Krill oil versus fish oil in modulation of inflammation and lipid metabolism in mice transgenic for TNF-α

Eur J Nutr. 2013 Jun;52(4):1315-25. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0441-2. Epub 2012 Aug 25.


Purpose: Biological effects of marine oils, fish oil (FO) and krill oil (KO), are mostly attributed to the high content of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), predominantly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The study was aimed to investigate the influence of FO and KO on lipid homeostasis and inflammation in an animal model of persistent low-grade exposure to human tumor necrosis factor α (hTNF-α) and to evaluate whether these effects depend on the structural forms of EPA and DHA [triacylglycerols (TAG) vs. phospholipids].

Methods: Male C57BL/6 hTNF-α mice were fed for 6 weeks a high-fat control diet (24.50 % total fats, w/w) or high-fat diets containing either FO or KO at similar doses of n-3 PUFAs (EPA: 5.23 vs. 5.39 wt%, DHA: 2.82 vs. 2.36 wt% of total fatty acids).

Results: We found that KO, containing bioactive n-3 PUFAs in the form of phospholipids, was capable of modulating lipid metabolism by lowering plasma levels of TAG and cholesterol and stimulating the mitochondrial and peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation, as well as improving the overall carnitine turnover. Though the administration of FO was not as effective as KO in the lowering of plasma TAG, FO significantly improved the levels of all cholesterol classes in plasma. Except from the increase in the levels of IL-17 in FO-fed mice and a trend to decrease in MCP-1 levels in KO-fed animals, the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were not substantially different between treatment groups.

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that FO and KO are comparable dietary sources of n-3 PUFAs. However, when quantitatively similar doses of n-3 PUFAs are administered, KO seems to have a greater potential to promote lipid catabolism. The effect of dietary oils on the levels of inflammatory markers in hTNF-α transgenic mice fed a high-fat diet needs further investigations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Carnitine / blood
  • Carnitine / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / metabolism
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Euphausiacea / chemistry*
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / blood
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / etiology
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / immunology
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / prevention & control*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cytokines
  • Fish Oils
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Oils
  • Phospholipids
  • TNF protein, human
  • Triglycerides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • Carnitine