I’ll admit, I’m no huge fan of ‘alternative medicine’, particularly the ones which have been thoroughly tested and shown over and over again to be entirely ineffective (yes homoeopathy, I’m looking at you).
At best these treatments don’t work, and at worst they delay or even stop people getting the effective treatment they need. In fact, there’s an even worse possibility: they stop people from people from giving their children the treatments they need.
Ok, if you’re old enough to make decisions for yourself, and you’ve tried conventional medicine and it hasn’t worked terribly well for your particular problem, and you’ve found that, say, acupuncture somehow does make your chronic back pain a bit better, even if it is just placebo effect, then hey, it’s your money (just please don’t recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t checked out all their other options first, ok?) Also, please, please read this fantastic article which explains clearly what cancer is and what, crucially, it isn’t.
But there has surely has to be a special corner of hell reserved for people who peddle so called ‘cancer-cures’.
Medicine has moved on a lot in the last few decades. Advanced screening techniques and treatments mean that many cancers are no longer the death sentence they once were. 50% of people (in England and Wales) now survive cancer for ten years or more, which is double the figure 40 years ago. But it’s easy for a well person to say ‘cancer treatments’. They are not always quite so easy to get through. Cancer treatments – namely surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy – can be brutal and frequently come with a raft of unpleasant side-effects, particularly chemotherapy.
There are some people who decide that the cure is worse than the disease and personally, I think that’s their choice to make. They should have the right to make that choice, so long as it’s well-informed.
So long as it’s well-informed.
But there are people out there who are making money from desperate cancer sufferers. They sell them ineffective treatments, discourage them (directly or indirectly) from seeking or accepting the treatment they really need, and sometimes even encourage those people to use toxic substances that are likely to actually cause even more harm.
People like Roger Shelley, owner and director of The Vitamin Service Ltd. Who has just been given a six-month suspended prison sentence and his company fined £10,000 for selling potentially toxic ‘vitamins’ he claimed could cure and prevent cancer.
In particular, he was selling apricot kernels, which he claimed contained a ‘vitamin’ called B17. There is no such vitamin. The chemical in question is something called amygdalin (sometimes also referred to as laetrile, although they are not quite the same thing). See the picture of it? See that CN group down at the bottom? That’s a nitrile group. Potassium cyanide, the poison so beloved of crime writers, has the formula KCN, which is a compound made up of K+ and CN– ions. It’s the cyanide ions, CN–, that do the damage, by interfering catastrophically with the way the body uses oxygen. Now, nitriles (like amygdalin) don’t usually give up their cyanide ions easily and so aren’t, generally, anywhere near as toxic as compounds like potassium cyanide.
Unfortunately one of the enzymes in your small intestine helps to speed up the breakdown of amygdalin. Eating apricot kernels can cause severe toxicity and death due to cyanide poisoning. Yes, severe toxicity and death. Eating apricot kernels can kill you.
Before I cause mass panic I should probably point out that if you accidentally swallow one on a summer picnic, do not fear. It takes more than one to do any damage. The Food Standards Agency says it’s safe to eat one apricot kernel a day (they’re not saying you should, mind you).
The Vitamin Service was recommending that adults take 35 kernels every day. That IS enough to do damage. In fact, it’s above the dose that the FSA highlights as causing severe symptoms. In this statement, they site a case (point 15) of a woman who ate 30 apricot kernels and was later found comatose.
Worse, The Vitamin Service were also recommending that children take 10 kernels a day, “to ward off cancer”. For children, who have a smaller body mass than adults, even this smaller dose could be extremely dangerous.
Patients following The Vitamin Service’s regime reported symptoms of dizziness and cogitative problems. Classic symptoms of cyanide poisoning. When they reported these symptoms they were advised to reduce the amount for a few days before increasing it again, because the symptoms were due to ‘toxins’. Indeed they were, a toxic substance in the very products The Vitamin Service were selling.
To add insult to injury, they were charging in the region of £600 for these kernels along with a raft of other supplements they were recommending.
Shelly admitted to misleading customers and failing to warn them of the risks of B17. He has been given a six month suspended prison sentence, and his company is no longer selling apricot kernels as a cancer treatment. Which you’d think would be a good thing. Problem solved, no?
Just Google “B17 cancer” or “apricot kernels”. There are dozens of sites out there promoting it as a cancer treatment, and many still selling products. I won’t link to them here, I don’t want to give them the traffic. But it’s frightening. Please don’t believe these people. Please listen to your doctors, the real ones, the ones who have studied for years to learn everything they can about medicines and illnesses, and who have sworn an oath to “do no harm”.
There isn’t an easy, painless, magical cure for the cancer that the pharmaceutical industry is hiding from us for some reason. We all wish there was, but there isn’t. Cancer is horrible, but a lot of the time these days it’s beatable with the right treatments. And for those, you need a qualified doctor.
This story was covered in detail on The One Show on BBC One, on Monday 4th February 2015. You can watch the clip here: start at about 4:30 minutes.
There is also an excellent, very easy to follow, summary of the use of laetrile on the charity Cancer Research UK’s website. Read it here.
Finally, once again, if you’re in the unfortunate position of having been diagnosed with cancer, please, please read this excellent article. It really does help to understand the importance of targeted treatment.
Update 8th June 2015
When I wrote this post I focused on the eating of actual apricot kernels, and Roger Shelley’s conviction for selling them. It is worth pointing out that although apricot kernels definitely contain amygdalin, it’s impossible to be certain exactly how much any one kernel contains. This is always a risk with any natural product like this.
This means there is a big, huge, difference between eating apricot kernels – even a known number of them – and being exposed to a small amount of amygdalin in a controlled manner, say as part of a cancer treatment trial. In the first situation you have no idea how much of the chemical you’re being exposed to, and no one is monitoring you to check for ill effects (which you might, or might not, be aware of). It is true that otherwise toxic compounds are utilised in chemotherapy. Arsenic trioxide is used to treat a particular kind of leukaemia for example, but this doesn’t mean swallowing a teaspoon of it every day ‘just in case’ would be in any way sensible or safe.
In 2010 there was a Cochrane review of all the work previously done on amygdalin and laetrile. It reported that there was no clinical data to support the use of these substances to treat cancer, that the risk benefit of using these substances was unanimously negative (the risk of severe poisoning far outweighed any possible benefit), and recommended that no further clinical research into laetrile or amygdalin be conducted on ethical grounds.
However, since I wrote this post I have been made aware that some research is still ongoing. Well, science is about finding answers after all. For example, both of the following papers have been published since the Cochrane review:
- Advanced research on anti-tumor effects of amygdalin (J Cancer Res Ther. 2014, Aug)
- Amygdalin Blocks Bladder Cancer Cell Growth In Vitro by Diminishing Cyclin A and cdk2 (PLoS One. 2014, August)
Notice that these papers are about the specific chemical amygdalin, rather than apricot kernels. Note also that the second paper contains the words in vitro, which means outside of living organisms. In a test tube in a lab basically. This might be an interesting starting point, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the same effect can be reproduced in living organisms which have inconvenient things like a digestive system to work around. Also, bear in mind that effective cancer treatments are highly targeted. Tossing unknown amounts of a substance into the general vicinity of a tumour and hoping it’ll have the effect you want is like throwing a bucket of paint at a piece of fine china and expecting to see pretty decorations appear.
Digestion is a particularly thorny problem with this substance: in the first paper I mentioned above (which is a review of the work done to date, rather than new research) the authors specifically point out that amygdalin is a lot more toxic when it’s taken orally than when it’s given intravenously (injected). The reason is that, as I mentioned in my original post, it’s broken down by enzymes in your small intestine. You’re going to have a hard time injecting apricot kernels; you pretty much have to eat them. Which is risky.
Also, while the authors do provide a lot of examples of the therapeutic benefits of amygdalin, they also point out that the (apparent) “antitumor mechanism of amygdalin is not completely clear”, that “clinical trials and large retrospective studies showed that [it] had no stable antitumor effect” and that adverse reactions have been reported, particularly following large doses.
So, while this compound might be a subject for further research, I stand by my original point. Don’t eat apricot kernels.
Further update, 20th August 2015
I’ve recently been made aware of a someone called Dr Philip Binzel and, what appears to be, a rather famous book called “Alive and Well“. In this book, Dr Binzel describes his treatment of cancer patients using dietary changes and supplements, including laetrile. I can find remarkably little information about Dr Binzel and his credentials beyond what’s described in this book. However, it is a matter of public record that he died on June 6, 2003. So take any source discussing his work in the present tense with a large pinch of salt.
Another recent post on this blog which may be of interest addresses this common complaint, “no one wants to research that; they can’t make any money from it!”
Follow The Chronicle Flask on Facebook for regular updates and other interesting tidbits.
Comments have now been closed on this post. Please do not post in the comments section of other posts in an attempt to get around this. Such comments will be deleted.
Great post. Fools and their money are quickly parted, so the old saying goes! How anyone can believe in such guff in 2015 is beyond me. Homeopathy is one of the biggest scams going…along with religion in my opinion, but that’s another story.
Cancer is awful of course. Some people will get it and recover, some will die from it. That’s life, but I put my trust in science, not quackery.
Homeopathy is a scam yes, but these appricot seeds are not a scam. Besides that people also use science to cover up things that actually cure. The medical fields would lose out on money if there were cures for deadly virus and such. Heck appricots are cheap compared to medical cost.
Yes homoeopathy is a scam. Apricot kernels have not been proven to have any benefits at all, and plenty of risks. In answer to your final well-worn point, please read this other post.
An usefull post,thx to admin for the article
I eat about 60 a day since the energy boost is amazing, but you only eat a few every hour. This is also used consistently by hospitals outside of the US.
Plead read my post carefully. Apricot kernels are toxic. You are poisoning yourself.
Please read the following, just one of hundreds: http://www.cancertutor.com/laetrile/
and realise that laetrile (the important anti-cancerous component of apricot kernels) is a well known, very effective cure for cancer as it kills off the cancerous cells. For those interested, watch the following documentary on YouTube – G. Edward Griffin – A World Without Cancer – The Story Of Vitamin B17: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeYMduufa-E
The corruption is not in selling these seeds for money. The corruption is the Government making access to laetrile so difficult that doctors are barely allowed to prescribe it because they know that it has the power (if used correctly as with any medicine) to severely effect the huge income made by all involved in ‘curing cancer’ which they are obviously not doing anyway. Look at statistics of how many people get cancer today compared with 10, 30, 50 years ago. A huge rise.
Please do more research before stating such dangerous claims as this. Apricot Kernels have saved many lives and who knows how many more they could have if they weren’t suppressed by the powers that be and blasted to the public as toxic, killers, doctors taken out of work because they prescribe them. Go and see how difficult it is to get a prescription for Laetrile. You will realise something is very wrong in what they want you to believe.
Ah. It’s all a conspiracy. I see.
For the record – particularly for anyone else reading these comments – that Cancer Tutor article is written by Webster Kehr. He is very, vary far from a reputable scientist. In fact, he has no medical or scientific qualifications at all. He is a well-know conspiracy theorist who claims that the medical profession and drug companies are deliberately suppressing so-called cures for cancer, something which simply doesn’t make any sense when you give it even half a second’s thought. I would strongly, strongly urge anyone and everyone to read this excellent article which clearly explains why not. G. Edward Griffin (the YouTube link) is similarly a conspiracy theorist who believes, apricot kernels aside, that HIV doesn’t exist and that antiretroviral medications cause AIDS. This flies in the face of all known scientific research. He also asserts that airplanes leave a permanent grid of ‘chemtrails‘ hanging over cities, which have mysterious and sinister effects on the population. This, I’m afraid, is flat-out crazy.
Hopefully I’ve made my point that these are not reputable sources, although I’m sure you won’t believe me. As I said at the outset, this is a science blog and no place for conspiracy theories. Therefore, regretfully, any more comments espousing said conspiracy theories will be deleted.
They are not toxic. I grew up eating them routinely in moderate amounts. Please stop spreading misinformation. Everything is toxic in large amounts by the way, even H2O. There has not been one case of death recorded from eating apricot seeds. Moreover, amygdalin has been proven to be effective on cancer cells. It’s well documented. Just because you are “no fan of alternative medicine”, does not lean it does not help. If you think only pharmaceutical pill help, you are very mistaken. Educate yourself before posting something you have no clue about.
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Actually, no. You are wrong on both counts. Firstly, it hasn’t been proved effective. In 2010 there was a Cochrane review of all the work previously done on amygdalin (the chemical in apricot kernels) and laetrile. It reported that there was no clinical data to support the use of these substances to treat cancer, that the risk benefit of using these substances was unanimously negative (the risk of severe poisoning far outweighed any possible benefit), and recommended that no further clinical research into laetrile or amygdalin be conducted on ethical grounds. Wikipedia also has a useful summary.
Secondly, it’s easy to find reports of people who’ve become seriously ill or even died after using this treatment. Since you say “there has not been one”, I’ll provide you with one to be going on with:
Multiple Cases of Cyanide Poisoning by Apricot Kernels in Children from Gaza:
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It’s not just cancer either, as a sufferer of multiple chronic illnesses & the parent of a child with chronic illness – I see many of these ridiculous claims forwarded via social media, aiming for the pockets of the vulnerable. Many are relatively harmless – eg. a topical magnesium spray that will supposedly relieve the acute pain in Chronic Pain Disorders … & others as dangerous as the above & another “heal-all” green super-vitamin/mineral/chemical product doing the rounds, which recently put teenage girl from my Lupus support group into organ failure …
Let’s not forget the just plain stupid, dangerous & callous ppl who create & circulate bogus DIY home remedies, treatments & cures for amusement – because u can’t police them .. & the flock of sheep willing to forward the ‘cure’ on, without reading up on it is endless. I’ve ended friendships over this very issue.
One ‘friend’ forwarded an online post telling Diabetics to stop taking insulin & instead to boil okra in water & then just drink the water. As the mother of a Type 1 diabetic & having also lost my Type 1 diabetic father to Diabetic Ketoacidosis, I knew her post had the potential to cause a slow & painful death to an insulin dependent diabetic – so I explained the basic science to her & asked her to remove the post because it was dangerous .. She refused, saying she was entitled to her own opinion … I tried over & over again, explaining how insulin is a hormone & not a medicine .. the 3 different types of diabetes .. how insulin is ‘the key to life’.. how, without insulin to ‘unlock’ the cells, they can’t open to be nourished & they die .. how if an insulin-dependent patient stops their insulin, they WILL die – only the time it takes will vary … I even spoke about how my father died, & how what she was posting could kill Type 1 kids like my son, if they didn’t know any better – asking her repeatedly to please delete the post …
She said she was “sorry for (my) loss but that’s just (your) OPINION” … I explained that it was not an OPINION, it’s SCIENCE, medical science – which we’d learned about over many years of appointments, admissions, clinics, classes, lectures & programs with Doctors, Specialist Endocrinologists & other Medical Professionals at the Hospital & by READING about things we didn’t understand … We’re no longer friends.
That’s awful. I really can’t wrap my head around people who insist on wilful ignorance. I mean, I have a bit of sympathy when people are deliberately misled by charlatans, but having the info and choosing to ignore it? Why?
Did you also see my recent post on ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’?
Is eating a proper diet considered ‘quackery’? I’ve read that eating plenty of antioxidants can help prevent cancer. I thank you for the courteous warning, but why no tips about foods that could help? There is plenty of science linking diet to cancer.
For the record, I do eat about 30 apricot kernels per day, sometimes over 20 in one sitting. Never experienced any I’ll effects. How many people gave ever gotten sick from eating apricot kernels? That statistic must exist somewhere..
Firstly, please stop eating apricot kernels. They are toxic, and although you may not be experiencing ill effects right now, who knows what long-term damage you could be doing. By the time symptoms present it may be too late.
Secondly, of course we should all try to aim for a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. There is some evidence that a balanced, more plant-based, diet may reduce cancer risk. However there is very limited evidence that including any one particular nutrient or food helps to prevent, and certainly not cure, cancer. I’m afraid that those that say there are are inevitably selling something. As in the case of apricot kernels.
Actually, there are many specific foods that have been shown to help the body fight certain cancers. Tumeric, garlic, ginger, lemon, black raspberry, cruciferous vegetables such as onions, broccoli, cabbage, and radishes.
One study that I’ve read showed that smokers that eat carrots twice per week or more were 30% less likely to develop lung cancer than those that did not. In India, where Tumeric is in most daily diets, incidences of several types of cancer are way less than in the US. These studies were not from organizations involved in the sale of tumeric or onions. Nor do my sources of information regarding apricot kernels engage in the sale of apricot kernels. I get then from an unrelated farm in CA on Amazon, and they have hundreds of glowing reviews.
Please could you provide links to peer-reviewed journal articles that demonstrate these effects?
Apricot kernels ARE toxic. There might be glowing reviews, this doesn’t change the fact. They are toxic, you are poisoning yourself.
I should also note that, while I appreciate your concern for my well being, I find it curious how little else you have to offer people other than nearly rabid vilification of apricot seeds. You seem to downplay the general importance of diet and reducing your exposure to toxins in life, except of course for the one that is not in most peoples diets, which also happens to be the one that an awful lot of people have been expressing ‘anecdotal’ success with, rather than getting sick from as purported here. I also have not been getting sick despite increasing my intake daily, which I find odd since you (almost exclusively) claim that I should have been hospitalized by now.
This is a science blog. I’m not here to offer health advice with respect to diet and medical treatments. I’m not qualified to do so. I’m a chemist (I AM qualified in that respect) and all I attempted to explain was what the chemical is in apricot kernels, and why it’s harmful. I’m not alone in this ‘opinion’. One person has been given a given a six-month suspended prison sentence for selling them. The Food Standards Agency have clearly stated that they are toxic and should not be consumed. Here’s a journal article describing a case where several children became ill, some fatally, after eating apricot kernels. Here’s another case of a woman who became ill after eating them. And another. And another. True you won’t find a (recent) peer-reviewed study comparing a group of people consuming these and a group not, because it would be highly unethical to do so (you’d be poisoning one of your groups). But the evidence is pretty clear: this is not safe.
So, you aren’t qualified to write on diet, nutrition, or cancer therapy, yet you’ve written an article telling people to avoid a seed that purportedly helps the body fight some cancers…As a chemist, have you conducted any of your own studies to help lend some clarity on the subject? It seems there is no research on these since the 80s.
Ah, I see, you can’t conduct research on these because you would be poisoning one of your groups.
I would sign up, I’ve already been eating them for months. In fact, I personally know at least four others that are poisoning themselves with apricot kernels already that would sign up.
How could we go about organizing an unbiased study? We can find other volunteers, such as all of the people that purchase these legally here in the states. Why aren’t these farmers being prosecuted?
Ok, look. This blog exists for people interested in finding out about actual science. I don’t promote conspiracy theories, I don’t repeat as fact the dubious musings of the, sadly many, unqualified people out there who are purporting to give health advice. I write about established science, that’s it.
In 2010 there was Cochrane review of all the work previously done on amygdalin (the chemical in apricot kernels) and laetrile. It reported that there was NO clinical data to support the use of these substances to treat cancer, that the risk benefit of using these substances was unanimously negative (the risk of severe poisoning far outweighed any possible benefit), AND recommended that no further clinical research into laetrile or amygdalin be conducted on ethical grounds. Here’s the link, go and read the review. Wikipedia also has a useful summary.
The safety of eating apricot kernels is not up for further debate (it’s not safe), and I’m also not willing to get into arguments about ‘Big Pharma’. Please read the article I linked to previously – I strongly suspect you haven’t yet.
It’s very clear that you’re not interested in learning about science when it contradicts your viewpoint. Which rather misses the point of science, to be honest. Yes, yes, please don’t reply with “but you’re not willing to change YOUR viewpoint”. Actually, there are many, many topics upon which I’ve changed my viewpoint over the years as new data has come to light. That’s what scientists do. I’m satisfied, in this case, that the data is conclusive. This stuff is dangerous, and if you persist in using it you’re putting your health at risk. End of story.
I’m afraid that further comments from you will be deleted. Take it somewhere else.
Katlday, Many thanks for taking the time to make us all aware of the potential dangers.
I don’t like this article, I feel it is written in an unnecessarily antagonistic fashion and the above post sums up my opinion of science on nutrition in general “I’ve changed my viewpoint over the years as new data has come to light” this is where science has let us all down (the pseudo science that determined that coconut oil was dangerous, the most recent announcements on e-cigarettes which were noncommittal and inconclusive to say the least, eggs are sometimes detrimental to health, and other times essential – and the list goes on and on).
I don’t particularly like the argument suggesting that because a particular food contains a compound that is dangerous, then the food should be written off (where would we be without sodium chloride?)
Having said all this what I really think is absurd is the argument that because an individual is presently consuming between 30 and 60 of these things a day, and has not noticed any ill effects (so far) then it must be OK orgood. I used to drink 10 pints a night and drive home and I’m still here, so by the same logic that must be OK too.
I would like more facts – the number of fatalities and serious illnesses per year as a result of eating these (and how this stacks up against crossing the road etc).
I am not a scientist, nutrition expert or doctor, but common sense says that healthy eating is a diversified and balanced diet which contains everything in moderation, and my reading of the article suggests that if you are going to insist on eating them, then it would be prudent to seriously limit the intake.
turmric, indian gooseberry, cinnamonn and some more spices are best medicine. i mfrom india and our food is considered most unhealthy by west. but still cancer is not rampent here. we eat lot of sweats, unhealthy fat and lard. vegies and sometimes fruit as fruit is very costly here.still we are OK. i contribute this to the spices written above.
On the other hand, India has very high rates of heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cancer risk increases with age. A patient dying of a heart attack at 50 may not have time to develop cancer.
Thats because they are a 3rd world country, the U.S is not and we have more diseases than any country on earth. Auto immune disease is worst here than almost anywhere and those strike at any age.
Firstly, ‘third word’ is an inappropriate term and may even be considered quite offensive. If you must use something, use ‘developing country’. Secondly, there are many reasons why the US might (source?) have a high level of autoimmune disorders, not least of which are better diagnostic techniques and more advanced and available treatments – in other words, patients with such illnesses are far less likely to die young of some relatively minor complication.
Smart man and, may I add, brave! Particularly in this age of politicization of medicine, science, etc. You are a breath of fresh air!
Ryan, excellently put. I have this same conversation so often, and find the unbelievable ignorance surrounding medicine and cancer so frustrating. Some of these people have no idea how cancer actually works, or how it is formed. The doctors that do have only been taught to treat the symptoms, and never the cause. Doctors are barely even taught the basics on nutrition, about 19 hours out of all of those years in training. Conventional cancer treatment with toxic, carcinogenic drugs is a multi-billion pound / dollar industry. Western medicine hasn’t reduced the rate of death from cancer in over 70 years. On top of that, most survival studies published on chemo etc are based on the 5 year survival rate after treatment. That is about how long most people are able to last after treatment until your cancer returns, far more aggressively, because of the carcinogenic toxic poison they have had pumped through their body during their chemo or radiotherapy. Thank you for your wise words Ryan, and apologies Kat, I mean no disrespect to you by posting this reply. I have had cancer and I have been researching treatments, conventional and non-conventional in depth for the last 9 years. I am not referring to homeopathy, i’m referring to viewing the body in a holistic way and treating it properly as such. I never started out with these opinions or chased after them, this is what has genuinely come to light through the masses of non-‘official’ research and testimonials that are everywhere. Science does support it, its actually very scientific and it’s all very obvious really, there just isn’t enough information out there because these million dollar industries can’t patent and make money out of natural treatments. I would urge you to look a little bit deeper. Again, no offence meant to anybody here.
Cancer survival rates are now 50% in England and Wales. 10 year survival rates have more than doubled in the last 50 years. This is due to modern diagnosis and treatments.
All I ask is that you think VERY carefully before you trust unverified testimonials and the word of unqualified, not medically trained (remembering that anyone calling themselves a ‘nutritionist’ is not medically trained) over that of a qualified oncologist. People can, and do, survive cancer with modern medical treatments.
I’m not going to get into a debate about it. If you have decided not to trust the science, that’s your decision. I am afraid, however, that I’m not going to allow people to promote unverified and possibly dangerous treatments on this blog. Any comments along those lines will be deleted.
I thought you might like to read the clinical data on the use of Amygdallin with cancer 😉
The anti-tumor effects of Amygdallin was published in Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics where they said ” Amygdalin is a natural product that has antitumor activity and less side effects” Vol 10 / Iss 5 / 1: 2014 Aug pg 3-7
and in another study conducted by Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, South Korea, they said “Amygdalin is known to exhibit selective killing effect on cancer cells. Apoptosis, programmed cell death, is an important mechanism in cancer treatment. Amygdalin induces apoptosis through regulation of Bax and Bcl-2 expressions in human DU145 and LNCaP prostate cancer cells.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16880611
Amygdalin Blocks Bladder Cancer Cell Growth In Vitro by Diminishing Cyclin A and cdk2
In vitro cytotoxicity following specific activation of amygdalin by beta-glucosidase conjugated to a bladder cancer-associated monoclonal antibody.
These are interesting, thank you. I’ve added an update to my original post discussing some of the information here.
These are not clincal data. They are reports of laboratory experiments on cancer cell lines.
A cancer in a patient is not a cell line lump. It is more correct (but still simplified) to see a cancer in a patient as a collection of several cell lines that interact in complicated ways with themselves, each other and the normal cells that constitute the tumour stroma.
So it is probably not surprising, that only about 5% of compounds that look promising in laboratory experiments are successful in phase 3 clinical trials.
Amygdalin has been put to the test in the clinical setting, and failed.
This matters more than performance in laboratory experiments. Even newer experiments do not change this.
In case anyone is interested, we did a post discussing an article about how compounds with promisng results in mice models perform in phase 2 clinica trials: https://anaximperator.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/if-it-works-in-a-mouse-it-works-in-a-man-right-well-not-necessarily/
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Excellent, thank you for taking the time to post this 🙂
Thank you for writing this excellent post. I thought amygdalin and laetrile were the same. Would you happen to have a quick link to the structural formula for laetrile as well?
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It’s explained quite well here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdalin#Laetrile
I learned something new today – Thank you 🙂
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You’re welcome! 🙂
Thanks for posting this Katlday. A ‘friend’ of mine bought me some apricot kernels and was most evangelistic that I eat them despite the fact that I don’t have cancer. I eat a lot of seeds like pumpkin, pine nuts etc so I thought they would be ok. I kept having a half handful now and then. Within 2 days I had headache, nausea and dizzyness. I looked up apricot kernels on the internet and found out they contain a form of cyanide. I stopped immediately. I have some mild liver problems and I’m wondering if I might have damaged my body. I am seeing the doctor tomorrow.
People BEWARE. It’s not worth the risk.
Thanks for taking the time to post this, the more people that can be warned off the better. I do hope you’re ok. If you get time, please let us know.
How many people have actually died eating too many apricot kernels? I want to see the scientific data for that. People poisoned and died for eating apricot kernels. Where are those figures?
My father in law was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and after 5 oncologists said he had less than a month to live and there is nothing they could so, we put him on 60 kernels a day (built up to 60 over a 2 weeks). 2 years on the cancer is gone, the doctors were stocked (obviously) and he is fighting fit. I am a big advocate of science but when there is a $250 billion dollar industry at stake I think lies and deception creep in. This is not the first time in human history that money and profit was put a head of human health and well being.
It’s impossible to say how many people have died, since ‘eating apricot kernels’ is not going to be listed as a cause of death. Even if apricot kernel consumption came to light, it would probably be recorded as ‘poisoning’. But really, what number would be too many? We know that some people have died. How many does it have to be? 10? 20? 100? 1000? We also know that people have been made very ill, and that there’s no clear evidence that eating apricot kernels can cure cancer, despite many, many trials looking for that evidence (see the update at the end of my post). The risk/benefit balance simply isn’t worth it. It’s great news that your father in law recovered, but that could have been due to another aspect of his treatment, or a misdiagnosis in the first place, or a spontaneous remission (it does occasionally happen). The Big Pharma conspiracy argument holds absolutely no weight. Plenty of research has been done, in several countries. It’s not about money (except for the people selling apricot kernels, they’re making a packet), it’s about evidence – there isn’t any.
I wrote this post recently addressing the money issue:
If you can’t say how many were made sick by them or how many have died, what makes you think they’re a problem, exactly?
I love the arrogance of recommending no further research on a subject based on a review of antiquated data. That’s the least scientific attitude I’ve ever heard of.
We have reports of death and severe illness, and no good evidence of benefit. How many incidences of would you like to see to convince you? How many people have to die, and have those deaths reported in the literature, before you’d say “yes, ok, that’s enough now”? Quite an important question I’d say, since there are some out there recommending this ‘treatment’ for children. As to the research issue, I refer you to the update at the end of the original post.
Apricot seeds are eaten by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. I would think there should be hundreds of reports of sickness and death from them if they’re so dangerous.
Oxyxontin and methadone cause hundreds of deaths per day, thousands of more lifelong addictions, yet are still legal and widely prescribed when there are alternatives available, so if only 10-15 people in the entire world have been reported to have died from apricot seeds, ohat seems pretty insignificant since appliances kill more people than that on a daily basis.
I should add I eat them as well, which partially spurs my curiousity.
This is a question of benefit vs. risk. All medication that actually works comes with a certain level of risk. Oxycontin and methadone have proven benefits. They don’t cause anywhere near that number of deaths when used properly in a medical setting; I can find no data to suggest they cause that many even allowing for illegal use and subsequent overdoses. However apricot kernels have NO proven benefits, despite many researchers in several different countries trying to find said benefits (there’s not even anything clear and consistent for amygdalin, the chemical in the seeds which is supposed to help – read the update at the end of my post), and they come with significant risks. Personal testimonials are meaningless. I could write a personal testimonial saying that drinking hairspray cured cancer. It doesn’t make it so. You are, of course, free to take risks with your own health, but please don’t promote those risks to others.
I really believe that you are putting this message out because you care about the health of others. I am nobody, but I do believe that science can take awhile to catch up to personal experimentation. I am not sure whether this is or is not true information, but I wouldn’t knock it completely. I tried a quite disgusting homeopathic treatment once for a skin condition, works better than anything, but it is a bit unpractical. I had used prescriptions, otc treatments, antibiotics, etc. I know that this treatment works for some and not others, and some people went further with it then I’d ever be willing to go. As for doctors and scientists, the problem in my opinion is that information comes out faster than is possible to be learned. If there is new information coming out daily, and you were in school for eight years learning, then by the time you practice, you are already behind. Of course the professionals know more overall, but it is ashame that it takes years for professionals to check out the claims of pseudoscience quacks. I agree that it is dangerous for a person to take the risk of being a lab rat. I worked at a place that had a radiation spill. Supposedly we all checked out, and the radiation was just a few bananas worth and some sunshine.. Maybe, but within the seven years I was there five cancer related deaths occurred. They all had chemo and/or radiation and surgeries. One guy is alive that was diagnosed who also went through chemo and had a good chunk of his leg removed. My point is that when cancer is so bad, the real question to me instead of dismissing positive reviews is: Who ate at least 30 apricot seeds daily after diagnosis and there cancer was NOT cured? If there are people who do exist then those reading would have a valid reason not to buy into a nice fairy-tale. Ignorance can be bliss though, especially when a placebo only works for those who believe it will. Don’t forget scientists still do not understand that. I think just believing they have hope makes less inflamation in the body..but like I said before I started telling you a million useless things in hopes of making you think outside the box in an analytical way.. I’m just a nobody, who you should be wary of.
They *cite a case
The truth makes sense. Does it make sense that cancer treatment is basically the same that it has been for 60 years with no major advances after billions in research? Not really. Does it make sense that pharmaceutical companies would shout down the effectiveness of something natural and free? Sure. The world has evolved significantly while we keep hacking pieces off of people and injecting radioactive chemicals into their bloodstream and burning them with concentrated radiation to make them better. Wanna talk about toxic? I bet more people die from traditional chemo drugs than meth, heroin, and cocaine combined. Funny that we’re discussing the toxicity of something natural and nobody can come up with any names of real people who’ve died from it. I have a whole list of people that I personally know who have been killed by traditional cancer treatment. I just attended another one of those funerals this weekend. Don’t get me wrong. Left untreated in any way with growing tumors in their bodies, they would have eventually died anyway – just not as soon, not as miserably, not as poor and not as robbed of their dignity. They all felt fine before they started “treatment”. My Uncle, whose funeral I attended Saturday was paying $150 per pill for his Myeloid Leukemia drug which made him miserably sick (and ultimately he died with 2 new tumors in his brain). He was told if he stopped taking that pill he would die for sure. He finally stopped when he came home to hospice care. It was the best he’d felt in months. His name was Rocky. My Dad’s name was Ray. My aunts Lucile, Marie, Ruth and Louise and uncles Bill, Dick and Gene also died of cancer during treatment. My friend Jane had the lining of her esophagus slough off during her traditional treatment for bone cancer. She was hardy before treatment, which started in July. She died the day after Christmas. These are real people, not ‘cases’.
First of all, I’m sorry for your losses. However you couldn’t be more wrong in your initial statement. Cancer treatment has changed ENORMOUSLY over the last sixty years. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years, due to advancement in treatment and diagnosis. Doubled. To suggest treatments haven’t changed and improved is disingenuous at best.
Secondly, no, pharmaceutical companies do not ‘cover up’ natural remedies. In fact, they spend a lot of money researching naturally-occurring compounds. Where do you think most drugs come from? There has been a huge amount of research carried out into amygdalin and apricot kernels, and it has all come up negative.
Thirdly, yes, cancer treatments can be harsh and unpleasant. Most cancers are due to unrestrained cell growth in the wrong place at the wrong time, and treatments that destroy tumours often have a negative effect on healthy tissue as well. It would be most unfair to criticise someone for making an informed choice to stop their treatment if it meant a better quality of life for them. That’s a decision for each individual to make. However where we have a problem is with people claiming there’s a simple, cheap cure that’s been somehow ‘covered up’ when there’s no such thing.
Finally, again, I’m sorry for your losses but ‘cases’ ARE real people. Just because their names aren’t published (out of consideration and confidentially) it doesn’t mean they’re somehow not real. Those children that died from apricot kernels? They were real children. They really died. They really left family and friends behind. Just because I can’t tell you their names, it doesn’t make their deaths any less tragic.
I’m using B17 (laetrile, amygdalin, whatever you want to call it) and apricot kernels as part of my regime to battle my incurable cancer for which there is no further conventional treatment available. My cancer is aggressive and has metastasized into my lymphatic system.
You can read about my experiences at http://www.tryngtobeatcancer.org.uk
I’ve been taking both for just over three months and had no side effects whatsoever.
I have just received the results of my latest CT scan; compared to one taken 4 months ago there has been very little change in my condition. This has amazed my oncologist who (like me) was expecting to find my cancer had continued to spread through my lymphatic system and be in in at least one major organ by now.
So something has stopped the spread of my cancer.
Given that no further conventional treatment can help, do you suggest that people just go home and die rather than try alternative therapies?
I fully expect to have better results in my next CT scan in October, in the meantime I’m continuing to take B17 and apricot kernels as part of my regime.
Firstly, good news. I’m pleased to hear your cancer isn’t progressing as quickly as your oncologist predicted. But it is important that we’re careful here. The fact that you’re taking something (actually, the fact you’re not sure exactly what is a bit worrying: there’s no such thing as vitamin B17; laetrile and amygdalin are not the same thing; and apricot kernels are a source of amygdalin – so if you’re using those with amygdalin you could be double-dosing) AND you’ve had a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean the two are related. I ate toast for breakfast this morning and the postman never came today: I can’t conclude from this that my toast-eating in any way affected the postman. Likewise, you can’t be sure the amygdalin had any effect on your cancer, because you can’t go back in time and try the last few months without it. There are many reasons why your cancer might not have spread, not least of which is just good fortune – it does happen sometimes.
This sort of thing is called, in psychology, confirmation bias. You get a positive outcome, you want to attribute it to something you did – even if that thing didn’t cause it at all. It’s one of the reasons scientists use double-blind placebo-controlled trials, so as to be certain an observed effect is real and not just a coincidence. In this case, all the evidence we have so far is that amygdalin isn’t an effective cancer treatment, and at the same time comes with substantial risk of harm.
All that said, you are of course free to try what you like with your own body. It’s your body, your risk. Where we have a problem is when people promote these treatments to others without providing all the facts or explaining all the risks.
“I ate toast for breakfast and the postman never came” excellent gobbledygook!
I am taking laetrile, sorry I thought I’d made that clear, I’m also taking apricot kernels, I’m also taking pancreatic enzymes, I’m also taking a number of vitamins to boost my immune system (wrecked by chemotherapy) and also help fight my cancer. I’m also on a non-dairy, raw, vegan diet to try and de-tox and to get nutrents into my body without taxing my digestive system
Double dosing? There isn’t any recommended dose of either laetrile or apricot kernels so how can somebody double dose? You make that suggestion with no idea of how much of either that I’m taking. What dose is taken is a matter for the individual.
My cancer was spreading aggressively through my lymphatic system, my oncologist had not predicted a rate of spread, it had been observed in previous scans.
I had no treatment at all in the 4 months leading up to my CT scan in March yet my cancer had spread from the lymph nodes just below my right ear to the mediastinal lymph nodes near my heart, that spread occurred between June and March.
In April I started my regime and 4 months later my previously aggressively spreading cancer has not spread at all. I have had no other treatment.
What should I attribute this to if not my regime?
I’m not promoting anything, it is illegal to do so, I’m simply recounting my experiences.
You seem happy to ignore people’s experiences and continue to tell people that apricot kernels will poison them. Quite simply that is rubbish, I know many people who take them regularly and have been doing so for many years.
Conventional treatment for cancer has hardly progressed in 70 years, the only treatments available are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and these fail time after time, quite often doing more damage than good. I had all three and am still recovering physically nearly a year later, yet my cancer continued to spread.
Conventional medicine continues to ignore nutrition – why? Conventional medicine continues to ignore natural remedies – why? Conventional medicine does not approach healing in an holistic way – why?
Conventional medicine continues to look at natural remedies but attempts to synthesize them so the resulting drug can be patented and sold. Here’s an example from 15 years ago: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/magic-bullet-of-cyanide-could-kill-cancer-cells-698577.html
Has anyone done any clinical trials on this in the last 15 years? Unlikely as how would the cost of the trials be recouped?
My regime costs me about £300.00 per month which I have to fund myself. I can get chemotherapy on the NHS even though it hasn’t and won’t do me any good. How much does a course of chemotherapy cost?
I have to wait until October/November until I can confirm or otherwise that what I’m doing is helping me. But I’m a lot more confident that it is, and as there isn’t any alternative that conventional medicine can offer me, what choice do I have?
I’ve listened to the doctors, yes “the real ones”, and they have nothing further to offer me. They do however encourage me to continue what I’m doing, and told me it wouldn’t do me any harm.
Ok, so you have changed lots of things about your lifestyle, and you have no idea which one, if any, is making the difference. I’m really pleased your health is better than expected at the moment, and honestly, I can understand the desire to try anything and everything. Why wouldn’t you? But I’m afraid I do find this kind of public testimonial worrying. There is a risk it might encourage someone else to try something that might turn out to be harmful or, perhaps worse, forego conventional treatment in favour of something far less tried and tested. I really, really hope it works out for you, I do, but if it doesn’t chances are you’re not going to come back and rescind your comments – so they sit there forever more telling the tale of an apparently amazing success story.
Just to get a few things straight: you are completely wrong about conventional treatment not progressing. Cancer treatment has changed ENORMOUSLY over the last few decades. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years, due to advancement in treatment and diagnosis. Doubled. To suggest treatments haven’t changed and improved is disingenuous at best. Please stop listening, or at least listen critically, to the people who are lying to you about this in order, I suspect, take your money every month.
Yes, clinical trials are carried out ALL the time on cheap substances. Read this post, https://thechronicleflask.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/but-no-one-wants-to-research-that-they-cant-make-any-money-from-it/ for several examples.
Once again, I am happy you’re well. I hope you get good news in October, and I hope it stays good.
I fell about laughing when you mentioned that doctors have sworn an oath to “do no harm”. Oncologists happily treat people with chemotherapy and radiotherapy – both known carcinogens (they have to tell you this before they treat you in the UK and I presume it’s the same elsewhere) which is why cancer comes back sooner or later if you have these treatments.
Yet a survey of oncologists showed that 91% of them would NOT have chemo themselves, nor allow any of their loved ones to do so. Why would that be? I can only think of one reason. Meanwhile these oncologists/hypocrites make an obscene amount of money from chemo as a result of the huge markup they add when they charge their patients.
Hippocrates’ other biggie was: ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ Perhaps you’d like to think about that.
Ah. It’s 91% this week is it? The last time I saw it mentioned it was 75%. It’s gone up. Do you realise that 98% of statistics are made up on the spot?
Couple of tldr points:
1) The survey from which such numbers are usually pulled (although not in this case, because the number is fictional) is is over 25 years old and was about a specific kind of chemotherapy, cisplatin for non-small cell lung cancer, which was a new therapy at the time and didn’t have a lot of evidence for it, and
2) A 1997 follow-up survey show that 64.5% would now take chemotherapy. It’ll be higher now, since there’s a lot more evidence that chemo has clinical benefit and can be used with fewer side effects.
3) There are two types of chemotherapy: adjuvant chemotherapy, given after surgery to reduce the rate of recurrence, and curative or palliative chemotherapy. It’s not fair to lump these together, as people throwing these negative comments around often do, as in adjuvant chemo the ‘cure’ is usually surgery.
And then finally, half of people diagnosed with cancer now survive their disease for at least ten years. For several common cancers (breast cancer, malignant melanoma, prostate) survival rates of 10+ years are approaching or have exceeded 80%. Conventional treatments do work for many common cancers. Telling people they don’t, and implying they should eat a bit more kale, is nothing short of cruel and unethical.
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