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Last Updated: Nov 18, 2006 - 1:55:25 PM

Food & Nutrition Channel
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Health : Food & Nutrition

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Bitter apricot kernels could pose health problems
Apr 15, 2006 - 6:10:00 PM, Reviewed by: Dr. Priya Saxena

The seeds can produce cyanide and could be fatal in high doses over a short period of time, the government's food watchdog warned.

Apricot seeds are thought to fight cancer, but researchers say eating too many of the bitter kernels could seriously harm your health.

Bitter apricot kernels are thought to contain high levels of vitamin B17, known as laetrile, which has been described as an immune system-booster and even as a cancer treatment.

Natural food retailer Julian Graves - which has 280 British outlets - said last January that it was the country's first high street retailer to stock the "controversial" product. The seeds are also available in Britain via specialist websites.

But Britain's Food Standards Agency says it could be poisonous if eaten in large quantities, reported the online edition of the Daily Mail.

The seeds can produce cyanide and could be fatal in high doses over a short period of time, the government's food watchdog warned.

A maximum of two bitter apricot kernels may be safely eaten in one day, it said. Julian Graves pulled the seeds from shop shelves after it was found selling packs with a recommended daily dosage of up to 10 kernels.

"There have been reports from overseas of consumption of 20 to 30 kernels by adults in a short period of time being associated with very serious health effects. They could potentially be lethal in high enough doses," an official warned.

The agency said that eating apricot seeds does not cure cancer. "If simply eating apricot seeds could cure cancer, no one would be more delighted than us."

The apricot is a fruit-bearing tree native to China. Seeds of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they may be substituted for almonds. In sixth century AD its seeds were used to treat tumours and in the 17th century its oil was used in England against tumours and ulcers.

- Indo-Asian News Service

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