BMAA Neurotoxin Found In Shark Fins Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease
By Rebecca Lim | Featured Research
February 28, 2012
Craving a bowl of shark fin soup? Think again. Miami researchers have found high concentrations of the neurotoxin BMAA – linked to Alzheimer’s disease – in shark fins.
AsianScientist (Feb. 28, 2012) – Craving a bowl of shark fin soup? Think again.
Researchers at the University of Miami have discovered high concentrations of β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) in shark fins, a neurotoxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans including Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig disease (also known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS).
The findings, published in the journal Marine Drugs, suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative brain diseases.
Seven species of shark were tested for this study: blacknose, blacktip, bonnethead, bull, great hammerhead, lemon, and nurse sharks, with samples collected from live animals in waters throughout South Florida.
“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,” said co-author Professor Deborah Mash, Director of the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank.
Prof. Mash and her colleagues had published a study in 2009, demonstrating that patients dying with diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS had unusually high levels of BMAA in their brains of up to 256 ng/mg, whereas normal healthy aged people had no BMAA, or only trace quantities of the toxin present.
“BMAA was first linked to neurodegenerative diseases in Guam, which resulted in the progressive loss of structure and function of neurons,” she said.
In this latest study, the team found BMAA levels of between 144 and 1836 ng/mg in the fins, which overlapped with the levels measured in the brains of Alzheimer’s and ALS patients.
Study co-author Dr. Neil Hammerschlag hopes these findings will curb the practice of finning, whereby shark fins are removed at sea and the rest of the animal is thrown back in the water to die.
“Not only does this work provide important information on one probable route of human exposure to BMAA, it may lead to a lowering of the demand for shark fin soup and consumption of shark products, which will aid ocean conservation efforts,” said Hammerschlag.
The article can be found at: Mondo K et al. (2012) Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) in Shark Fins.
Source: Rosenthal School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.
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