Friday, July 29, 2011

Let's Talk Krill

We’ve recently had several inquiries about krill oil supplements. Is it safe, what does it contain and where does it come from?

Krill are small shrimp-like marine crustaceans, similar in size to a large paperclip, that live in the ocean and feed on algae and plankton. Krill play an important role in overall marine life, as they feed directly on algae and plankton, which is then converted into a form of energy (krill) that can be consumed by other sea life. Probably best known as the food of choice for giant blue whales, seals, squid, and cold water fish also consume a diet rich in krill. In addition to turning algae and plankton into energy, because krill eat carbon-rich food near the ocean surface (and then excrete it in lower, colder waters), some believe they play an important role in removing greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

While Japanese sometimes eat krill, the vast majority of krill is used in aquaculture and livestock feed, for fish bait and pet foods, and the pharmaceutical industry. Using ‘suction’ harvesting, krill is gathered from the ocean. Most commercial fishing of Krill is in Antarctica and off the coast of Japan, and off Canada’s Pacific coast. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (here in the United States) does not allow krill fishing off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, or California as krill serve as the basis of the marine food chain. Scientists believe krill have declined by 80 per cent since the 1970s, and the most likely cause is global warming. Because of sustainability concerns, Whole Foods discontinued sale of krill products last year, and recommends that consumers choose fish oil supplements instead.

While there is an astounding amount of marketing information available online touting the advantages of krill oil, there is limited science based fact. Neptune Technologies produces virtually all of the krill oil on the market, and they have been conducting research on krill oil, but so far there are very few studies. An amazing number of web sites reviewed referenced two small cholesterol studies (one containing 113 subjects and another containing 120, and both with very different outcomes), a study that compared krill oil against fish oil for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual cramps, and a study (acknowledged as badly designed) for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis were mentioned on umpteen sites.

Krill oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), carotenoids and phospholipids. Carotenoids are found in many foods, particularly the yellow, orange and dark green vegetables and fruits. Krill oil proponents claim that krill oil is better absorbed than traditional fish oil supplements, because it is in the phospholipids- rather than triglyceride- form. And, because it is better absorbed, the amount EPA and DHA is significantly lower. (One wildly popular brand contains 140 mg EPA/DHA in two capsules, whereas Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 contains 1,200 mg EPA/DHA in two softgels.) Opponents say this argument is nonsense as phospholipids are non-essential to the body, and since time began we have been consuming EPA and DHA in the triglyceride form from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.

While krill oil appears to be perfectly safe, the data seems to contain a lot more hype then hard scientific fact. With more than 18,000 studies on EPA and DHA in fish oil form to date, it makes sense to stick with the proven, and less expensive, original.

The Cooper Complete store is here.


Tiny Krill: Giants in Marine Food Chain

Pacific Fishery Management Council

Krill Oil

What is Phytoplankton?


Whole Foods discontinues krill, citing ‘sustainability issues’

Neptune Technologies & Resources

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting to Know Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, or Folate, is essential for the growth and reproduction of all body cells and is especially important during periods of high growth, such as infancy, adolescence and pregnancy. As almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unexpected or unplanned (see New England Journal of Medicine article below), women in their childbearing years are routinely encouraged to take a multivitamin containing vitamin B9 to help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Folate also plays an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease, and is known to reduce homocysteine levels in our blood. Epidemiologic data also links low levels of folic acid with some cancers.

Sources of Folate
Folate and folic acid are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9. Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, while folate is the form of vitamin B9 found in food. Folate is naturally found in dark leafy vegetables, asparagus, okra, fruits (including bananas, lemons, oranges, and melons), mushrooms, legumes, soybeans, brewer’s yeast and orange and tomato juices. Breads, cereals, bars and flour are commonly fortified with folic acid.

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults is 500 micrograms (mcg) daily (600 mcg daily for pregnant women), with the tolerable upper intake level (UL) set at 1,000 mcg.

There is concern in the scientific community that large populations within the United States have folic acid levels that are too high. Between fortification of foods and consumption of supplements, researchers estimate that a third of our population has folic acid levels at twice the recommended level. Vitamin B-12 deficiency, fairly common in seniors, can be masked in individuals with excessive folic acid levels.

Cooper Complete
The formulations of all Cooper Complete nutritional supplements are overseen by a team of researchers and physicians, and all of our products are reviewed and adjusted to ensure that the formulations contain levels of ingredients scientifically proven to be beneficial for optimal health. We are in the process of revising all of the Cooper Complete multivitamins (adult formulations) from 400- to 200 mcg of folic acid. During this formulation change, we are also transitioning to Metafolin, a brand name for a patented form of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) made by Merck. Metafolin is a form of folate that is more body-ready and usable by the body compared to the typical folic acid that is contained in supplements. 5-MTHF is the predominant form of folate that is found in nature and may have benefits over synthetic folic acid. A percentage of the population has a mutation in one of the enzymes involved in the metabolism of folic acid, and 5-MTHF circumvents this mutation and allows the body to be better able to get the benefits from supplementation. We expect to transition all adult formulations to the new level and form by early next year.

To purchase Cooper Complete multivitamins and supplements, visit the Cooper Store


Family Planning as a Cost-Saving Preventive Health Service

Unmetabololized Folic Acid in Plasma is associated with Reduced Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity among Postmenopausal Women