Background: Krill contains two marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), mainly bound in phospholipids. Typical products from krill are krill oil and krill meal. Fish oils contain EPA and DHA predominantly bound in triglycerides. The difference in the chemical binding of EPA and DHA has been suggested to affect their bioavailability, but little is known on bioavailability of EPA and DHA in krill meal. This study was undertaken to compare the acute bioavailability of two krill products, krill oil and krill meal, with fish oil in healthy subjects.
Methods: A randomized, single-dose, single-blind, cross-over, active-reference trial was conducted in 15 subjects, who ingested krill oil, krill meal and fish oil, each containing approx. 1 700 mg EPA and DHA. Fatty acid compositions of plasma triglycerides and phospholipids were measured repeatedly for 72 hours. The primary efficacy analysis was based on the 72 hour incremental area under the curve (iAUC) of EPA and DHA in plasma phospholipid fatty acids.
Results: A larger iAUC for EPA and DHA in plasma phospholipid fatty acids was detected after krill oil (mean 89.08±33.36%×h) than after krill meal (mean 44.97±18.07%xh, p<0.001) or after fish oil (mean 59.15±22.22%×h, p=0.003). Mean iAUC's after krill meal and after fish oil were not different. A large inter-individual variability in response was observed.
Conclusion: EPA and DHA in krill oil had a higher 72-hour bioavailability than in krill meal or fish oil. Our finding that bioavailabilities of EPA and DHA in krill meal and fish oil were not different argues against the interpretation that phospholipids are better absorbed than triglycerides. Longer-term studies using a parameter reflecting tissue fatty acid composition, like erythrocyte EPA plus DHA are needed.
Trial registration: NCT02089165.