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Cartilage is a type of tough and flexible connective tissue that forms parts of the skeleton in many animals. Cow cartilage from cows and sharks has been studied as a treatment for people with cancer and other medical conditions.

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›  Health benefits

Laboratory and animal studies have looked at whether cartilage products can kill cancer cells, make the immune system more active against cancer, and prevent the body from making new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

Different batches of a cartilage product may contain different amounts or strengths of ingredients. Different binding agents (substances that make loose mixtures stick together) and fillers may be used in different batches. Therefore, the results of a particular clinical trial may be true only for the batch that was used in that study.

Cartilage from cows (bovine cartilage) and sharks has been studied as a treatment for cancer and other medical conditions for more than 30 years. It was once believed that sharks, whose skeletons are made mostly from cartilage, do not develop cancer. This caused interest in cartilage as a possible treatment for cancer. Although malignant tumors are rare in sharks, cancers have been found in these animals.

Three theories have been suggested to explain how cartilage acts against cancer:
     1. As cartilage is broken down by the body, it releases products that kill cancer cells.
     2. Cartilage increases the action of the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells.
     3. Cartilage makes substances that block tumor angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumor and help it grow).

Based on laboratory and animal studies, the third theory may be most likely. Cartilage does not contain blood vessels, so cancer cannot easily grow in it. It is suggested that a cancer treatment using cartilage may keep blood vessels from forming in a tumor, causing the tumor to stop growing or shrink.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved cartilage as a treatment for cancer.

 ›  How much do I need?

The dosage varies depending on age and what it is being used for. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels, and consult your pharmacist, physician or other healthcare professional before using.

The side effects of cartilage treatment are usually mild or moderate.

›  Dietary supplements

A number of cartilage products are sold in the United States as dietary supplements. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent or cure diseases.

Source: National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute

Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.

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