Apricot kernels could be 'hidden health hazard'

Apricot kernels could be 'hidden health hazard'They have been billed as a new “superfood”, bursting with vitamins, with potential cancer-fighting properties, and a vital ingredient in detoxes.

But apricot kernels could be a hidden health hazard, Europe’s food safety watchdog said.

The kernels - which come from splitting the stone inside apricots, revealing the hard brown seed within - contain a compound known as amygdalin, which is converted to cyanide in the body, and at levels that could be harmful, scientists warned.

A single small kernel would be toxic to a toddler, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) warned in a public statement. Just three small or one large apricot kernel in a single serving could put an adult over safe levels of the poisonous compound.

Cyanide can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, and joint and muscle pains, as well as falling blood pressure. In concentrated doses it is fatal, as fans of crime fiction are well aware.

But it is found in a variety of common foods, including not just apricot kernels but almonds and more exotic foods such as lima beans and cassava, both of which must be correctly prepared to avoid toxicity.

Normal consumption of apricot flesh, leaving out the kernel, carried no risk, the Efsa said.

its researchers found that even low doses can give unpleasant reactions, and as little as 0.5mg to 3.5mg per kilogram of body weight can be lethal. The organisation issued new advice on Wednesday that no more than 20mg per kilogram of body weight should be consumed at a sitting, which in practice for many people is likely to mean limiting consumption to no more than one raw kernel. For young children, half a kernel would be over the limit.

The Efsa’s scientists are now in discussions with the European commission on whether action needs to be taken, which could include removing the products from sale in the EU or providing health warnings on packaging.

Source: The Guardian
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