Fish Oil for Seafood Allergy

Can I take omega-3s derived from fish oil if I have a seafood allergy? I had read on the internet that the fish protein has been removed from fish oil products and it is the fish protein that people react to. I have some at home and am a little scared to try them. Has there been any research done on this?
— Sigrun

Fish Oil for Seafood Allergy?

Any time there is an allergy involved it is a good idea to talk to the supplement manufacturer. Although what you read on the internet is technically correct, (ie., the only ingredients that should be in your fish oil supplement are the actual fish oils and no fish proteins, which are what cause allergic reactions), you will want to have some sort of assurance.

Talking with someone at the company is the only way you can be sure that the methods used by the supplement company you’re dealing with are 100% effective in removing any and all proteins from their fish oil products. This is particularly true if the allergy is severe, as is often the case with seafood allergies.

I can certainly see why you would be interested in risking it. Fish oils contain two types of omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are long chain omega-3 fats that are anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering and necessary for cognitive functioning; with deficiencies associated with depression and cognitive decline. EPA and DHA are believed to be beneficial to those with heart disease and are important for healthy brain development. I honestly believe that anyone who is not getting enough of these omega-3s through their diet should be supplementing them.

While the human body can make EPA and DHA from other omega-3 fats, it doesn’t do so readily. The conversion process is much less efficient than consuming EPA and DHA in their whole forms, as from fish oil. If you are sourcing your essential omega-3 fats from vegetable sources like flax seed oil, you are relying on the body converting some of these fats to EPA and DHA.

But fear not. If you are unable to, (or ethically opposed to, as is the case with vegans) consume fish oil there are other sources for EPA and DHA. Believe it or not, fish do not naturally produce EPA and DHA, but rather, it moves up the food chain from the plant life they eat. Fish higher in the food chain like salmon, tuna or halibut actually get these omega-3s from the smaller fish they eat, who originally get them from the algae they consume. Instead of taking fish oils, you could go straight to the source by taking spirulina or other microalgae supplements. By getting your omega-3s from microalgae instead of fish you’re also avoiding any of the pollutants like heavy metals that may have accumulated in the fish (although most supplement companies claim they are able to remove all toxic material from their products).

Author by Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto.