Australian Man Suffers Cyanide Poisoning After Consuming Apricot Kernels

Henrietta Strickland
September 12, 2017

Apricot kernels have amygdalin, a compound also known as laetrile, that gets converted into cyanide inside the body. People who use apricot kernels believe that this function also applies to cancer cells, which scientists say is false.

The doctors found the thiocyanite in this patient's blood when they noticed him having abnormally low levels of oxygen during a routine surgery under general anaesthesia.

By taking in some 17.32 milligrams of cyanide on a daily basis, the man raised his blood cyanide levels to nearly 25 times the acceptable levels.

The conclusion from the review was clear: the risk associated with exposing yourself to cyanide poisoning as a treatment for cancer is not ever, ever worth it.

It's not the first time concerns have been raised over the dangers of apricot kernels.

The doctors say the case illustrates how long-term use of self-prescribed "complementary medicine" can result in harmful poisoning, "which may carry potential for serious consequences". The patient in this case has been taking a fruit kernel supplement as well as making his own version.

The authors point out that many extracts included in complementary medicines "lack quality control in production and are not subject to extensive testing applied to standard medicines; hence efficacy and safety can not be assured". It said bitter, apricot kernels, sweet apricot kernels, bitter almond kernels and powdered forms should not be consumed.

Authorities are well aware of risks posed by apricot kernels and apricot kernel derivatives.

A 67-year-old Australian man ended up poisoned with cyanide after taking homemade extract of apricot kernels. Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand recommend a maximum of two raw apricot kernels per day as being considered safe for consumption as food.

The doctors on the case released a study paper on the matter, which is available in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

"Self-prescribed medications, especially in this instance, are often not taken in precise doses and with limited knowledge of adverse effects since patients tend to only focus on favourable effects", he says. This effectively means you can use the oxygen in your system and your body's tissues become starved of oxygen.

The patient had prostate cancer, and had been taking the apricot kernel extract, along with a supplement called Novodalin, to keep his cancer from recurring, according to study co-author Alex Konstantatos, Head of Pain Medicine at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

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