“Eating Apricot Kernels Can Kill You, Government Warns.”
That startling headline appeared in the London Daily Telegraph of the 12th of May, 2016.
The article described apricot kernels as “the latest health fad” for people wanting to prevent or treat cancer. The UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) is warning people to avoid them.
Those who are new to this newsletter may wonder what the deal is with apricot kernels. The answer: They are a source of laetrile, which is one of the oldest and in my view one of the best-established natural cancer remedies known.
The apricot kernels people eat are the small almond-shaped “nuts” that are inside the woody pits when you crack them open.
Eating them is not “the latest health fad” as the Daily Telegraph alleges – although for all I know there’s been a recent surge of interest in the UK.
But the newspaper had more to say. . .
Continued below. . .
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“According to the FSA,” continues the Daily Telegraph, “apricot kernels produce high levels of cyanide, a deadly poison when eaten, and warned a dose of 30 stones is enough to kill someone.”
The FSA statement came hot on the heels of a scientific report issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) the previous month.
In the report they warned that eating more than three small kernels or less than half a single large kernel could exceed the Acute Reference Dose (the safe level for a one-time exposure).
In 2015 the sale of raw bitter apricot kernels was banned in Australia and New Zealand as a food source. Will Europe and the US follow suit? Should we take heed of these agencies’ advice or are they engaging in unwarranted scaremongering?
There are legitimate concerns about cyanide in apricot pits – more on that in a minute. Meanwhile, I’ll say it’s better and safer to receive the pure, extracted laetrile compound intravenously under a doctor’s supervision. Unfortunately, that is not legal in the United States. And this is why desperate patients have turned to apricot kernels, which are still legal. . .
so far. . .
One of the most popular alternative cancer therapies
The compound in apricot kernels the EFSA and FSA are concerned about – laetrile, also called amygdalin and B17 — is part of a large family of chemicals called cyanogenic glycosides.
Amygdalin belongs to one of these cyanogenic glycosides, referred to as nitrilosides, which themselves are one of about 14 naturally occurring water-soluble nitrilosides that are found in over 2,600 plant species, many of which are edible.
Amygdalin was created by biochemist Ernest Krebs, Jr in 1952. However, his compound is a purified and partly synthetic version of amygdalin with a different chemical structure.
The actions by the food standard agencies mimic those promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) four decades ago at the height of the laetrile controversy.
In the 1970s laetrile/amygdalin became a very popular non-conventional cancer treatment. By 1978, 70,000 American cancer patients had used it.
Advocates of the treatment say amygdalin acts against tumors because cancer cells have 3000 times the level of beta-glucosidase enzymes found in healthy cells. When a cancer cell comes in contact with amygdalin, these enzymes break down the molecule into hydrogen cyanide and benzaldehyde.
The cyanide destroys the cancer cell while the benzaldehyde half of the molecule, when released, actually gives pain relief. Normal cells contain a different enzyme, called rhodenase, which renders amygdalin harmless. Thus amygdalin kills only cancer cells, not healthy cells.
Proven effective, then denounced
The controversy led to a five-year research project at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Here, the highly distinguished and experienced scientist, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, concluded that laetrile inhibited the growth and spread of tumors in mice, relieved pain, could act as a cancer preventative and improved general health.
His positive findings were duplicated by two other biochemists at the hospital.
However, those who operate outside the drug industry, like Dr. Krebs, deprive drug corporations from being able to patent a remedy or claim exclusive rights.
As the FDA’s Dr. Richard Crout confirmed in 1982, “I never have and never will approve a new drug to an individual, but only to a large pharmaceutical firm with unlimited finances.”
So the use of a potentially effective remedy had to be stopped. And it was.
Sloan-Kettering reacted to their scientists’ positive reports by sponsoring more trials to ensure they got the results they wanted – “proof” that amydalin is ineffective.
A press conference was held on the 15th of June, 1977. All the big guns from the hospital attended, as did Dr. Sugiura.
Dr. Robert Good, president of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, announced that “After careful and exhaustive testing, laetrile was found to possess neither preventative, nor tumor regressant, nor anti-metastatic, nor curative anti-cancer activity.”
Dr. Sugiura was not allowed to speak, but a journalist shouted to him, “Do you stick by your belief that laetrile stops the spread of cancer?”
His reply: “I stick.”
Ralph Moss, an employee of Sloan Kettering at the time, was an intimate eyewitness of the whole scam and exposed it to the public. He saw the research proving that amygdalin is an effective remedy, and was scandalized by his employer’s decision to suppress it and lie about it.
This is one of the few stories about alternative cancer treatments that is more than just an urban legend in which all the documents are gone and the eyewitnesses dead. Ralph Moss is still alive and in my opinion the whole story is true beyond a reasonable doubt.
Banned in the US
Following the press conference, large “Laetrile Warning” posters were displayed in 10,000 post offices and an FDA alert was sent to hundreds of thousands of health workers.
Shortly after, this popular therapy, regarded as non-toxic, came to be thought of as poisonous and dangerous, and was banned from use.
Now history seems to be repeating itself with the natural form of laetrile found in abundance in our food supply.
The food standard agencies focus on apricot kernels because they contain some of the highest levels (up to 3% concentration) of amygdalin, and are sold in bulk by some online retailers that make claims – not allowed by law — that what they’re selling can treat cancer.
But appreciable amounts of amygdalin and other nitrilosides are found in many other foods:
- wild berries: blackberry, cranberry, chokeberry, elderberry, boysenberry, gooseberry, huckleberry, loganberry, mulberry, raspberry, strawberry
- fruit seeds/pips/kernels: apple, cherry, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, prune
- other seeds: buckwheat, flax, millet
- beans/legumes: fava, garbanzo, kidney, navy, sprouted lentils/mung beans, chick peas
- nuts: bitter almond, macadamia
- tubers: cassava
- leaves/sprouts: alfalfa, eucalyptus, mung bean, bamboo shoots
Those who would like to see apricot kernels banned point out that, while cyanide may be tightly bound with other molecules in plants, it is released by enzymes during the process of chewing. It can also be generated in the intestinal tract by the gut microbiota. This can overwhelm the liver’s ability to detoxify it.
High amygdalin diet = low incidence of cancer
Yet in practice apricot kernels seem to be extremely safe.
For instance, a case report of a woman with cyanide poisoning after ingesting an unknown number of apricot kernels was reported in 1998.
According to the toxicologists, “This is the first reported case of cyanide toxicity from apricot kernel ingestion in the United States since 1979.”
This doesn’t sound like a major health problem that requires the attention of American and European regulators. Surely our tax dollars could save more lives elsewhere.
In 2014, researchers in Germany wrote, “Although it has been argued that amygdalin is unsafe, no serious acute toxicity has been encountered.”
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1981 found “no clinical or toxic reaction” in six advanced cancer patients taking 500mg amygdalin tablets, three times a day.
Contrary to what the EFSA claims, when you consider that apricot kernels may contain up to 20 mg of amygdalin per kernel, it’s hard to see how someone could exceed a safe dose.
Dr. Krebs himself pointed out that the diet of primitive man was rich in nitrilosides. Native peoples all over the world eat a plentiful supply of berries, roots, seeds and nuts that supply from 250 mg to 3000 mg of nitrilosides a day.
And many scientists have observed that hunting and gathering people are either cancer free or have a very low incidence of the disease untll they start eating the civilized, Western way.
If 30 apricot stones are enough to kill someone, why isn’t Paul Reid dead? He was given five to seven years to live after a diagnosis of a rare, incurable lymphoma.
Declining chemotherapy, the Australian used natural methods that included 30 apricot kernels a day. 13 years later he is alive and well.
Phillip Day, an author of health books from England, writes, “I’ve eaten apple and peach seeds for years and these days consume 60+ apricot seeds a day…And I’m still here!”
Recent laboratory findings back Dr. Sugiura
The following were all published between 2014 and 2016.
Three lab studies conducted by researchers at Goethe-University Hospital, Frankfurt. Germany concluded that “amygdalin exerts antitumor activity” in kidney cancer, “exhibits significant antitumor activity” in prostate cancer, and reduced growth and proliferation in three cell lines of bladder cancer. As the dose increased, so did the anti-tumor effects.
Korean researchers found that “amygdalin induces apoptosis [cancer cell death ] and inhibits adhesion of breast cancer cells. The results suggest a potential application of amygdalin as a chemopreventive agent to prevent or alleviate progression of breast cancer.”
Scientists at the Russian Center of Radiology in St. Petersburg found that “apricot kernels…produced a pronounced antitumor effect” in mice.
A research group from China found that amygdalin “may be useful as a therapeutic target in lung tumors.”
Other Chinese researchers conducted a review of amygdalin’s anti-tumor activity and found that “a large number of studies have shown that amygdalin plays a supporting role in the treatment of cancer.”
Amygdalin is an anti-tumor agent
While researchers from the US know to keep well clear of amygdalin, for fear of the health Gestapo, other research groups from around the world have demonstrated — at least in the lab — the anti-tumor properties of this common plant compound.
There have also been thousands of case studies of people overcoming cancer when amygdalin/laetrile was included as part of a holistic treatment program.
The low incidence of cancer in people who eat the pips and seeds of fruits and other amygdalin containing foods adds to the evidence.
Incidence of toxicity is rare and only in those who have taken an accidental overdose or were self-medicating for active cancers. I strongly urge cancer patients to seek this remedy from a knowledgeable doctor. The best option is go to the Mexican alternative cancer clinics. Self-treatment is not the best choice, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, no government agency can stop people eating fruit. And while you’re at it, eat the seeds.
Dr. Krebs advised people to “eat the seeds of all common fruits that you eat. Apricot and peach seeds…apple seed…prunes, plums, cherries and nectarines. The only common fruits on the hemisphere that lack nitrolosidic seeds are the citrus fruits.”