Nitrilosides: Nature’s Defense System in Your Diet

Nitrilosides: Nature’s Defense System in Your Diet

Ever heard of the term “nitrilosides” and wondered if it belonged on your smart eating plate? You might be surprised to learn it’s already there, hiding in plain sight within some of your favorite fruits and seeds!

At Smart Eating Habits, we’re all about harnessing the power of natural foods for optimal health, and nitrilosides are a fascinating example.

Nitrilosides: Unveiling the Powerhouse

Nitrilosides belong to a class of biochemical compounds known as glycosides. They consist of a sugar molecule bonded to a non-sugar component, in this case, a nitrile group. The most prevalent nitriloside is amygdalin, found abundantly in the pits, seeds, and occasionally the flesh of certain fruits.

Here’s what makes nitrilosides intriguing from a health perspective:

  • Breakdown into Beneficial Components: Upon digestion, the body breaks down nitrilosides into its constituent parts: sugar (providing energy) and a nitrile group (containing a central nitrogen atom). This breakdown process might play a role in various health benefits.
  • The Potential of the Nitrile Group: The nitrile group within nitrilosides has garnered particular interest. Some studies suggest it might convert into a compound called laetrile (also referred to as vitamin B17, though not a true vitamin). Laetrile has been anecdotally linked to various health benefits, although more robust scientific research is needed for confirmation.

It’s crucial to remember that the conversion of nitrilosides to laetrile within the body is a complex process, and the exact mechanisms and health implications are still under investigation.

A Natural Approach to Nitrilosides

apricot kernels

Mother Nature provides a treasure trove of nitriloside-rich options to integrate into your smart eating plan. Let’s delve deeper into some delicious sources:

  • Apricot Kernels: These tiny powerhouses are concentrated sources of amygdalin. While enjoying apricots is perfectly safe, consume the kernels with caution. Raw kernels contain the highest concentration of amygdalin, and ingesting large amounts can be harmful. To safely enjoy the benefits, opt for a small portion of roasted or blanched kernels.
  • Bitter Almonds: Similar to apricot kernels, bitter almonds are rich in amygdalin. However, due to their even higher concentration, consuming them raw is dangerous. Proper processing methods are essential to remove toxins before consumption. It’s important to reiterate that consulting a healthcare professional before consuming bitter almonds is crucial.
  • Apple Seeds: Don’t be so quick to toss those apple cores! Apple seeds contain a small amount of amygdalin, not a significant source, but incorporating them adds a delightful textural contrast to your diet. Remember, moderation is key.
  • Beyond the Obvious: Traces of nitrilosides can also be found in other fruits and seeds. Peaches, plums, cherries, and even cassava (properly prepared to remove toxins) offer a sprinkle of these natural compounds.

Potential Health Benefits: A Promising Area of Research

While conclusive evidence is still needed, ongoing research suggests some potential health benefits associated with nitrilosides, particularly amygdalin. It’s important to remember that these benefits are linked to nitrilosides obtained from natural sources in moderation, and not concentrated or synthetic forms like laetrile. Here’s a glimpse into what science is exploring:

  • Cellular Health Support: Nitrilosides might play a role in promoting healthy cell growth and function. Some studies suggest that the breakdown products of nitrilosides, including the nitrile group, could contribute to this effect. However, more research is required to understand the exact mechanisms involved.
  • Detoxification Processes: The potential role of nitrilosides in aiding the body’s natural detoxification processes is another area of interest. Some theories propose that nitrilosides might help eliminate harmful toxins and free radicals. However, more robust scientific evidence is needed to confirm this potential benefit.
  • Immune System Function: Early research suggests a possible link between nitrilosides and a healthy immune system. The nitrile group within nitrilosides might play a role in supporting the body’s defense mechanisms, although the exact mechanisms and effectiveness remain unclear. Further investigation is necessary to solidify this connection.
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Some studies suggest that nitrilosides might possess anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system, but chronic inflammation can contribute to various health conditions. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of nitrilosides in managing inflammation.

The B17 and Nitriloside Connection: Fact or Fiction?

The term “vitamin B17” is often used interchangeably with nitrilosides, particularly amygdalin. However, it’s important to clarify this misconception.

  • Nitrilosides: A Natural Grouping: Nitrilosides are a naturally occurring family of compounds found in plants. Amygdalin is the most common nitriloside, abundant in seeds and pits.
  • B17: A Marketed Term: The term “vitamin B17” was coined in the 1950s to promote a synthetic version of amygdalin called laetrile. Laetrile was marketed as a cancer treatment, despite a lack of scientific evidence. It’s important to note that vitamin B17 is not recognized as a true vitamin by any major health organizations.

Here’s where the confusion arises:

  • Breakdown of Nitrilosides: During digestion, the body breaks down nitrilosides like amygdalin into its components. One potential by-product of this breakdown is a compound structurally similar to laetrile. However, the efficiency and extent of this conversion within the body remain unclear.
  • The Laetrile Controversy: Laetrile, the synthetic version of amygdalin, gained popularity as an alternative cancer treatment despite a lack of scientific backing. In fact, concentrated forms of laetrile can be toxic due to the potential release of cyanide during digestion. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have strongly advised against its use.

Smart Eating for Nitrilosides

The key to unlocking the potential benefits of nitrilosides lies in a smart and balanced approach. Here are some tips:

  • Variety is key: Include a diverse range of nitriloside-containing foods in your diet for a broader spectrum of nutrients.
  • Moderation matters: Focus on whole fruits and avoid concentrated sources.
  • Consult with a professional: Discuss any concerns or questions about nitrilosides with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider.

By incorporating nitrilosides from natural sources into your diet, you might be taking a step towards a healthier you. Remember, a balanced and varied diet is the cornerstone of smart eating habits. Stay tuned for more exciting explorations into the world of healthy foods!

Important Note: Consult Before Consumption

It’s important to remember that concentrated forms of nitrilosides, like laetrile, can be toxic due to the potential release of cyanide during digestion. Always consult with a healthcare professional before consuming large quantities of nitriloside-rich foods, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides resources on complementary and alternative therapies for cancer, which may include a mention of Laetrile (NCI CAM:

Nitriloside-containing foods and their possible effects on health and nutrition.

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