Vitamin B17 is not necessarily a vitamin, but rather refers to a chemical known as either amygdalin or laetrile. The confusion stemmed from Ernst T Krebs, who promoted the chemical as a cancer cure. He then named the glycoside “Vitamin B17” – and the name has stuck along with its link to cancer. Studies, however, have not proven the effectiveness of this ‘vitamin’.
Vitamin B17 actually refers to two separate chemical compounds – amydalin and laetrile.
Vitamin B17 Benefits
Since Vitamin B17 is not truly a vitamin, it is not considered essential. This means that your body does not require Vitamin B17 in order to function. Perhaps the most notable (yet controversial) benefit of Vitamin B17 is its effectiveness in treating cancer. It was historically used in Russia in the 1800’s for cancer treatment, and again made its appearance in the United States in the 1920’s. Some studies have shown amygdalin/laetrile to be beneficial in cancer treatment, and some have shown it to have no efficacy. People who have tried everything else tend to persuade themselves to try amygdalin as a treatment. Many travel to Mexico for treatment.
Here is a short list of some of the claimed benefits of ‘Vitamin B17’ or amygdalin/laetrile:
• Cancer – claimed by some to help prevent and treat cancer. In particular, the most favourable studies linking vitamin B17 to cancer are the ones involving prostate cancer.
• Arthritic Pain – claims have been made that amygdalin/laetrile can help in dealing with pain of arthritis
• High Blood Pressure – some studies have shown that vitamin B17 can lower blood pressure; however it was much less effective than other safer alternatives.
Vitamin B17 Food Sources
Vitamin B17 is most commonly taken as a supplement or from a supplemental product. However, B17 can be found in a variety of foods including:
• Beet tops
• Alfalfa, bamboo, and fava sprouts
• Spinach and Watercress
• Sweet potatoes and yams
• Bitter almonds, cashews and macadamias
• kidney beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, green peas and black-eyed peas
• apple seeds, apricot seeds, cherry seeds, flax seeds, millet seeds, nectarine seeds, peach seeds, plum seeds, pear seeds, prune seeds and squash seeds
• Wild blackberry, boysenberry, wild crab-apple, cranberry, elderberry, gooseberry, huckleberry, raspberry, mulberry , loganberry
Vitamin B17 Deficiency
Vitamin B17 is not truly a vitamin, and therefore, as expected, its deficiency symptoms are rather few. Probably the biggest case for Vitamin B17 is its suggested effects in treating cancer. Along the same lines, many people who swear by Vitamin B17 believe that a vitamin B17 deficiency can lead to a greater risk of cancer.
Research has not shown this to be true, and has not entirely discredited the claim. Many smaller studies have shown findings on both sides of the coin. Further research is needed. For the time being, there does not seem to be any immediate, adverse effects of Vitamin B17.
Vitamin B17 Overdose
Although you cannot overdose on Vitamin B17, there are dangers in some food sources that contain Vitamin B17, where if taken in excess could cause poisoning. For example, apricot seeds, one of the most popular forms of B17, also contain trace amounts of cyanide. If taken in excess, poisoning could occur resulting in severe illness.