A 67-year-old man has developed cyanide poisoning after consuming apricot kernel extract, doctors have revealed in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
Apricot kernels, which come from splitting the stone inside apricots, contain amygdalin which is converted to cyanide in the human body.
Cyanide can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, joint and muscle aches and pains, falling blood pressure, and in extreme cases can be fatal.
Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, researchers explained the man was having routine surgery when doctors noticed he had abnormally low levels of oxygen. Blood tests later confirmed he had high levels of cyanide in his body.
The man, who has not been named, explained that he had been taking two teaspoons of homemade apricot kernel extract every day for the past five years in addition to three tablets of Novodalin - a herbal fruit kernel supplement.
Combined with the herbal supplement, he was consuming nearly 17.32mg of cyanide every day, which is enough to raise blood cyanide to around 25 times above acceptable levels.
Doctors made the man aware of their concerns about his diet, but he opted to continue with it regardless of potential health implications.
It’s not the first time concerns have been raised over the dangers of apricot kernels.
After they were touted as a new ‘superfood’ last year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was forced to issue a statement advising the public not to eat them. It said bitter, apricot kernels, sweet apricot kernels, bitter almond kernels and powdered forms should not be consumed.
Apricot kernels can, however, be used safely as flavouring in some foods such as persipan paste. According to the FSA, these flavoured products are safe to eat because the kernels have undergone heat treatment or another type of relevant processing, meaning there are no harmful risks from cyanide.
It’s worth noting that apricot flesh is perfectly safe to eat.