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Fish Allergy: What You Should Know Before Taking Omega-3 Supplements

Vegetarian Options for Omega-3 Supplements

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Updated June 18, 2014

The American Heart Association recommends regular consumption of two types of heart-healthy fat known as Omega-3 fatty acids -- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) -- that are found in particularly high concentrations in fatty fish like herring, trout and sardines. People who don't eat fish due to a simple aversion have the option of taking Omega-3 fish oil supplements. That's not, of course, an option for the fish-allergic. Read on to learn what your options are for fish-free Omega-3 supplements and what you should know before you add them to your medicine cabinet.

Vegetarian Options for Omega-3 Supplements

Several vegetarian options do exist for Omega-3 supplements. These include flaxseed oil, hemp oil and algae. However, you should be aware that the human body does not use the Omega-3 fatty acids in plant sources as efficiently as those in seafood. Microalgae supplements, like spirulina, are considered the most efficient sources of DHA, which the body can convert to EPA.

If your doctor has recommended Omega-3 supplements for any reason, you should mention your fish allergy and ask if he considers vegetarian supplements equivalent for your purposes. He may recommend a particular type of vegetarian Omega-3 supplement, he may want to adjust your recommended dosage, or he might suggest that you adjust your diet to include certain foods that are naturally high in these fatty acids.

Supplemented Foods: Read Your Labels

More and more, unlikely foods are being touted as including heart-healthy Omega-3 fats. Whenever you see this claim on a package, read the label closely to ensure that the source of the Omega-3's in the food is not fish. Foods that are often supplemented in this manner include margarine, cereal and juices.

Sources:

David, Brenda C. and Penny M. Kris-Etherton. "Achieving Optimal Essential Fatty Acid Status in Vegetarians: Current Knowledge and Practical Implications." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Sept. 2003. 78(3): 640S-646S. 17 May 2008.

Surette, Marc E. "The Science Behind Omega-3 Fatty Acids." Canadian Medical Association Journal. Jan. 2008. 178(2): 177-80.

Van Horn, Linda, et al. "The Evidence for Dietary Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Feb. 2008. 108(2): 287-331.

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