B17: Deadly Poison or Cancer Cure?
Amygdalin, also known as vitamin B17, is a very controversial topic. It’s currently listed on Wikipedia as a poisonous cyanogenic glycoside that can be found in the kernels of fruit such as apricots, peaches and plums. When taken orally, according to conventional medical science, Amygdalin is potentially toxic or lethal, and can cause acute cyanide poisoning.
Since the 1950’s, however, a debate has been raging over the true nature Amygdalin.
Amygdalin was banned by the FDA in 1980, but alternative health practitioners worldwide point to it as a potential treatment for cancer, claiming that the knowledge of its anti-cancer properties have been suppressed.
In this article we’ll attempt to form a clear picture of both sides of the debate, and help cut through to the truth about the effects of Amygdalin, or Vitamin B17, on the human body.
The Origins of Amygdalin
The first distillation of Amygdalin occurred in 1830. Scientists Pierre-Jean Robiquet and Antoine Boutron-Charlard were able to isolate Amygdalin from bitter almond seeds, and by 1845 Amygdalin began to see use as an anti-cancer treatment in Russia. Amygdalin also saw use in the United States in the 1920’s, but usage as an anti-cancer treatment was halted due to claims of dangerous toxicity.
In the 1950’s, however, a new form of Amygdalin was patented in the United States which was apparently non-toxic and safe for use as a meat preservative. As the list of vitamins and minerals continue to expand, why do we not talk about vitamin B17 near as much as the others?
This purportedly non-toxic, safe version of Amygdalin was subsequently rebranded and again saw use as an anti-cancer treatment. Branded as Laetrile, this form of Amygdalin was used as an anti-cancer medication from the late 1950’s all the way up to 1976, at which point the FDA banned the sale of Amygdalin.
The ban was based on research conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on the advice of Benno C. Schmidt, Sr, a venture capitalist.
The results of the testing were met with divided results. the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center determined that the Amygdalin based Laetrile caused tumors in the mice used in the test.
Many Laetrile advocates were unsatisfied with the method of the testing and the inability to reproduce the results, as well as unhappy with the amount of inconsistencies in the reports issued by the testing lab. The FDA ban placed on Laetrile was not based on a single study, however.
Multiple other studies on the toxicity of Laetrile took place between 1970 and 1980 that supported the evidence in favour of Amygdalin and Laetrile, conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, who saw similar results in the tumors of the mice involved in lab tests.
In 2011 a review of all of the data currently collected on Amygdalin was conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that Amygdalin uses comes with a ‘considerable risk of serious adverse effects from cyanide poisoning’ and recommended no further research be conducted into the effects of Amygdalin.
A Vast Conspiracy
Supporters of Amygdalin as a cancer treatment, however, have a different take on the toxicity of Amygdalin. Amygdalin supporters hypothesize that there is a vast conspiracy between the FDA , the American pharmaceutical industry, the American Cancer Society, and the American Medical Association.
Proponents of this theory posit that there is a group of interconnected people working through these groups in a conspiracy to exploit the American people by repressing the treatment of cancer with Amygdalin due to it’s effectiveness in treating the illness.
These theorists propose that the agenda of this unnamed group is to keep the American people in a exploitive commercial cycle.
Pro-Amygdalin supporters claim that there is a wide body of evidence to support the fact that Amygdalin can treat cancer effectively and quickly. A study conducted by the Department of Physiology at Kyung Hee University in South Korea demonstrated that when exposed to cancerous prostate cells Amygdalin was able to induce a selective killing effect on the afflicted cells, killing the cancer.
Other research suggest that if combined with antibody-enzyme complexes, Amygdalin is able to kill cancerous brain or bladder cells.
Amygdalin supporters also claim that Amygdalin can boost immunity by increasing the white blood cell count in the human body. Supporters point to a study conducted by International Journal of Radiation and Biology that demonstrated white blood cell counts in patients taking Amygdalin.
Amygdalin has also been demonstrated to cause the synthesis of thiocyanate within the body, which is a chemical that is typically associated with lowering blood pressure. In a 1962 study users of Laetrile, which contains Amygdalin, also reported pain relief, but it’s uncertain what the mechanism of action involved in the pain relief effect was.
Although Amygdalin, or vitamin B17 may have potential health benefits when applied in a carefully measure medical format, it’s definitely dangerous in large amounts. Amygdalin, when digested by the body, hydrolyzes into cyanide, which is a poison and can have extremely negative effects on the body, such as headaches, vertigo, confusion, and perceived difficulty in breathing.
Acute cyanide poisoning eventually leads to cardiac arrest. There is evidence, however, that tiny doses of cyanide can increase acid content of tumors and arrest their growth.
Similarly, in very small amounts the chemicals that Amygdalin hydrolyzes into after digestion exhibit expectorant, sedative and digestive properties. A good example of this is Wild cherry bark, which is used in cough medicines, or the use of apricot kernels to treat coughs and constipation in traditional Chinese medicine.
Should You Take Amygdalin?
Well, if you somehow come across a case of Laetrile in a garage sale or in your attic, probably not. The health benefits of medical grade Amygdalin are uncertain and despite what pro-amygdalin supporters have to say about vast governmental conspiracies, medical associations and the FDA usually have the health of the general public in mind when they made policy decisions.
However, it is possible to ingest safe amounts of Amygdalin, or vitamin B17, by eating foods that are naturally rich in the chemical and pose no threat to the body, such as lima beans, fava beans, and other legumes.