This post appeared originally at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata on 18 May 2007. I’m putting it up today to accompany a superb post by University of Hawai’i graduate student and science writer, Christie Wilcox, at Observations of a Nerd.
Actually, sharks do get cancer but a 15-year-old book by William Lane led people to think otherwise, launching investigation of shark cartilage as a source of antiangiogenic, anticancer compounds. While there is one promising shark cartilage extract (Neovastat) in clinical trials for multiple myeloma, most oral preparations on health food store shelves aren’t stabilized and characterized well-enough to guarantee stability of antiangiogenic compounds.
But it gets worse with this news today from FDA’s MedWatch program that illustrates once again the safety problems of some dietary supplements – shark cartilage may just not work; it might also give you Salmonella poisoning:
NBTY and FDA informed consumers and healthcare professionals of a nationwide recall of 3 lots of Shark Cartilage Capsules the company manufactured in 2004 and distributed to consumers through mail and internet orders, and retail stores throughout the United States. The product was recalled because of possible contamination with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis. Customers can return the product back to the place of purchase for a full refund. Read the press release for specific names and lot numbers of the recalled product.
What is most concerning is that the wholesaler distributed the tainted extract to no fewer than seven manufacturers, some among the most commonly encountered brands in pharmacies and health food stores like Nature’s Bounty and Rexall Sundown.
If you have any elderly relatives or friends and family who are otherwise immunocompromised, make sure they are not taking any of the listed shark cartilage preparations.
In fact, I wouldn’t take any shark cartilage preparations outside of a clinical trial. Once again, be careful out there.
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