You’ve probably seen fish oil supplements alongside the vitamins on your grocery store or health food store shelves. Maybe you take fish oil yourself because of the many health benefits associated with the omega-3 fatty acids it contains.

Did you know that there’s another similar product out there that may be as effective or more effective than fish oil at lowering your cholesterol?

Krill is a protein-rich seafood, and its oil is sold around the world as a health supplement. Can krill oil really help lower cholesterol?

Krill are tiny, shrimplike crustaceans. They’re found in oceans around the world, but the krill found around Antarctica are the hot commodities these days. They’re known as filter feeders that eat algae. Many predators, including whales, squids, seals, and even penguins, eat krill.

They’re also scooped up and canned like tuna in some countries. In the United States, krill are still primarily sold in processed, soft pill form as a supplement aimed at lowering your total cholesterol and helping to reduce inflammation.

Total cholesterol is made up of three parts:

Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are a type of fat that circulates in your bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides and high total cholesterol numbers are considered risk factors for heart disease.

You can find out your total cholesterol and all of its various components as part of your annual blood work. If you have any questions about your total cholesterol and your triglycerides in particular, ask your doctor or make an appointment to get a standard blood test soon.

The impact off krill on triglycerides and total cholesterol hasn’t been extensively studied. There are indications that those tiny krill may help keep you from having cardiovascular problems, however.

Krill and fish oil both contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are two important types of omega-3 fatty acids. EPA and DHA have been shown to help reduce triglycerides and inflammation, which can harm the health of your blood vessels. Krill oil also contains a phospholipid, which is more easily absorbed by your body than fish oil.

Research published in Pharmacy & Therapeutics found that a daily dose of 1 to 3 grams of krill oil lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides more effectively than the same dose of regular fish oil. This amount (1 to 3 grams) of krill oil is considered a standard daily dose.

You may want to take a krill oil pill with a full meal to reduce the possibility of stomach irritation. You may be able to take krill oil at any time of day without side effects, however.

While krill oil may help individuals lower their total cholesterol a little, it shouldn’t be considered the primary treatment for high cholesterol.

Statin medications are usually well tolerated by most users. They’re also proven to be effective at managing cholesterol and bringing down LDL cholesterol. Statins may also help lower triglycerides.

For many people, taking krill oil every day will have little negative impact. It can leave a fishy taste in your mouth or make you a little gassy.

The much more serious concern is how krill oil might interact with other drugs you take.

If you take blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants and antiplatelets, to help prevent blood clots, krill oil supplements may increase your chances of bleeding problems. In other words, it may help make your blood a little “too thin” so that you bleed more than you should if you get a cut or bruise.

If you take a blood thinner, talk with your doctor first before trying krill oil or fish oil. Improving your cholesterol profile may also include:

  • lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise
  • weight loss, if you’re overweight or obese
  • a heart-healthy diet
  • quitting smoking
  • statins or other medications that lower cholesterol

Krill oil hasn’t been studied as extensively as fish oil supplements, so while it looks like it may be a promising supplement for managing your cholesterol levels, it’s possible that krill oil isn’t as beneficial as it might appear. There don’t appear to be any great risks, though.

If your doctor thinks krill oil is safe for you, consider trying the supplements and see what happens to your cholesterol levels.