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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Vitamin B17

   I recently saw the picture about vitamin B17 destroying cancer posted, where else, on Facebook and wondered if it was true. 
    Vitamin B17, also known as laetrile, is a chemical compound derived from amygdalin, a substance that occurs naturally in bitter almonds and apricot and peach pits. Its use as an alternative cancer therapy is controversial, and several studies since the mid-1970s found no proof that laetrile is effective in treating cancer. The FDA has sanctioned against the sale, use and transportation into the United States of products labeled as vitamin B17, laetrile or amygdalin.
     It seems there is no such thins as vitamin B17. The term is inaccurately applied to laetrile, and amygdalin, the natural substance from which laetrile is made. Because the FDA has not approved laetrile for any use in the US, its makers decided to call it vitamin B17. It has none of the characteristics of the 13 vitamins our bodies need for normal growth and development.
      Amygdalin occurs in the seeds of apricots, peaches, and almonds. It can release cyanide when eaten, making it potentially toxic. Because of the lack of evidence for laetrile’s effectiveness plus the risk of serious side effects from cyanide poisoning caused by taking it orally, the FDA and the European Commission have banned its use. Although you can buy laetrile online, these products may come from questionable sources and could be contaminated.
      The notion that laetrile can prevent or treat cancer stems from the theory that cancer is caused by a vitamin deficiency. However, there is no scientific evidence that the body needs laetrile or that laetrile acts as a vitamin in humans or animals. That said, it is important to recognize that some laboratory studies have demonstrated positive effects against cancer cells, but animal studies found that laetrile was ineffective for treating, preventing or delaying the development of tumors.
     In 1982, the National Cancer Institute conducted a human study with 175 patients, most of whom had breast, colon or lung cancer. They were treated with amygdalin injections for 21 days, followed by oral doses, plus vitamins, pancreatic enzymes, and dietary changes. The tumor size decreased in one stomach cancer patient and this change lasted for 10 weeks while the patient remained on amygdalin therapy. By the end of treatment period, cancer had progressed in about half the patients and within seven months after treatment ended, there was no measurable benefit in any of the patients. It seems to me that the results of this test are proof as long as the patients were on amygdalin therapy there were some benefits.
     The claim is that despite the lack of proof that laetrile/amygdalin can prevent or treat cancer, promoters continue to make unwarranted claims for it and to sell it as a dietary supplement for these purposes.
     Laetrile use has been linked to several cases of cyanide toxicity with symptoms including liver damage, difficulty walking due to nerve damage, fever, coma and death. According to the American Cancer Society, one case report suggests that vitamin C may increase the amount of cyanide released from laetrile in the body, raising this risk. In addition, they warn that individuals who also eat raw almonds or crushed fruit pits while taking laetrile, as well as those who eat fruits and vegetables that contain the enzymes found in celery, peaches, bean sprouts, and carrots are more likely to experience toxicity. Thus the admonition is that vitamin B17 offers no protection against cancer or any other disease and it should be avoided.
     One the other hand, Great Britain's CANCERactive website suggests that there are some benefits. The site points out that orthodox medicine can increase a patient's odds of survival, but alternative methods have also helped.
   Amygdalin or Laetrile or vitamin B-17 as a cancer treatment is one of the most controversial subjects in alternative cancer treatment. The controversy was re-opened in October 2014 when research showed that natural amygdalin reduced growth and proliferation of cancer cells in a test tube or culture dish. Then in 2016, when the UK's Food Standards Authority considered banning the sale of Apricot Kernels it was claimed that they did not understand. 
     The site claims it is important to differentiate the use of natural amygdalin from Apricot Kernels, and Laetrile, which is a concentrated, synthetic drug.
     The site says there are at least five studies (three on animals, two with humans) that show some effect on cancer with B-17. But the evidence was unreliable because there was no placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial data with humans. Despite that, B-17 was shown to be of some benefit, but the results were suppressed. The Food Standards Agency published warnings based on overseas reports saying cancer patients should be aware that Apricot Kernels could kill them. None of the articles specified the origin and the detail of the overseas reports.
    Apricot pips contain amygdalin, not laetrile, and it is claimed that there is an important difference. Apricot kernels can contain up to 3 per cent of Amygdalin which is the natural form of B-17 and eating apricot kernels does not require medical approval. Apricot pips alone are not a cure for cancer, but eating them may provide some preventative powers. 
     Laetrile is a synthetically prepared form of B-17 and is thus a drug and is subject to approval. Since there are no definitive clinical trials on Laetrile, it has not received FDA approval in the US. As is to be expected, there conventional medicine is at loggerheads with alternative medicine and conspiracy theories abound. There is even a rumor that the growth of bitter almond trees is illegal in the United States, but that is not true. See THIS article. Laetrile (the synthetic form of B-17) can be obtained in tablet form but Laetrile in prescription form is illegal in the UK and the US.
     No drug cures all cancers and there is no drug that kills cancer stem cells at the heart of cancers, so no treatment, conventional or alternative, is going to prove effective in every case. All drugs have side-effects...just read the labels! When using B-17 there is definitely an issue with overdosing because cyanide by-products have been known to build up in the liver of cancer patients. A healthy liver can detox these by-products, but in a cancer patient, this enzyme may be depleted and cyanide poisoning can result if excess is consumed.

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