Vitamin B17 is the commonly used name for a chemical called amygdalin. Usually derived from apricots and bitter almond seeds, amygdalin is used to make laetrile, a compound often said to help treat cancer despite little evidence of its safety or effectiveness. Although they are often referred to as "vitamin B17," amygdalin and laetrile are not actually B vitamins.
What is vitamin B17 used for?
Proponents of laetrile often claim that it is an effective natural cancer treatment that also helps protect against high blood pressure and arthritis . Little scientific evidence supports any of these uses.
Laetrile is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cancer or any other medical condition. In fact, in 2019, the FDA issued an import alert for laetrile, citing a lack of evidence of its efficacy and unapproved status.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that there is no evidence that laetrile is required by the body or that laetrile can act as a vitamin in animals or humans.
It is said to work
In essence, the cancer-fighting B17 hypothesis is based on a mechanism called apoptosis, which is a type of cell death that occurs because a cell is malignant, infected, or because it is time for new cells to replace it. Apoptosis is a way to keep your body healthy.
Proponents of laetrile claim that it secretes cyanide into the body, which induces apoptosis in cancer cells without harming healthy cells. This idea has been promoted for several types of cancer, including:
Some scientific tests have shown that laetrile has anticancer activity, and this has renewed interest in its potential effects. But so far the evidence is preliminary and requires more research to assess its true consequences and possible risks.
Some proponents of laetrile also argue that vitamin B17 deficiency is the cause of cancer. They say that taking laetrile can eliminate this deficiency and, in turn, help treat or prevent cancer. However, there is no evidence that the body uses B17 in any way.
Laetrile's popularity has been bolstered and, at times, bolstered by conspiracy theories. For decades, some people have argued that laetrile has been shown to be safe and effective, or that it is the target of government cover-ups for cheap cancer treatments.
Despite the FDA ban that went into effect in 1987, many people still take laetrile for cancer, and it is widely available online and in some stores. The products may not be legally marketed as a cure for cancer, but because the internet is full of false claims, people still discover and search for them.
What the research says
Some studies suggest that B17 deserves further study, but these studies have only been done on cells in a Petri dish or in animals. This may be the beginning of laying the groundwork for the transition to human clinical trials, but the research has not yet reached this stage.
Some studies of laetrile / amygdalin as a cancer treatment published in reputable journals are really encouraging.
- In the March 2021 issue of the Journal of Biomelecular Structure & Dynamics . The researchers say they have discovered the mechanisms by which amygdalin induces apoptosis, an increase in one cellular protein and a decrease in another, as well as other beneficial effects at the cellular level. They state that "amygdalin has anticancer properties and induces apoptosis" and "amygdalin can act as a multifunctional drug in cancer therapy."
- In a Current Molecular Pharmacology article from August 2020, researchers say they have shown that amygdalin can kill certain breast cancer cell lines and that amygdalin can inhibit the spread of these cells throughout the body. They also claim that it is not toxic to healthy skin cells.
- In a study published in the June 2020 International Journal of Nanomedicine, researchers combined amygdalin with an enzyme called beta-glucosidase (ß-glu) that enhances amygdalin activity and found that this led to cell death. cancerous prostate. They say the treatment had some effect on the functioning of the heart and liver, but did not cause organ damage.
Why the evidence is inconclusive
In studies, it is not clear whether amygdalin may be more effective against some types of cancer than others. and they cite the need for further research to determine what potential role it could play.
For a treatment like laetrile to be an effective cancer treatment, it must effectively kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
Other important considerations:
- It should be administered in appropriate and consistent doses that have not yet been established and are probably not possible through diet or unregulated commercial products.
- It must be able to survive the digestive process and other defense mechanisms of the body and enter the bloodstream and tissues in quantities large enough to have a therapeutic effect.
- It must be combined or broken down in a specific way by your body's enzymes and other substances to be useful, not inactive or harmful.
- How you react to this can be affected by the makeup of your gut microbiota (the mix of bacteria in your digestive system).
A review of the available evidence, published in 2016, states:
Blaheta RA et al.
There is strong evidence that amygdalin causes rapid and distinct tumor regression in cancer patients, especially in the later stages of the disease.
– Blaheta RA, et al.
The researchers also said that some aspects of the use of amygdalin "are not yet fully understood, so more research is needed to evaluate its real therapeutic potential."
According to a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2015, claims that laetrile or amygdalin may benefit cancer patients are not supported by reliable clinical evidence.
It states that none of the studies it previously assessed was high enough to meet the reviewers' criteria. They concluded that consumption of amygdalin was associated with a significant risk of serious side effects from cyanide poisoning and said:
Milazzo S et al.
Based on the available data, there is currently no scientific or ethical justification for clinical trials of laetrile or amygdalin for the treatment of cancer.
– Milazzo S. et al.
The Cochrane Review concluded: "Due to the risk of cyanide poisoning, the use of laetrile or amygdalin is not recommended."
If you want to naturally get more amygdalin in your diet, this is not difficult. However, do not expect a miracle cure and do not consume excessive amounts of these foods as this can lead to cyanide poisoning.
Natural sources of amygdalin include:
- Apricot, peach, papaya and apple kernels and seeds
- Raw almonds
- Lima beans, mung beans, and butter beans
- Bean sprouts
- Flax seed
There is nothing wrong with including these foods in your diet as long as they are in healthy amounts. Even the most positive studies do not recommend consuming large amounts of B17. Be sure to include your doctor in any dietary changes you make.
Side effects and safety concerns
Commercially available B17 products are not tested or regulated. Many of the laetrile products that are commercially available in the US come from Mexico. These products are not tested or regulated and contaminated products have been found. These foods can pose a serious threat to your health, in addition to laetrile itself.
Products containing laetrile have been found to cause a number of side effects that are very similar to cyanide poisoning, including:
- Blue skin color
- Nerve damage
- Droopy upper eyelids
- Hepatic injury
- Low blood pressure
- Threw up
Cyanide poisoning is a life-threatening emergency. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
In one study, researchers wanted to understand why some people taking tonsillin develop cyanide toxicity while others do not, and why this is more common with tonsillin than injections.
They found that some gut bacteria have high levels of the enzyme ß-glu, which converts amygdalin to a hydrogen cyanide (HCN) toxin. Several factors can affect these ß-glucose levels, including:
Vitamin C can increase the amount of laetrile cyanide released in your body and can lead to an increased risk of toxicity.
The potential risks of this treatment must be seriously considered, especially considering all the unknown factors associated with the possible benefits. While there is no proven way to completely eliminate the risk of all types of cancer, certain methods can help reduce the risk.
These methods include:
- Stop smoking and using tobacco
- Get recommended exams
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- keep a healthy weight
If you are considering using vitamin B17 to prevent or treat cancer, it is very important to check with your healthcare provider first. Self-treatment and avoiding or delaying standard treatment can have serious consequences.
Frequently asked questions
Where can I buy vitamin B17?
B17 is widely available in online stores and regular stores in the United States. However, their manufacture is not regulated and these products are not approved by the FDA for any use and the FDA does not consider these products to be safe.
What does vitamin B17 do for the body?
While there is some preliminary laboratory evidence that it can help stop the spread of certain cancers, the only conclusively proven effect of so-called vitamin B17 on the body is cyanide poisoning. Among people who use it to treat cancer, some die from cyanide poisoning.
Get the word of drug information
Natural products appeal to some people, especially given the side effects that can occur from taking pharmaceutical medications. Cancer treatments are especially hard on your body. However, it is important to remember that "natural" does not automatically mean "safe."
Some natural or alternative treatments may have a low enough risk that even if they don't work, they are not tried. This is not the case with laetrile / amygdalin / vitamin B17 – the cyanide content is a real threat to your health. If you are considering this as a treatment, with a commercial product, or on a diet, be sure to speak with your doctor first.