Can I take omega-3 if I'm allergic to seafood?

An Answer at the Bottom of the Food Chain?

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for your overall health. They assist in brain development and seem to support cognitive functioning and memory. Omega-3 also benefits your overall health and physical development. Research supports a link between increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and a lowered risk of heart disease. This may be due to a correlating rise in HDL "good" cholesterol and a dropping in triglyceride levels when you increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to these heart benefits, omega-3s are also believed to reduce risk of cancer and arthritis, as well as help provide relief for inflammation.

The catch? Your body can't produce its own omega-3 fatty acids: You have to get them from your diet. For these reasons, the American Heart Association recommends two servings a week of omega-3 fatty acids. An excellent way to satisfy your body's need for this nutrient is by eating seafood. But if you're allergic to seafood, will fish oils in supplement form give you a reaction?

They're not supposed to, but they can. It's not the fish oil itself that prompts allergic reactions, but fish proteins. As long there are no fish proteins in the oil, you shouldn't have a reaction. A high-quality fish oil shouldn't contain proteins -- but whether it does depends on the methods the manufacturer uses, as well as the level of care taken at the factory. So, even though you may be able to take fish oil supplements without having a reaction, you probably shouldn't. After all, it takes only one mistake on the part of the manufacturer for you to experience what is -- at best -- an extremely unpleasant reaction.

So what are other ways to get omega-3 fatty acids? Interestingly, fish don't produce their own omega-3 fatty acids either -- they get theirs from algae, and so can you. Spirulina and other microalgae supplements are available in most health food stores. You can also get omega-3 through flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, and various nut oils, such as walnut. While fish and fish oil supplements are promoted as important parts of a healthy diet, people with seafood allergies can obtain the healthy components of fish and fish oil through other sources that won't put them at risk of potentially harmful reaction.

For lots more information on omega-3 fatty acids and seafood allergies, see the next page.

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