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Apricot kernels, Cancer and Vitamin B17 - Part 1


Apricot kernels, Cancer and Vitamin B17 - Part 1


Over the years there have been a number of mixed messages about apricot kernels, which contain the controversial vitamin B17 (also known as amygdalin), and their effectiveness in both treating cancer and keeping it at bay. Amygdalin is a molecule with four components - two of glucose (sugar), one of benzaldehyde and one of cyanide. It seems that the cyanide component of amygdalin is the one that either has everyone hitching up their skirts and running for the hills, or conversely, looking for a way to claim it as their own and using it as a potential cancer cure. It would appear that when the public eats apricot kernels, with the inevitable cyanide component, it may be very dangerous, but when scientists modify the cyanide component, and call it a treatment, it may be quite safe. Confusing isn’t it.

On the 7th September 2000, ‘The Independent’ told us that scientists at Imperial College London had found that the ‘magic bullet of cyanide could kill cancer cells'. Apparently, a Dr Deonarain from Imperial College stated that for the first time they had been able to show that they could kill cancer cells using a ‘prodrug activation approach’ (his words, not mine). The paper described the ‘magic bullet’ as a cyanide cocktail derived from the cassava plant. Could this be because, along with apricot kernels, the cassava plant also contains B17 (amygdalin)?

However, before we unhitch our skirts and return from the hills we need to know about the ‘Fatal dangers of alternative cancer cures on the web' as reported in ‘The Sunday Times’ (3rd August 2004). It seems that ‘thousands of cancer patients are risking their health by following the advice of alternative therapy websites promoting bogus cures’. Edzard Ernst, who is apparently the country’s only professor of complementary medicine (clearly a lonely job), called for the government to steer people away from treatments promoted on the mighty interweb! Shockingly, researchers found that dozens of remedies were being promoted as curing or preventing cancer - including shark cartilage, coffee enemas, mistletoe and ‘apricot extracts’ - scary stuff!

The Sunday Times report clearly demonstrated the sheer foolishness of taking your health into your own hands. And as if their dire warning wasn’t enough, in 2006 (11th April), the good old BBC let us know ‘Watchdog warns over apricot seeds’. Is there no getting away from apricots! The BBC reported that the Food Standards Agency are concerned that cyanide can be poisonous in high doses, and that we should consume no more than two bitter apricot kernels per day. In the same report, Cancer Research UK (also apparently worried by apricots) warns us that the claims of apricot pips curing cancer are simply not true. They state that 'if simply eating apricot seeds could cure cancer, no one would be more delighted than us’. Perhaps they need to get together with Dr Deonarain from Imperial College?

In order to be able to make an informed judgment about what’s actually going on we should really take a look at the science behind the headlines.

If you’re interested in knowing more, take a look at ‘Apricot kernels, Cancer and Vitamin B17 - Part 2’.

Andersen Counselling & Advice, Chelmsford, Essex UK.
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