One of the main risks is that once consumed, this ‘vitamin’ can be transformed into cyanide that is harmful to our body.
From time to time, a substance called vitamin B17 appears online. Usually highlighting its ability to cure cancer. However, under this name is actually hidden a medicine called Laetrile, a man-made form of amygdalin found naturally in some foods, such as raw nuts such as bitter almonds or the pits of some fruits such as apricots, although at very low levels.
According to some of these recurring stories, cancer would only be the result of vitamin B17 deficiency. “The objective with this article is to convince you that there is no disease such as cancer, since it is only a deficiency of vitamin B17 (Amygdalin). So pay close attention about this cancer theory that has not been fully birthed, you will be surprised, “says one of these publications.
All this, without sparing criticism of governments and pharmaceutical companies, whom he accuses of hiding this information in pursuit of spurious economic and political interests: “It turns out that for the industry, cancer is a business worth thousands and billions of US dollars. But, although the cure for cancer has existed for a long time, it has not been disclosed for the simple reason that it fills the pockets of the pharmaceutical industries”. Some claims based on the book A world without cancer: the story of vitamin B17 of G. Edward Griffin, which, ultimately, are nothing more than a rehash of conspiracy theories and defense of pseudoscientific therapies.
However, and despite the alleged testimonies claiming to have overcome cancer with this substance, the truth is that there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Moreover, there are numerous studies against it that link it to potentially serious side effects. In fact, drug regulatory entities in the United States, Canada and the European Union warn about the risks of undergoing them, especially because of their relationship with cyanide.
History of a hypothesis
In 1920, Ernst T. Krebs Sr. theorized that amygdalin might be effective against cancer. A possible efficacy that was reduced by the toxicity it represented for humans. His son, Ernst T. Krebs Junior, continued his research. In 1952 he was able to synthesize a less harmful version called Laetrile. Despite not being a vitamin, he named it vitamin B17, likely to avoid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, which apply to drugs but not vitamins.
Despite these attempts to circumvent oversight, the FDA issued a statement against Laetrile in 1977, noting the lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy and safety. Finally, the FDA ended up outlawing amygdalin cancer treatments in 1987.
This position of the FDA was reaffirmed in 2016, when it warned 14 companies that were illegally selling “more than 65 products that fraudulently promise to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer”. Similar steps were taken by other organizations. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also stated its position on the toxic effect of amygdalin. For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reiterated that “Laetrile is not a vitamin, as some claim, but a poison that can lead to death“.
Doubts about benefits
Most of the research on vitamin B17 focuses on its associations with cancer, as we have seen with great results. However, there are those who defend possible health benefits in other areas.
A study in people between the ages of 40 and 65 found that amygdalin helped reduce systolic blood pressure by 28.5% and diastolic blood pressure by 25%. However, this was one very low quality study that did not use a control group.
Other research in rats indicates that amygdalin can help relieve pain. However, there is a lack of human-based evidence to suggest the effectiveness of amygdalin as an analgesic.
Another 2020 study suggests that vitamin B17 can help boost immunity. Despite this, the research also highlights the lack of evidence to support this and that more research is needed.
In short, all these statements are based on previous studies in which there is, for now, no conclusive result.
What are the risks?
As we have pointed out before, there is more evidence of its risks and side effects than its benefits. If a person ingests vitamin B17, the body converts it to cyanide in the small intestine. For example, an oral compound of 500 milligrams of amygdalin can contain up to 30 milligrams of cyanide. The problem is that this substance is toxic and can be deadly. A minimum lethal dose of cyanide is estimated to be approximately 50 milligrams or 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
Additionally, other evidence points to oral amygdalin being approximately 40 times more potent than the intravenous form due to the way it can be converted to cyanide in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to death in the most extreme cases, mild to moderate cyanide poisoning can cause various symptoms such as headache, nausea, increased breathing rate, eye and skin irritation, dizziness, blue discoloration of the skin, lips, gums, or around the eyes due to lack of oxygen in the blood, or liver damage.