Diving Into The Deep End: Shark Cartilage Supplements
Posted by Kate W on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Anyone who has spent any length of time with me knows that I am terrified of sharks. My fear has a logical origin: when I was eight years old, my dad let me watch Jaws 2 on television, and then took me to the beach the instant the credits started rolling. When I expressed apprehension about getting in the water, he assured me everything would be fine. But he’s always had a twisted sense of humor, and it got the better of him that day. After I had finally relaxed a little, he thought it would be funny to hum the Jaws theme music at me and then flip my raft. I promptly went into hysterics, and have refused to go into the ocean since.
My reasonable fear has grown more and more out of control as the years have gone on. I get crippling anxiety if I have to drive over a bridge that spans potentially shark-infested waters, or if I have to fly over an ocean. The morning I gave birth to my daughter, I watched The Today Show between contractions to catch a glimpse of a report featuring my childhood neighbor who gained national attention when he saved a friend from a shark attack. I found the three-minute long news story more harrowing than hours of labor.
But even with my profound fear of sharks, I’m not entirely on board with the idea of taking shark cartilage as a supplement. Shark cartilage has gained popularity in the last few decades. After a book called Sharks Don’t Get Cancer become a best-seller following its 1992 publication, people extrapolated that taking shark cartilage would prevent cancer and shrink tumors. However, not only has the FDA challenged that conclusion, a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic concluded that “shark cartilage did not demonstrate any efficacy in patients with advanced breast or colorectal cancers”. Further, some quality of life measurements tended to worsen in patients treated with shark cartilage. This is likely due to high levels of cadmium and mercury found in shark cartilage, which may lead to toxicity over time.
It’s not an understatement to say that I am not a big fan of sharks. I could be the keynote speaker at an anti-shark convention. Still, it makes me uneasy that consumption of shark cartilage supplements has been linked to the overall decline in the shark population. Just because I don’t want to swim with sharks, it doesn’t mean I think they should be wiped off the face of the Earth. Unless they start walking on land. Then all bets are off.
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