Apricot kernels--the seeds found at the center of the fruit--feature high levels of B17. Although technically not a vitamin, B17 has consistently been referred to as such. The Vitamins and Health Supplements Guide describes B17--also known as amygdalin--as possessing properties helpful for reducing pain associated with arthritis and lowering blood pressure. However, amygdalin's most commonly referenced attributes revolve around its purported cancer fighting and prevention capabilities.
The Cancer Claim
The amygdalin extracted from apricot kernels has since the early 1950's been used to create a chemically modified version of B17 known as Laetrile. Though their names are commonly interchanged, amygdalin and Laetrile do not possess identical qualities. Laetrile's renown arises from the claim that it kills cancer cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. Consequently, the reputation of Laetrile is based on the idea it features the same benefits of chemotherapy without the side effects or disadvantages.
What the Evidence Shows
Findings from a clinical trial conducted between 1979 and 1981 showed that the use of Laetrile was not an effective means of treating cancer. In fact, within three months of beginning the trial, 91% of those taking part saw their cancer actually progress. Consequently, it has since been determined by the American Cancer Society and other leading cancer researchers that the extract from apricot kernels is not an effective treatment for cancer.
The Cyanide Issue
The practice of eating a large number of apricot kernels each day as a means of fighting cancer has survived largely on the anecdotal evidence. However, not only is the ingestion of apricot kernels ineffective against cancer, it poses an additional health risk when they are consumed in abundance. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control, the cyanide levels contained within apricot kernels poses a health risk.
The American Cancer Society further contends that B17 consumed in conjunction with high levels of vitamin C increases the amount of cyanide released in the body and furthers the risk. Safe amounts of amygdalin depend upon the age and size of an individual, his diet and general health. It is best to consult a doctor before consuming apricot kernels in any amount.