• Bovine Cartilage, Shark Cartilage
Cartilage is a tough connective tissue found in many parts of the body. Your ears and nose are made from cartilage, and so is the gliding surface in your joints.
One constituent of cartilage,
The most commonly used forms of cartilage come from cows (bovine cartilage) and sharks. Provocative evidence had suggested that shark cartilage might have some value in the treatment of cancer. However, properly designed studies have so far failed to find benefit.
Unless your uncle works at a slaughterhouse or you're brave enough to prepare your own cartilage from whole sharks, the preferred source of cartilage is your healthfood store or pharmacy, where you can purchase this supplement in pill or powdered form.
Various doses of cartilage have been used in different studies, ranging from 2.5 mg to 60 g daily.
Based on the belief that sharks don't get cancer, shark cartilage has been heavily marketed as a cure for
. While this justification is a myth (sharks do get cancer), shark cartilage has, in fact, shown some promise for cancer treatment. Shark cartilage (like other forms of cartilage) contains substances that tend to inhibit angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels). Since cancers must build new blood vessels to feed themselves, this effect might be beneficial.
Shark cartilage also inhibits substances called matrix metalloproteases (MMPs).
Cartilage in general has been proposed as a treatment for the common "wear and tear" type of arthritis known as
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Cartilage?
A number of test tube experiments have found that shark cartilage extracts prevent new blood vessels from forming in chick embryos and other test systems. 4-9
In any case, only double-blind, placebo-controlled trials can provide conclusive data. (For information on why such studies are essential, see
Because cartilage is just common, ordinary gristle, it is presumably safe to consume. However, for reasons that are not at all clear at this time, there is a report of an individual who developed liver inflammation after taking shark cartilage supplements. 18
7. Oikawa T, Ashino-Fuse H, Shimamura M, et al. A novel angiogenic inhibitor derived from Japanese shark cartilage (I). Extraction and estimation of inhibitory activities toward tumor and embryonic angiogenesis. Cancer Lett. 1990;51:181-186.
8. McGuire TR, Kazakoff PW, Hoie EB, et al. Antiproliferative activity of shark cartilage with and without tumor necrosis factor-alpha in human umbilical vein endothelium. Pharmacotherapy. 1996;16:237-244.
11. Jamali M-A, Riviere M, Falardeau P, et al. Effect of AE-941 (neovastat), an angiogenesis inhibitor, in the Lewis lung carcinoma metastatic model, efficacy, toxicity prevention and survival. Clin Invest Med . 1998;(suppl):S16.
13. Riviere M, Alaoui-Jamali M, Falardeau P, et al. Neovastat: an inhibitor of angiogenesis with anti-cancer activity. Presented at: American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 39; March 28-April 1, 1998; New Orleans, LA.
14. Blasecki J, Alaoui-Jamali M, Wang T, et al. Oral administration of Neovastat inhibits tumor progression in animal models of progressive tumor growth and metastasis. Int J Oncol . 1997;11(suppl):934.
15. Dupont E, Alaoui-Jamali M, Wang T, et al. Angiostatic and antitumoral activity of AE-941 (Neovastat), a molecular fraction derived from shark cartilage. Presented at: American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 38; April 12-16, 1997; San Diego, CA.
20. Sussman, L. Shark cartilage shows no benefit as a therapeutic agent for lung cancer. EurekAlert! website. Available at: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-06/uotm-scs060107.php . Accessed June 19, 2007.
Last reviewed April 2009 by
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