Sharks are among the most powerful creatures on the planet. They're ferocious, strong and seemingly indestructible. But why?
For the past two decades, researchers have been taking a look at these amazing fish, examining their genetic and physical makeup for clues to their strength and longevity. Their work has yielded a natural supplement that's shown health benefits for humans: shark cartilage.
About Shark Cartilage Supplements
Yes, you read that correctly -- shark cartilage has been used medicinally since the early 1990s, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The science of using animal cartilage for medicinal purposes goes back to the 1950s, when John Prudden, a New York-based surgeon, began using it on surgical patients to promote healing and on cancer patients, reporting it shrank their tumors. The publication of the book Sharks Don't Get Cancer in 1992 sparked an interest in the lower occurrences of cancer in sharks as opposed to humans, suggesting their cartilage may be beneficial.
Cartilage is connective tissue made up of proteins, calcium, sulfur, collagen and mucopolysaccharides like chondroitin sulfate. A shark's skeleton is made up almost entirely of cartilage and today, shark cartilage supplements are produced from cartilage found in the heads and fins of the shark. The active components of shark cartilage are proteoglycans and glycoproteins, giving it anti-inflammatory properties.
Cartilage for Cancer
Since Prudden first reported his findings back in the 1950s, the buzz about cartilage has been its suggested ability to stop the growth of cancerous tumors. Those in favor of alternative cancer therapies report the shark cartilage slows or stops the growth of cancer by preventing the development of new blood vessels, cutting off the blood supply needed by the tumor to grow. The supplement has since gained a loyal following and many take it as a preventative measure against cancer.
However, in regards to the medical community and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this claim has yet to be fully proven, with limited studies conducted using human subjects as opposed to animals. Studies conducted in 2005 and 2011, published in the medical journals Cancer and Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, respectively, showed no such results.
How to Use It
Shark cartilage is available in powder, capsule and liquid form and is mainly taken orally, but it can also be taken as an enema. Typical doses of the cartilage are large, averaging about 3 g and taken three times a day, reaching up to 100 g daily. The amount of calcium in the cartilage means larger doses should be monitored by a professional to avoid complications.
Consult your doctor before adding it to your routine, especially if you're currently being treated for one of the conditions mentioned above or liver disease. According to the ACS, the known side effects of shark cartilage are nausea, fatigue, indigestion, fever and dizziness, although not common. Children shouldn't use shark cartilage supplements.
Only time and continued research will tell if shark cartilage is the solution for treating cancer. In the meantime, it's an option to discuss with your physician for possible ways to improve your health.