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Krill oil

Krill oil - a rich source of omega-3 phospholipids
Omega-3 phospholipids constitute a substantial proportion of the omega-3 krill oil, of which most is the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine. Research indicates that phospholipid omega-3 fatty acids have greater bioavailability for cell growth and functioning, compared with omega-3 triglycerides. Also, omega-3 utilization in some tissues increases when delivered in the form of omega-3 phospholipids. Such observations suggest that krill oil is a more bioefficient carrier of omega-3 in humans.

Digestion and absorption of omega-3 phospholipids
Triglycerides and phospholipids are digested and absorbed in different ways in the small intestine. Omega-3 phospholipids follow simpler digestion and distribution routes than omega-3 triglycerides in the human body. Greater bioavailability and bioefficiency of omega-3 phospholipids relative to omega-3 triglycerides influence cellular absorption, functioning and distribution of omega-3.

Triglycerides are insoluble in water; their digestion by enzymes and subsequent absorption in the small intestine requires emulsification by bile salts via the formation of micelles. Phospholipids are not dependent on bile for digestion; they can spontaneously form micelles and be conveyed in an aqueous environment. Phospholipids can be absorbed without digestion in their intact form, or as lysophosphatidylcholine after digestion by enzymes in the small intestine. Their simpler digestion process in the small intestine before absorption is one of the factors indicating that omega-3 phospholipids offer greater bioavailability in the human body than omega-3 triglycerides. Another suggested factor is that phospholipids are directly absorbed by intestinal epithelia for distribution via blood plasma; considerable triglyceride transport involves facilitation by the lymphatic system.

After absorption in the small intestine, lysophosphatidylcholine is reassembled (via the addition of a fatty acid) to phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is an important structural component of cellular membranes and participates in fatty acid transport in blood and across membranes. Because fatty acids are water insoluble, they can not be transported in their free form in blood; instead, lipoprotein assemblages act as a vehicle for fatty acid transport in blood. Phospholipids located along the surface of lipoproteins play important roles in fatty acid transport in blood. Human lipoproteins include chylomicrons, HDL, LDL, and VLDL.

The size of a lipoprotein assemblage varies according to the amounts and types of fatty acids transported in it. Larger assemblages deliver fatty acids to various tissues throughout the human body, while small lipoprotein assemblages serve as “housekeepers,” bringing excess fatty acids to the liver for degradation. Omega-3 phospholipids in the lipoproteins can influence the distribution of lipoproteins in the body and, hence, the availability of fatty acids. Increased transport to and utilization of omega-3 by various tissues has been demonstrated, when delivered as omega-3 phospholipids. For example, elevated concentrations of omega-3 in target organs, such as the brain and liver, are observed when delivered as omega-3 phospholipids. Thus, dietary intake of omega-3 phospholipids appears to play a beneficial role in the distribution of fatty acids to various body tissues.

Omega-3 phospholipids – a more bioefficient source of Omega-3
Increased intake of omega-3 is recommended due to its beneficial overall health effects and its capacity to prevent and ameliorate disease. Krill oil delivers omega-3 in the phospholipid form. Omega-3 phospholipids are more efficiently absorbed via the small intestine and distributed to tissues, compared with omega-3 triglycerides. Omega-3 phospholipids are suggested as preferred sources of omega-3 for human cell structures and cell functions, as a result of greater bioavailability and bioefficiency, compared with omega-3 triglycerides. Thus, omega-3 phospholipids from krill are a more bioefficient source of omega-3 than the omega-3 triglycerides derived from fish oil.

Amate L, Gil A, Ramírez M. Feeding infant piglets formula with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids as triacylglycerols or phospholipids influences the distribution of these fatty acids in plasma lipoprotein fractions. J Nutr. 2001: 131 (4); 1250 – 5.

Lagarde M, Bernoud N, Brossard N|, et al. Lysophosphatidylcholine as a preferred carrier form of docosahexaenoic acid to the brain. J Mol Neurosci. 2001; 16: 201-4.

Lemaitre – Delaunay D, Pachiaudi C, Laville M, et al. Blood compartmental metabolism of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in humans after ingestion of a single dose of [(13)C]DHA in phosphatidylcholine. J Lipid Res. 1999; 40(10): 1867-74.

Ramirez M, Amate L, Gil A. Absorption and distribution of dietary fatty acids from different sources. Early Hum Dev. 2001; 65 Suppl: S95-S101.
Tou JC, Jaczynski J, Chen Y-C. Krill for human consumption: nutritional value and potential health benefits. Nutrition Nutr Rev. 2007; 65(2): 63-77.
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