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Krill oil is an extract prepared from a species of Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba. Two of the most important components in krill oil are omega-3 fatty acids similar to those in fish oil, and phospholipid-derived fatty acids (PLFA), mainly phosphatidylcholine (alternatively referred to as marine lecithin).
Studies have shown toxic residues in Antarctic krill and fish; however, the United States Food and Drug Administration has accepted notices from krill oil manufacturers declaring that krill oil and products derived from it meet the standards for Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status, although the FDA itself has not tested the products. While not an endangered species, Antarctic krill are a mainstay of the diets of many ocean-based species including whales and there is some environmental and scientific concern that their population has decreased dramatically both due to climate change and human harvesting.
Difference between krill oil and fish oil
Krill oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), bound mostly to phospholipids. The composition of EPA and DHA in krill oil has been quantified to include 69 choline-containing phospholipids and a phosphatidylcholine concentration of 34 grams per 100 grams of oil. There are several differences between krill oil and fish oil, mainly in the omega-3 fatty acids carrier. Unlike fish oil, in which the omega-3 fatty acids are attached only to triglycerides, in krill oil the majority are attached to phospholipids while the rest are attached to triglycerides. A phosphorus group, which is further linked to an organic, hydrophilic, headgroup, is also attached to the glycerol backbone of phospholipids. The headgroup can consist of choline (the major phospholipid in krill oil), ethanolamine, glycerol, inositol or serine. This difference in structure results in different chemical behavior: Triglycerides are highly hydrophobic, thus they do not mix with water. Conversely, phospholipids are amphipathic because they contain a hydrophilic headgroup on one end and hydrophobic chains on the other end. Due to this unique structure, phospholipids are able to mix with water.
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