Vitamin B17 is not actually a vitamin, but a glycoside. It is found in high percentage in majority of berries and seeds. Its health benefits are more evident with vitamin B17 rich foods rather than its supplements.
Vitamin B17 is commercially known as amygdalin or Laetrile. Amygdalin is a compound that belongs to cyanogenic glycosides. It was isolated for the first time by Pierre-Jean Robiquet and A.F. Boutron-Charlard in 1803, from the seeds of bitter almond (scientific name Prunus dulcis). Following its discovery, subsequent studies have been carried out regarding its medicinal importance. Though, amygdalin is not a vitamin, Ernst T. Krebs (a biochemist), promoted it as Vitamin B17. Vitamin B17, in its purified form, is called Laetrile (laevomandelonitrile) and is administered for the treatment of cancer.
Vitamin B17: Health Benefits
Many researchers have claimed that vitamin B17 has certain medicinal properties and can be used for the treatment of cancer. It is the cyanide present in vitamin B17 that destroys the cancer cells. Thus, according to them, amygdalin not only prevents the onset of cancer, but also helps in its regression. For cancer treatment, Laetrile pills are administered orally or through intravenous injections. Consuming foods rich in vitamin B17 helps in fighting cancer. Some other health benefits of vitamin B17 include: it helps in reducing pain associated with arthritis and also, in lowering high blood pressure.
Vitamin B17: Sources
Vitamin B17 is present in a higher concentration in bitter almond and apricot seeds. Studies have shown that it is also present in most species of the genus Prunus. Following is a list of foods that contains vitamin B17:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Apple seeds
- Bamboo shoots
- Millet and millet seeds
- Brown rice
- Cashew nuts
- Peach kernels
- Plum kernels
- Sorghum cane syrup
Since there are lot of controversies regarding the health benefits of vitamin B17 supplements; to be on the safer side, you can include foods rich in vitamin B17 in your diet.
Vitamin B17: Controversy
In the book ‘World Without Cancer’, the author G. Edward Griffin strongly recommended the use of vitamin B17 for cancer treatment. Though many scientists proclaim the potential benefits of vitamin B17 as treatment for cancer; it has shown little or no anticancer effects in clinical trial and laboratory studies.
Usage of Laetrile is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health. In the United States, prescription of vitamin B17 to cancer patients is unlawful. Cochrane Collaboration (a group of scientists and researchers from over 90 countries, who scrutinize health related inventions) Review of 2006, mentioned that Laetrile anticancer effects were not effective in controlled clinical trials and more studies needed to be done for proper assessment.
A word of caution regarding using vitamin B17: when consumed orally, it can cause lethal toxicity. Once inside the human body, vitamin B17 releases cyanide, which is a potential hazard. The enzyme, beta-glucosidase (required for catalysis of cyanide), is present in the small intestine of humans and several food items. Beta-glucosidase, then catalyzes the cyanide and causes cyanide poisoning. Some of the symptoms of vitamin B17 toxicity are headache, weakness, dizziness and sometimes low blood pressure. Therefore, it is always recommended to consult and seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner regarding its dosage and possible pros and cons, before taking amygdalin or Laetrile.
- Laetrile, or vitamin B17, is lauded as an alternative cancer treatment by some alternative health practitioners, but there is no scientific or medical evidence available to support these claims. The FDA forbids any health practitioner to administer vitamin B17 supplements or treatment, so the only way to obtain the vitamin legally is to consume a variety of foods.