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shark cartilage (generic name)

an herbal product - treats Macular degeneration, Psoriasis, Arthritis, Pain, and Cancer
Table of Contents
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Average Ratings

Alternate Title

AE-941, Neovastat

Category

Herbs & Supplements

Synonyms

AE-941, Arthrovas™, cartilage, Cephaloscyllium ventriosum, chondroitin sulfate, chondrosine, Haifischknorpel (German), Houtsmuller diet, Mustelus californicus, Neoretna, Neovastat®, octasaccharides, polar shark cartilage, Psovascar™, shark, shark fin soup, smooth-hound shark, Sphyrna lewini (hammerhead shark), squalamine, Squalus acanthias (spiny dogfish shark), swell shark, U-955.

Note: The product Catrix® is made from cow cartilage, not from shark cartilage.

Background

Shark cartilage is one of the most popular supplements in the United States, with over 40 brand name products sold in 1995 alone. Primarily used for cancer, its use became popular in the 1980s after several poor-quality studies reported "miracle" cancer cures.

Laboratory research and animal studies of shark cartilage or the shark cartilage derivative product AE-941 (Neovastat®) have demonstrated some anti-cancer (anti-angiogenic) and anti-inflammatory properties. However, there is currently not enough reliable human evidence to recommend for or against shark cartilage for any condition. There are several ongoing cancer studies. Many trials are supported by manufacturers of shark cartilage products, which raises questions about impartiality.

Commercial shark cartilage is primarily composed of chondroitin sulfate (a type of glycosaminoglycan), which is further broken down in the body into glucosamine and other end products. Although chondroitin and glucosamine have been extensively studied for osteoarthritis, there is a lack of evidence supporting the use of unprocessed shark cartilage preparations for this condition. Shark cartilage also contains calcium. Manufacturers sometimes promote its use for calcium supplementation.

Shark cartilage supplements at common doses can cost as much as $700-1,000 per month.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Arthritis: Chondroitin sulfate, a component of shark cartilage, has been shown to benefit patients with osteoarthritis. However, the concentrations of chondroitin in shark cartilage products may be too small to be helpful. The ability of shark cartilage to block new blood vessel growth or reduce inflammation is proposed to be helpful in rheumatoid arthritis. However, there is limited research in these areas, and more studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Cancer: For several decades, shark cartilage has been proposed as a cancer treatment. Studies have shown shark cartilage or the shark cartilage product AE-941 (Neovastat®) to block the growth of new blood vessels, a process called "anti-angiogenesis," which is believed to play a role in controlling the growth of some tumors. There have also been several reports of successful treatments of end-stage cancer patients with shark cartilage, but these have not been well designed or included reliable comparisons to accepted treatments. Many studies have been supported by shark cartilage product manufacturers, which may influence the results. In the United States, shark cartilage products cannot claim to cure cancer, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to companies not to promote products in this way. Without further evidence from well-designed human trials, it remains unclear if shark cartilage is of any benefit in cancer and patients are advised to check with their doctor and pharmacist before taking shark cartilage.
Grade: C

Macular degeneration: It is proposed that shark cartilage or the shark cartilage product AE-941 (Neovastat®) may be helpful in patients with macular degeneration. A small amount of research suggests possible benefits, but more study is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Pain: Based on laboratory studies, shark cartilage may reduce inflammation. However, it is unclear if shark cartilage is a safe or helpful treatment for pain in humans.
Grade: C

Psoriasis: Shark cartilage products have been tested by mouth or on the skin in people with psoriasis. However, no clear benefits have been shown. More research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Grade: C

Tradition

WARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Dosing

Adults (over 18 years old)

Doses of 0.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, taken by mouth in two to three divided doses, have been studied.

80 to 100 grams of ground shark cartilage extract has been taken by mouth daily, divided into two to four doses. Doses of the shark cartilage derivative AE-941 (Neovastat®), available in clinical trials, have ranged from 30 to 240 milliliters per day taken by mouth or 20 milligrams per kilogram taken twice daily. Rectal doses of 15 grams per day or 0.5 to 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day in two to three divided doses (prepared as an enema) have also been studied.

Creams applied to the skin with 5% to 30% shark cartilage are available and have been recommended by some practitioners for the treatment of psoriasis alone or with shark cartilage by mouth, for four to six weeks. Studies have used 5% to 10% preparations applied daily.

Children (under 18 years old)

Shark cartilage is not recommended in children due to a lack of scientific study and a theoretical risk of blocking blood vessel growth. There is one report of a nine year-old child with a brain tumor treated with shark cartilage who died four months later.

Safety

DISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to shark cartilage or to any of its ingredients are possible, although there is limited human information in this area. Caution should be used in patients with a sulfur allergy since products may be sulfated.

Side Effects and Warnings

A limited amount of published research suggests that shark cartilage is well tolerated in most people at recommended doses. The most common adverse effects reported are mild-to-moderate stomach upset and nausea. In several studies, patients stopped taking shark cartilage due to gastrointestinal distress, cramping, or bloating. Liver damage and taste alteration has been reported.

Uncommon side effects reported in studies or historically include confusion, decreased muscle strength, decreased sensation, weakness, dizziness, fatigue, increased or decreased blood sugar levels, and low blood pressure. Shark cartilage products may contain high levels of calcium, which may be harmful to patients with kidney disease, abnormal heart rhythms, a tendency to form kidney stones, and those with cancers that raise calcium levels. In theory, due to the blocking of new blood vessel growth, shark cartilage may be harmful in people with heart disease or narrowed blood vessels of the legs (peripheral vascular disease). In theory, wound healing and recovery from surgery or trauma may be reduced.

One case report implicates inhaled shark cartilage dust in an asthma exacerbation and resulting death of a 38 year-old male.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Shark cartilage is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Shark cartilage may block the growth of new blood vessels and drugs with similar properties, such as thalidomide, can cause birth defects. There is limited study of shark cartilage in these areas.

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