthin as a blend is important to them, and they opt for krill oil blends with extra astaxanthin from algae. These krill oil + algae blends can have up to 120 times more astaxanthin than seen in Mega Red Krill Oil.
Now let’s look at a brand with a krill oil blend supplied by Azantis.
Source Naturals Arctic Pure Krill Oil label:
Note here that the krill oil dose described on the Source Naturals product is two softgels, which supplies 1g (1,000mg) of the product. This Azantis krill blend contains fish oil to increase the omega 3 levels from triglycerides, while at the same time maintaining omega 3 phospholipids from krill at 42%.
Azantis Pure Krill Oil
Azantis also sells pure krill oil, without the fish oil component, to other resellers. That krill oil supplement is similar to the Mega Red Krill Oil composition on a percentage basis. Find to the right an example of such an Azantis pure krill oil label.
As we've said elsewhere, phospholipid-based omega 3s are what in our opinion define krill oil. When you compare krill oil vs fish oil, you'll find that the omega 3s in fish oil are triglyceride based, making them less bioavailable than the omega 3s in krill oil. High-quality krill oil has a signature of 400mg or more phospholipids per 1,000mg dose.
Also note the diffrence between the astaxanthin levels between the Azantis blend and the Azantis pure product. The blend has 1.5 mg per daily dose and the pure krill oil supplement has 0.2 mg per daily dose.
Neptune Krill Oil Label
Nepture Bioressources is the next krill oil supplier. This was the company that pioneered the krill oil market, and that has, so far, conducted most of the clinical research.
Source Naturals also sells NKO krill oil, supplied by Neptune Bioressources, so let’s review that label.
You can see that the amount of phospholipids listed signifies that this is, indeed, the profile of the original krill oil. Also, compare the amount of omega 3s stated on the above labels. Astaxanthin levels are also at 1.5mg, and that is good. This label dates from 2011, and some NKO resellers have since adjusted their labels to reflect slightly lower astaxanthin levels in the NKO krill oil supplement to 1.25 mg per 1,000 mg.
Phospholipids, or no phospholipids?
Let's turn now to a group of krill oil brands with 0.5% phospholipid levels.
We at WellWise feel that omega 3 phospholipids are a key ingredient in krill oil as that has been the kind of krill oil that has been clinically studied by Neptune and Aker.
However, as long as an oil is extracted from krill, it is not against the law to market that product as krill oil, even if such krill oil contains hardly any phospholipid. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard that says that krill oil MUST contain 40% or more omega 3 phospholipids to count.
Omega 3 phospholipids are a valuable ingredient. Pure phospholipids sell for as much as $300 per kilogram. When you do the math, you will see that these phospholipids make up a significant portion of the value in krill oil.
Secondly, there’s no regulatory mandate to disclose phospholipid levels on the label. The combination of low phospholipid levels and no disclosure of such fact on the label may set consumers up for a disappointing experience.
These brands are often marketed at very low prices. Consumers, who believe that all krill oils are the same, could get the impression that they got a steal of a deal by buying one of these low budget products.
How to recognize these krill oil supplements?
It’s hard for consumers to be positively sure that the krill oil contains relatively low levels of phospholipids if it is not spelled out on the label. But here are some things to look for:
Does the label disclose phospholipids content? Is it 0.5% or 40%?
Relatively low Omega 3 levels?
Does the label or the marketing emphasize triglycerides rather than phospholipids?
Is it relatively cheap krill oil?
To the right another label by another brand. This one has even lower omega 3 levels and discloses that it contains 5 mg (or 0.5%) phospholipid.