Shark cartilage is a very popular nutritional supplement, most commonly promoted as a treatment for diseases including arthritis, cancer and psoriasis. Shark cartilage effects are complex and multi-faceted, but there is no tangible evidence that it can effectively treat any condition.
Here are some of the effects of shark cartilage.
Shark Cartilage Effects on Cancer
Along with hundreds of other hoax products, shark cartilage has been promoted as a cure for cancer by alternative medicine practitioners and holistic nutritionists. People with advanced cancer will often turn to any treatment, no matter how bizarre or unconventional, to eliminate their tumors. Unfortunately, shark cartilage does not appear to inhibit the growth of tumors.
Dozens of studies have examined shark cartilage’s effects on lymphoma, leukemia and cancers of the kidney, breast, colon, lung, prostate, and brain. The results of these trials were unanimous– shark cartilage does nothing to stop or slow the spread of cancer.
Shark Cartilage Effects on Arthritis
There is little evidence suggesting that shark cartilage can effectively treat arthritis. A few short-term studies have suggested that it can temporarily ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis when it is taken by mouth. However, these effects were negligible compared to other alternative treatments for arthritis, such as fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin.
One study determined that a combination of shark cartilage, glucosamine, chondroitin and camphor effectively relieved osteoarthritis pain when applied directly to the skin. But, since camphor itself is a proven analgesic, it was probably responsible for all or most of the effects of the product. Shark oil is not absorbed through the skin and is likely ineffective when applied topically by itself.
Shark Cartilage Effects on the Environment
When choosing nutritional supplements, consider the ecological impact of the products you might use. The slaughter of sharks for use in dietary supplements has created one of many ecological disturbances currently affecting our world’s oceans. Populations of many Pacific shark species are rapidly declining due to pollution, mercury poisoning, PCBs, prey shortages due to overfishing and climate change. Should we really stress our oceans any further by removing some of its most important predator species?
Note that most of the sharks used to make supplements, such as nurse sharks, pose absolutely no threat to humans. Their absence creates imbalances that affect oceans worldwide. There is no need to contribute to this epidemic for a product of dubious efficacy.
Side Effects of Shark Cartilage
Fortunately, if you are determined to use shark cartilage despite its apparent ineffectiveness, the product is generally associated with few serious side effects. Side effects of shark cartilage generally include body odor, bad breath, upset stomach, aftertaste, belching, reflux, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Although unpleasant, most of these shark cartilage effects are relatively benign.
More serious side effects of shark cartilage include hypertension, hypotension, changes in blood sugar, and elevated calcium levels. Talk to your doctor before using shark cartilage, and report any side effects to a qualified practitioner.
The National Institutes of Health offers more information about shark cartilage’s effects and uses.