Vitamin B17 refers to a drug called laetrile, an artificial form of amygdalin. Amygdalin is a plant substance present in some nuts, plants, and fruit seeds that people may take to treat cancer. However, no research supports it as an effective treatment and instead links it to potentially severe side effects.
Although people often refer to B17 as a vitamin, this substance does not have approval by the American Institute of Nutrition Vitamins. In addition, the
Many experts also consider the compound controversial, as there is little scientific evidence to support vitamin B17 as a safe and effective treatment for cancer. And while it may have some potential health benefits, it also carries severe risks. Most notably, taking vitamin B17 can cause the body to produce cyanide, a poisonous and dangerous chemical.
In this article, we will discuss vitamin B17, including the possible benefits, side effects, and which foods are sources of the compound.
Vitamin B17 is also known as laetrile, amygdalin, or the scientific name D-mandelonitrile-b-D-glucosido-6-b-D-glucoside. Laetrile is a synthetic drug version of amygdalin, a substance that occurs naturally in small doses in a variety of nuts, plants, and seeds. A person can take laetrile orally or as an injection intravenously or intramuscularly. Although many refer to this compound as vitamin B17, it is not actually a vitamin.
Despite this, the
Despite a lack of evidence, some people may still consider using vitamin B17 to
Most of the research on vitamin B17 focuses on its associations with cancer, while research around its possible health benefits in other areas is sparse. Previous studies on the potential health benefits of the compound have suggested the following benefits:
- It may lower blood pressure: An older study on people between 40 and 65 years old found that amygdalin helped lower systolic blood pressure by 28.5% and diastolic blood pressure by 25%. However, this was a very low-quality study that did not use a control group, so more research is necessary.
- It may provide pain relief: Older research on rats indicates that amygdalin may help relieve pain. However, there is a lack of human-based evidence to suggest the effectiveness of amygdalin as a pain-reliever.
- It may improve immunity: A 2020 study suggests that vitamin B17 may help increase immunity. However, the research also highlights a lack of evidence to support this and that more research is necessary.
More research on vitamin B17 is necessary to discover any potential health benefits of the compound. There is a lack of research in areas other than cancer treatment and insufficient human-based evidence to support any claims of health benefits. This is likely due to the potential adverse effects of using vitamin B17.
When a person ingests vitamin B17, the body converts it into cyanide in the small intestine. If they take the compound orally, 500 milligrams (mg) of amygdalin may contain up to
Evidence also suggests that oral amygdalin is roughly 40 times more potent than the intravenous form due to the way it can convert to cyanide in the gastrointestinal tract.
Mild-to-moderate cyanide poisoning may cause various symptoms, including:
- increased respiratory rate
- eye and skin irritation
Symptoms of severe cyanide poisoning may include:
- blue coloring in the skin, lips, gums, or around the eyes due to lack of oxygen in the blood
- liver damage
- trouble walking due to damaged nerves
- cardiac arrhythmias
- cardiac arrest
The side effects of vitamin B17 may worsen if a person:
- eats raw almonds or crushed fruit pits
- takes high doses of vitamin C
- eats certain fruits or vegetables, such as bean sprouts, carrots, peaches, and celery
People have used vitamin B17 as a cancer treatment since the 1800s, either alone or as part of a program of treatments. However, clinical trials on animals and humans have found no evidence that laetrile is an effective cancer treatment. Evidence suggesting it is effective is largely anecdotal or originates from unsupported opinions.
Some test-tube studies
Amygdalin, the compound that vitamin B17 derives from, can come from a
- crushed fruit pits
- raw almonds
- bean sprouts
- flax seed
These foods are generally safe when a person is not taking laetrile, as the levels of amygdalin in them are very low. However, an individual should avoid eating these foods if they are taking laetrile, especially as an oral tablet.
Vitamin B17, also known as amygdalin and laetrile, is not actually a vitamin. Instead, it is a drug derived from plant substances. People may consider using vitamin B17 to treat cancer, but no evidence supports it as an effective treatment and actually highlights the potentially severe adverse effects of its use.
Notably, no human studies suggest any benefit of vitamin B17 as a cancer treatment, noting that it can cause cyanide poisoning, especially if a person takes it orally in tablet form. Cyanide poisoning can lead to mild-to-severe side effects and could even be fatal.