Lipid-modifying effects of krill oil in humans: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Nutr Rev. 2017 May 1;75(5):361-373. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw063.


Context: Some experimental and clinical trials have shown that krill oil, extracted from small red crustaceans, might be an effective lipid-modifying agent, but the evidence is not conclusive.

Objective: The effect of krill oil supplements on plasma lipid concentrations was assessed through a systematic review of the literature and a meta-analysis of available randomized controlled trials.

Data sources: PubMed and Scopus were searched up to March 25, 2016, to identify RCTs investigating the effect of krill oil supplements on plasma lipids.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials that investigated the impact of at least 2 weeks of supplementation with krill oil on plasma/serum concentrations of at least one of the main lipid parameters (ie, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or triglycerides) and that reported sufficient information on plasma/serum lipid levels at baseline and at the end of study in both krill oil and control groups were eligible for inclusion.

Data extraction: Two reviewers independently extracted the following data: first author's name, year of publication, study location, study design, number of participants in the krill oil and control groups, dosage of krill oil, type of control allocation, treatment duration, demographic characteristics of study participants, and baseline and follow-up plasma concentrations of lipids. Effect size was expressed as the weighted mean difference (WMD) and 95% confidence interval (95%CI).

Results: Meta-analysis of data from 7 eligible trials (14 treatment arms) with 662 participants showed a significant reduction in plasma concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (WMD, -15.52 mg/dL; 95%CI, -28.43 to -2.61; P = 0.018) and triglycerides (WMD, -14.03 mg/dL; 95%CI, -21.38 to -6.67; P < 0.001) following supplementation with krill oil. A significant elevation in plasma concentrations of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was also observed (WMD, 6.65 mg/dL; 95%CI, 2.30 to 10.99; P = 0.003), while a reduction in plasma concentrations of total cholesterol did not reach statistical significance (WMD, -7.50 mg/dL; 95%CI, -17.94 to 2.93; P = 0.159).

Conclusion: Krill oil supplementation can reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides. Additional clinical studies with more participants are needed to assess the impact of krill oil supplementation on other indices of cardiometabolic risk and on the risk of cardiovascular outcomes.

Keywords: Euphausiacea krill; krill oil; meta-analysis; plasma lipids.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Euphausiacea*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated