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Vitamin B-17 & Its Dangers

author image Virginia Franco
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Virginia Franco has more than 15 years experience freelance writing. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the education magazine "My School Rocks" and Work.com. Franco has a master's degree in social work with an emphasis in health care from the University of Maryland and a journalism degree from the University of Richmond.
Vitamin B-17 & Its Dangers
Vitamin B-17 & Its Dangers Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Often referred to as laetrile, vitamin B17 is considered by many alternative medicine enthusiasts to be an effective cancer fighter. Many support the idea that together with a cancer-friendly diet (rich in raw and whole foods), vitamin B17 can kill cancer cells while reinforcing your body's immune system to prevent future cancer from occurring. Using this vitamin is not without its hazards and naysayers, and it is wise to be aware of potential dangers before using B17.

Lack of Federal Oversight

Commonly found in apricot seeds or sold as a tablet, B17 is not regulated by the FDA and cannot be manufactured or sold in the U.S. The only place to order B17 is from foreign pharmacies or websites, which are not always subject to strict federal guidelines with regards to packaging, manufacturing or dosing.

In fact, an article by the National Cancer Institute states that laetrile compounds from Mexico have been found to contain bacteria and other substances that were labeled incorrectly.

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Cyanide Poisoning

French chemists first identified laetrile in 1830, according to the article "Laetrile: Is It Really the Pits?" by Nurse Debra Wood, according to DoctorsofUSC.com. These same chemists found that when broken down, it produces the poison cyanide. A study conducted in the late 1970s by the National Cancer Institute found two of six patients taking laetrile died of cyanide poisoning.

Dangerous Side Effects

Adverse reactions to laetrile are similar to those that occur with cyanide poisoning and can lead to health complications and even death. According to the National Cancer Institute, the adverse side effects of Vitamin B17 include nausea, vomiting, difficulty walking, fever and confusion.

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