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Glucosamine and Shellfish Allergy

Shellfish Allergy and Glucosamine


Updated April 16, 2014

Updated April 16, 2014

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a natural substance that plays an important role in the formation and repair of healthy cartilage. It is a popular dietary supplement, often taken in combination with chondroitin sulfate, and is used for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

What is the Concern with Glucosamine in People with Shellfish Allergy?

Glucosamine is often made from the shells of shrimp, crab and lobster, and therefore people with shellfish allergy are advised against taking this supplement. In some countries, synthetic glucosamine is available. Chondroitin sulfate is made from cattle or shark cartilage.

Is Glucosamine Safe for People with Shellfish Allergy?

At the present time, people with shellfish allergy are advised not to take glucosamine. However, there is no evidence that glucosamine contains shellfish proteins, which are the part of shellfish responsible for causing symptoms of food allergy.

Two small studies, with a total of 22 people, showed that people with shellfish allergy could take glucosamine without allergic reactions. These studies suggest that glucosamine does not contain shellfish proteins, and can be safely taken by people with shellfish allergy.

However, given the small number of people studied to date, it would be prudent for people with shellfish allergy to check with their physician prior to taking glucosamine. A referral to an allergist may be warranted, with the consideration of a medically supervised oral challenge to glucosamine.

Want to keep learning? Find out more about alternative therapies in the treatment of allergic disease.


Gray HC, Hutcheson PS, Slavin RG. Is Glucosamine Safe in Patients with Seafood Allergy? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004; 114:459-60.

J. Villacis, T. R. Rice, L. R. Bucci, J. M. El-Dahr, L. Wild, D. DeMerell, D. Soteres, S. B. Lehrer. Do Shrimp-Allergic Individuals Tolerate Shrimp-Derived Glucosamine? Clinical & Experimental Allergy. 2006;36 (11):1457–1461.

3. Drugs and Supplements: Glucosamine. MayoClinic.Com. Accessed February 26, 2007.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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