Australian Man Gives Himself Cyanide Poisoning From Eating Apricot Kernels to Fight Cancer

By Gizmodo Australia on at

Despite what alternative medicine and natural health advocates would have you believe, taking apricot kernel extract as a cancer treatment is a very, very bad idea.

This reminder comes off the back of the case of a 67-year-old man from Australia, who legit developed cyanide poisoning from ingesting apricot kernel extract.

The issue came to light after they noticed that he had abnormally low levels of oxygen (hypoxia) in his body when he was under anaesthetic for routine surgery. Blood tests showed that he had high levels of cyanide in his body.

The man explained that he had been taking two teaspoons of home-made apricot kernel extract every day for the past five years in addition to three tablets of Novodalin - a herbal fruit kernel supplement.

Apricot kernels contain cyanide, and along with the herbal supplement, the man was taking nearly four grams of cyanide every day, which is enough to raise blood cyanide to around 25 times above acceptable levels. That's enough to cause coma, and death.

Despite the warnings from doctors of the risks, and his cyanide levels dropping to a "safe" level after three days off his self-administered treatment, the man went straight back to taking them after getting home from hospital.

Apricot kernels are sold as an "alternative medicine" treatment for cancer, sometimes marketyed as "laetrile" or "amygdalin". I've spoken to at least half a dozen people in my lifetime that have turned to this treatment - mixing powder made from the ground kernels with pineapple juice to "activate the enzymes" that "fight cancer cells."

There are no existing studies that even come close to meeting basic research standards that can prove the kernels combat cancer in any way, but if you ask any of the advocates, they'll tell you it's just "big pharma" at work, profiting from the "cancer industry".

In fact, one review, which looked into over 200 claims, found not a single study that met the criteria for a randomised clinical trial.

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. There's no evidence it works, and you could end up in a coma - or worse. [BMJ]


Gizmodo Australia is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix.



More Science Posts: