Doc­tors warn about sup­ple­ments

Shepparton News - Country News - - COUNTRY LIFE -

A Vic­to­rian man who gave him­self cyanide poi­son­ing from an apri­cot ker­nel ex­tract high­lights the dan­gers of some sup­ple­men­tary medicines, doc­tors say.

The 67-year-old was found to have 25 times the ac­cept­able level of cyanide in his blood fol­low­ing rou­tine surgery in 2015, a study pub­lished in the BMJ med­i­cal jour­nal re­veals.

He told doc­tors he’d taken two tea­spoons of home-made apri­cot ker­nel ex­tract and three Novo­dalin, or herbal fruit ker­nel sup­ple­ment tablets, daily for five years.

The study’s lead au­thor and anaes­thetist at Mel­bourne’s Al­fred Hospi­tal, Alex Kon­stan­tatos, said this added up to 17.32 mg of cyanide a day.

‘‘Cyanide in­ter­feres with the body’s abil­ity to use oxy­gen and is mar­keted for can­cer prevention but there’s no proof of this,’’ Dr Kon­stan­tatos said.

‘‘(The pa­tient) be­lieved very strongly that the ker­nel ex­tract was go­ing to pre­vent a can­cer . . . from com­ing back.

‘‘It’s not known what the ef­fect of hav­ing a level of cyanide that’s not enough to kill you sud­denly, but (is) still quite high — we don’t know what the long-term ef­fects of it are.’’

The pa­tient con­tin­ued to take the ex­tract and sup­ple­ment un­til re­cently, when he was blocked from buy­ing raw apri­cot ker­nels or im­port­ing the tablets.

But Dr Kon­stan­tatos said his case high­lighted a broader prob­lem with these kinds of sup­ple­ments.

‘‘We went to all the trou­ble to mea­sure it, con­firm it and to pub­lish the study to show that this gen­tle­man’s prob­a­bly just the tip of the ice­berg,’’ he said

‘‘Peo­ple who take medicines like this, in this un­reg­u­lated way, do not know how much, ex­actly, they’re tak­ing. That’s ex­actly what makes it so dan­ger­ous.’’

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