Lately there has been a great deal of controversy about the ethics and environmental impact of consuming shark fin, an Asian delicacy, but there may be an even better reason to stay away from it: researchers at the
University of Miami have found that shark fin contains high concentrations of a neurotoxin that’s implicated in degenerative brain diseases like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Alzheimer’s.
The Miami team tested seven species of sharks found in local Florida waters, and found that all contained extremely high concentrations of the neurotoxin β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA.) Previous studies have observed that patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders have high concentrations of BMAA in their brains, whereas healthy people have little or no BMAA present. The sharks studied were found to have comparable levels of BMAA as human sufferers of Alzheimer’s and ALS.
Further, research by Paul Cox had previously concluded that disproportionate numbers of indigenous people in Guam suffer from dementia and ALS–which was linked to eating fruit bats with high levels of BMAA. The levels of BMAA in the Guamanian bats and the Florida sharks are similar. Based on their own research and these previous studies, the Miami group warns that ingesting shark fin soup, or other shark products like dietary supplements, may contribute to the development and severity of neurodegenerative disease.
To learn more, you can read the press release here.