Is shark oil the new snake oil?

Ads like the one above tout the marvelous health benefits of “shark oil” or “shark liver oil,” but is there any scientific evidence to support the claims that oil extracted from sharks can actually heal wounds, boost your immune system, fight infection, or assist with cancer treatment?

The claims of immunity-boosting properties, wound healing, and cancer treatment benefits stem largely from the alkylglycerols found in shark liver oil. According to the American Cancer Society these claims “have not been studied in controlled clinical trials.”

Additionally, other components of shark oil including squalamine and squalene also have been promoted as having health benefits.

The American Cancer Society states that research has indicated that squalamine did decrease the number of lung metastases in laboratory animals, but that early studies in humans have not indicated whether it helps to shrink tumors or prolong survival.

A study did show that squalene “seemed to protect normal bone marrow cells from the effects of some chemotherapy drugs while still allowing the drugs to affect cancer cells,” in a laboratory environment. However, there is currently no evidence as to whether this effect extends to humans or animals.

So, while those trying to sell shark oil might boast that these products offer numerous health benefits, the evidence supporting these claims seems to be minimal, at best.

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