Just as the California ban comes into effect and as New York State mulls a ban of their own, shark fins turn out to be really, really bad for you, according to a new study. The fins of multiple varieties of sharks are loaded with the neurotoxin BMAA, or Beta-methylamino-L-alanine, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in humans, as the Times’ Green blog reports.
The toxin comes from a bacteria that exists throughout the ocean, and which rises up the food chain and gets concentrated in shark tissues, since they’re at the top of the chain. The toxin can then accumulate in human tissues over our life span, and has been found in high concentrations in the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s. Also, the toxin acts "synergistically" with mercury, and can be all the more deadly when combined with mercury, which is also highly concentrated in shark tissue.
Fascinatingly, according to one expert, "the toxin binds to glutamate receptors, possibly like those found in ‘umami’ taste buds," making foods that contain it all the more delicious and prized.
Maybe soon, given this, after thousands of years, the Chinese will stop seeing shark fin as such a symbol of good taste and prosperity.
Shark Fins Are Loaded With a Neurotoxin, Study Finds [NYT]
Earlier: Corey Lee Fools Cecilia Chiang With Faux Shark Fin
Shark Fin Ban Signed Into Law; But Shark Fin Soup Will Be Around for Two Years At Least