Green lip mussel oil and krill oil are two relatively new health supplements. The main component of both is omega-3 fatty acids -- essential fats that have been shown to protect against heart disease and cancer and are essential for brain development, according to the “Manual of Dietetic Practice.” Manufacturers of these two supplements claim that they are superior to fish oil, but currently there isn’t enough scientific evidence available to be able to make a fair comparison.
Green lip mussel oil is obtained from the green lip mussel -- a mollusk that is extensively farmed in New Zealand. The mussel is a filter feeder and feeds on plankton from the seawater. When grown in aquaculture, they are usually harvested at 1 1/2 to 2 years of age. Krill oil is obtained from krill, shrimplike crustaceans found in all the world’s oceans. Krill live for five to 10 years. Krill oil is generally obtained from krill caught in the wild.
EPA and DHA
Both green lip mussel oil and krill oil contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid -- EPA and DHA -- that are known to be superior to the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linoleic acid found in terrestrial sources. Most krill oil products display their EPA and DHA content on the label, while most green lip mussel oil products do not -- therefore it is not possible to compare the products with regards to EPA and DHA quantities. Krill oil EPA and DHA are found attached to certain substances that makes them easier for the body to absorb, as described in the August 2011 issue of “Lipids in Health and Disease.”
Owing to their short life span and their low position in the food cycle, krill are unlikely to accumulate toxins in their body and in fact many people prefer krill oil over traditional fish oil for this reason. Although the green lip mussel also has a short life span and a low position in the food cycle, it feeds via filtering. This type of feeding involves passing large amounts of seawater through the body. Consequently, filter feeders have a tendency to accumulate toxins in their body.
In addition to EPA and DHA, krill oil contains astaxanthin. This is an antioxidant that can help to protect you against damage by free radical molecules. It also helps to protect the oil against oxidation, extending its shelf life. On the other hand, green lip mussel oil contains another type of omega-3 -- eicosatetraenoic acid -- that in the June 2002 issue of “The American Society for Nutritional Sciences” was shown to be effective against inflammation.
As both supplements are relatively new, the evidence backing their health claims are very limited. This makes comparison difficult. An important issue when you're buying green lip mussel oil is purity -- make sure the manufacturer thoroughly tests the product for contaminants.
- "Manual of Dietetic Practice, 4th Edition"; T. Briony and J. Bishop; 2007
- NCBI; A Comparative Bioavailability Study of Fish Oil vs. Krill Oil; Jan Philipp Schuchardt, et al.; August 2011
- The University of Rhode Island: Blue Mussel
- The American Society for Nutritional Sciences; Improvement of Arthritic Signs in Dogs Fed Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus); Tiffany Linn Bierer, et al.; June 2002