Get some ease for your aching knees
Study finds omega 3-rich krill oil relieves joint discomfort
Roni Enten Vissoker, MSc, CNS, LDN
Knee problems can put some serious limitations on an active and healthy lifestyle. Sadly, the unwanted effects of commonly used therapies for pain management leave many of the 250 million individuals around the world who suffer from ongoing knee discomfort yearning for a viable, healthier alternative.
Fortunately, a new study has identified a simple and healthy solution for those who are knee deep in pain. This recent research out of Japan found that the extracted oil of a ubiquitous red crustacean known as krill significantly improved symptoms of knee pain in adults.
Like fish oil, krill oil is rich in long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Although the concentration of omega 3 fats in krill oil is typically less than in fish oil products, krill oil provides the added bonus of phosphatidylcholine, a nutrient that’s an essential part of our cell membranes and promotes their fluidity. In addition, it contains vitamin A, vitamin E and the powerful carotenoid antioxidant astaxanthin, resulting in a unique composition that supports overall health.
The study, which was published in PLOS One late last year, gave twenty-five adults with mild knee pain (pain that was not yet bad enough to begin medications for) two grams of krill oil and gave another twenty-five adults a non-active placebo oil for a month. The krill oil capsule provided 240 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 110 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), both long chain omega 3 fatty acids, while the placebo contained omega 3-free safflower oil. The participants’ subjective symptoms were then evaluated using two different joint-health questionnaires. Blood and urine were collected in order to evaluate the reported improvements.
The researchers found that the krill oil group experienced more improvements in their discomfort than the placebo group. Krill oil significantly mitigated knee pain during sleeping and standing and improved the participants’ range of motion in both their right and left knees compared to the placebo group.
Researchers also found that blood levels of the omega 3 fatty acid, EPA, and the ratio between EPA and a certain omega 6 fatty acid that plays a central role in injury-related inflammation (arachidonic acid) were increased, which the scientists suspected might be one reason the krill oil worked so well to reduce knee discomfort.
This study is not the first to explore the effect of krill oil on joint health. Krill oil previously had been shown in animal studies to help maintain joint inflammatory responses already within a normal range. A 2007 study found it improved subjective knee pain in patients with systemic inflammation, slashing levels of a key inflammation marker in just 7 days and scores of a joint inflammation index in 2 weeks.
The authors of the current study note that the research is limited in that it did not control for changes in the participants’ diet, which may have an impact on measured pain levels.
Nevertheless, the finding that 2 grams of krill daily, considered a safe amount for adults to consume, has a positive effect on mild to moderate knee pain is welcome news. Jarrow Formulas Krill oil contains 1200 mg of krill oil and 115 mg astaxanthin per 2 softgels. It provides oil from Antarctic krill extracted using process that maintains the high quality oil in its natural form without any ‘fishy’ odor and it is sourced using sustainable fishing practices.
Suzuki Y, Fukushima M, Sakuraba K, Sawaki K, Sekigawa K. Krill Oil Improves Mild Knee Joint Pain: A Randomized Control Trial. PLoS One. 2016 Oct 4;11(10):e0162769.
Deutsch L. Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Feb;26(1):39-48.