Vitamin B17 is not a Vitamin – But this misnomer is not what makes it the center of ongoing debates and media attention. Claimed by some as ‘Miracle cure’ and ‘super nutrient’ and rejected by others as ‘potentially hazardous’ and ‘toxic’ this is currently a banned compound in the United States of America.
Let’s understand this compound and the controversy surrounding it.
What is Vitamin B17?
Vitamin B17 or amygdalin is a naturally occurring compound, a Cyanogenic Glucoside (a plant compound that contains sugar and produces hydrogen cyanide) found in high amounts in pits of apricots, peaches, bitter almonds and in other plant material. In body fluids and at physiological pH, hydrogen cyanide dissolves to form the cyanide anion. Laetrile is another name for this natural product.
Why is it a ‘Miracle cure’ and ‘Super nutrient’?
Vitamin B17 or Laetrile is being promoted as a cancer treatment. For several decades, Laetrile has been used by many doctors as a last resort treatment of patients who have no other hope of survival. While the effectiveness of this strange product, derived from apricot seeds, is unproven and pronounced by many to be mere quackery, a large group of doctors believe that it can have a beneficial effect. In fact, a report of the Cancer Commission of the California Medical Association in 1953 acknowledges the long-standing use of Laetrile. By 1978, more than 70,000 individuals in the United States were reported to have been treated with it.
Apart from cancer cure, it is also being promoted as a super nutrient high in antioxidant activity and having a role in regulating hypertension and improving immunity.
What research says?
Laetrile has shown little anticancer activity in animal studies and no anti-cancer activity in human clinical trials. Due to lack of evidence, further research on this compound for use as an anti-cancer drug was not approved by U.S. Government.
Laetrile supporters viewed this as an attempt by the U.S. government to block access to new and promising cancer therapies.
Why is it banned?
The FDA describes laetrile as “a highly toxic product that has not shown any effect on treating cancer.” Laetrile contains cyanide, which its supporters contend is its anti-cancer agent, but laetrile pills have been linked to cyanide poisoning, with side effects including headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fever, confusion, blue skin due to oxygen depletion, low blood pressure, droopy eyelids and nerve and liver damage.
According to the American Cancer Society, cyanide toxicity due to laetrile treatments has led to death in a few cases.
No one is allowed to sell laetrile in the European Union because there is no evidence that it works, and because of its serious side effects. It is banned in the USA by the Food and Drugs Agency (FDA).
Do the food we normally eat contains this compound?
Sorghum, buckwheat, barley and other millets contain amygdalin in little amounts. Spinach leaves and leaves of Eucalyptus have trace amounts.
Bamboo sprouts and the sprouts of alfalfa, fava beans whole green gram also contains the compound in low amounts.
Due to the potential for both great physical benefit and physical harm, caution must be practised while using such (food) products as a cure. This article is intended to keep you aware.It does not provide recommendations for making health care decisions.