It’s official – the news all us shark-huggers have been waiting for.
Shark guru Neil Hammerschlag and his team form the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program came out with this potentially groundbreaking news. They tested shark fins from 7 species swimming in South Florida waters and detected high levels of BMAA - a nasty neurotoxin linked to brain diseases including Alzheimers.
Check out the OPEN ACCESS paper in the journal Marine Drugs.
Here’s what study co-author Prof. Deborah Mash, Director of the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, has to say:
“The concentrations of BMAA in the samples are a cause for concern, not only in shark fin soup, but also in dietary supplements and other forms ingested by humans”
Back in 2009, Mash and her team published a study that found patients dying of Alzheimers and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or ALS) had unusually high levels of BMAA in their brains.
The big question is – does eating BMAA-loaded shark fins mean this stuff gets into human brains?
Well, we don’t know for sure without more studies. But we already have a hint that sharks, like another animal, could be a source of BMAA in human diets.
See the thing is, the link between high BMAA levels in the brain and neurodegenerative diseases was first made in Guam, where people eat fruit bats. People eat fruit bats – fruit bats eat cycad seeds – cycad seeds contain BMAA. And the BMAA levels Hammerschlag and the team found in shark fins were similar levels to those found in Guam fruit bats.
And how does the BMAA get into sharks? It comes from free-living mini-beasts called cyanobacteria. BMAA from cyanobacteria starts off being eaten by herbivores, who are eaten by predators who are eaten by predators until, right up there at the top of the food web, sharks get a major dose of BMAA from the animals they eat.
So there you have it. Eating sharks really could be bad for human health. That’s enough for me.
Now go out… spread the word!