What is Shark Cartilage?
Shark cartilage is a food supplement of animal origin, obtained from the dried and pulverized skeleton of fish belonging to the Superorder Selachimorpha, fished mainly in the Indian Ocean.
It is normally taken orally and is used in the context of dietary supplementation to reduce arthritic pain and psoriasis, to accelerate wound healing, to reduce eye complications and against enteritis; shark cartilage is also known for its alternative use or adjuvant in the reduction of Kaposi Sarcoma growth .
For the treatment of psoriasis and the reduction of arthritic pain, some make it a localized topical use.
The collection of sharks, already hunted for the fin trade, is leading various species - slowly but surely - to a condition of serious demographic risk. This is not an eco-sustainable fishery and, besides not being fundamental, it is completely unjustified.
Research on the effectiveness of shark cartilage in the treatment of macular degeneration (loss of vision related age) suggests that taking the specific extract Neovastat - AE-941, for a period of 4 weeks, "could" improve or stabilize the vision.
Combined with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate and camphor, applied to the skin, shark cartilage can reduce symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is conceivable that this effect is mainly due to the action of camphor and not to the other ingredients. Furthermore, there is no research showing the absorption of shark cartilage through the skin.
In-depth research suggests that the specific extract called Neovastat - AE-941, taken orally or topically, "could" improve the appearance and decrease the itching of plaque psoriasis.
The scientific data currently available are in any case insufficient and further investigations are needed to accurately assess any specific efficacy.
Ineffectiveness on Cancer
The first hypotheses on the effectiveness of shark cartilage in the treatment of cancer are attributable to the publication of the book "Sharks Don't Get Cancer", from 1992.
Despite the existence of some conjectures on the effectiveness of shark cartilage in decreasing Kaposi's Sarcoma (very rare), most of the research carried out shows that oral intake does not bring any benefit to people with cancer. In particular, they have been taken into consideration: lymphomas, breast, colon, lung, prostate, advanced and already treated brain tumors.
However, more specific studies on the effectiveness of shark cartilage in treating people with less advanced cancers are lacking; obviously, the applicability of this kind of experimentation is almost zero (there are not many people who, after being diagnosed with cancer, would rely primarily on alternative testing).
In the case of advanced renal carcinoma, there is the possibility that, by administering the extract Neovastat - AE-941 orally, an increase in survival is obtained; also for this reason, the extract has the "Orphan Drug Status" (Food and Drug Administration - FDA), which provides some special incentives for the study of drugs for the treatment of rare diseases.
Shark Cartilage and Toxicity
Shark cartilage contains some potentially toxic molecules linked to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. These are environmental contaminants that abound in large fish, the main one being mercury.
The appropriate dose of shark cartilage varies based on various factors, such as age, health status, any illness or other conditions.
At the moment there is no sufficiently accurate information available to determine a recommended dose. Although it is a natural product, it is not certain that it is safe, especially at very high dosages.
It is advisable to follow the information on the label of the various products and consult your pharmacist or doctor before use.
Security and Side Effects
If taken orally for up to 40 months, or on the skin for up to 8 weeks, shark cartilage is considered "probably safe".
It has a bad taste and aroma; in some cases, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation, arterial hypotension, dizziness, hyperglycaemia, elevated blood calcium levels and tiredness have been associated with its use.
No sufficiently reliable information is available on the safety of shark cartilage intake in the event of pregnancy or lactation; therefore it is advisable to avoid using them.
Shark cartilage may increase calcium levels excessively, so it should not be used by people whose levels of calcemia are already too high.
In the summer of 2004, the producer "Lane Labs" was ordered to stop advertising "BeneFin" as a treatment or cure for cancer.
The main reason was the lack of sufficient scientific research on anti-cancer efficacy and potential side effects.
For this reason, the FDA has ordered the "Lane Labs" to pay pecuniary compensation to all the purchasers of the product (starting from 1999).