Shark fins, meat and cartilages contain toxins related to Alzheimer’s disease

Shark fins

Alzheimer’s disease, also known as just Alzheimer’s, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. It causes 60%-70% of cases in dementia.

In a recent study published in Toxins, scientists find that shark fins and meat contain toxins related to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from University of Miami, University of British Columbia, and Biodiversity Research Institute conducted study.

Previous research has shown that sharks have greater risk for bioaccumulation of marine toxins and mercury, because they are long-lived predators.

In particular, their fins and cartilage contain a toxin called β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), which is linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

In the study, researchers investigated BMAA and mercury concentrations in fins and muscles sampled in 10 species of sharks from the South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The result showed that BMAA was detected in all shark species. Furthermore, only 7 of the 55 samples showed that the mercury was below the limit of detection of the assay.

In addition, mercury concentrations measured in shark fins and muscle samples from the 10 species were ranged from 0.05 to 13.23 ng/mg.

Researchers suggest that the finding should be considered as a strong warning to people who likes eating food made from shark meat and fins.

Today, a significant number of shark species have found their way onto the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Many species of large sharks are threatened with extinction due in part to the growing high demand for shark fin soup and, to a lesser extent, for shark meat and cartilage products.

This study and previous finding together show that the consumption of shark parts may be a route to human exposure of marine toxins. It may increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Therefore, people should stop or reduce the consumption of shark parts to protect their health, sharks, and the marine ecosystem.

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Citation: Hammerschlag N, et al. (2016). Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin BMAA and Mercury in Sharks. Toxins, 8: 238. DOI: 10.3390/toxins8080238.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.