The article published on the Health and Life website on 21 March 2019 proclaims: “Studies Confirm – Apple Seeds Contain Vitamin B17, Nature’s True Cancer Killer!”
It was posted three times on the Healthy Life Master Facebook page with a graphic that read, “Apple seeds and cancer: the government has been hiding this from us for years”.
The three posts have since been deleted, but the article itself has been shared across Facebook an estimated 11,500 times – including in South Africa.
A video posted on the Facebook page HealthyLife Routine uses the same graphic – claiming that “the government” has been “hiding” information about apple seeds and cancer “for years”.
Ten thousand times more powerful than chemotherapy?
Cancer is a deadly disease, so any claim of a cure is likely to get attention. The World Health Organization estimates that globally, 9,6 million people died of cancer in 2018.
But is it true that apple seeds cure cancer?
The article claims the seeds contain “vitamin B17”, also known as laetrile. It adds that “several studies” have found “vitamin B17 can really kill cancer cells and that 10,000 is more powerful than chemotherapy”.
“Laetrile can be found in various fruit seeds, including apricots and apples,” it says. “But you will not hear oncologists who talk about it while Big Pharma keeps mouth shut and pockets are fulled [sic] of money.”
‘Ineffective and potentially dangerous’
US fact-checker Snopes has dismissed the claim that “vitamin B17” cures cancer as false.
“Despite an exhaustive body of research demonstrating that its use is both ineffective and potentially dangerous, these claims still make their way onto the internet’s most popular ‘natural health’ blogs and continue to fuel anti-government conspiracies,” writes Snopes researcher Alex Kasprak.
In fact, he says, “there is no such thing as vitamin B17”.
An article on WebMD explains that laetrile is a synthetic form of amygdalin.
“A partly man-made, purified form of amygdalin, known as laetrile, was patented in the 1950s and became a popular alternative cancer treatment during the 1960s and ‘70s.
“It's now banned by the FDA and hasn't been available in the US since 1980.”
‘Vitamin B17’ doesn’t have any vitamin characteristics
Snopes adds: “The notion of “vitamin B17” was essentially made up by a man named Ernst Krebs, Jr, inventor of a partially synthetic chemical called laetrile that was at one point rebranded as a vitamin in an effort to get around FDA new drug regulations.
“No official pharmacopoeia lists it as a vitamin, and it does not possess any of the required characteristics of a vitamin.”
Stories of fake cures for any disease are potentially dangerous. We all need to pause before we share information on Facebook, taking the time to consider whether it could cause harm to others. – Africa Check (10/04/19)
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.