Is bitter almond effective in cancer prevention?

Is bitter almond effective in cancer prevention?

Almonds are considered as a potent healthy food supplement and are in great demand in the general population around the world. The reason behind its popularity is the health benefits, this nut provides to human community.

Being rich in lipids (50%), proteins (25%) and carbohydrates (20%) this nut is amazing keeping health in a salubrious state. Majorly, the monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), vitamins, fibers, minerals, polyphenols and phytosterols are the potent constituents of almonds' efficacy.

Almonds are known to tackle problems like hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes mellitus, inflammation, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia and metabolic syndrome. Other than these, almonds are also known to play a potential role in cancer prevention. But in this, bitter almond found to exhibit a more significant impact than the other forms of almonds.

Being enriched active ingredient Amygdalin, bitter almonds are reported to have potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, immunomodulatory and antibacterial properties. Isolated in 1830, It was first practiced as cancer therapy in 1845 in Russia and made its way to the US in 1920s. A published report during 1979 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) has also governed the antitumor activity of this component of bitter almond.

Like other natural ingredients like ginger, clove, black cumin and many more other naturally occurring antioxidants, bitter almonds can also play an essential role in preventing cancer.

Let's explore this ingredient and its anti-tumor activity in little deep:

• What is Amygdalin?
• Amygdalin anti-tumor effect
• Amygdalin impact on different cancers
• Conclusion

What is Amygdalin?

Amygdalin is a naturally derived cyanogenic glycoside. It is also known as vitamin B17. This component is hydrolyzed into mandelonitrile and glucuronic acid and later in benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid.
The cyanide is believed to show selective targeted anti-cancer activity.

Amygdalin anti-tumor effect

The amygdalin exhibits its antitumor mechanism via four mechanisms:

Impact of amygdalin on cell cycle

Amygdalin can prevent the cancer cells proliferation via regulation of cell cycle-associated genes or proteins. This affects the normal cell cycle of cancer cells and inhibits its development.

• This component potentially lead a reduction present in G2/M phase (Mitosis follows DNA replication) and S phase (DNA replication resulting in mutations) cells.
• Along with this, this ingredient also leads to potent rise in number of phases and G0/G1 phase 9cells don't divide) cells.
• Amygdalin also down-regulates the cell cycle-related genes, especially the S phase and checkpoint genes. These genes are highly important for cancer and pluripotent cells.

Impact of amygdalin on cell apoptosis

• Amygdalin enhances the caspase-3 activity. It is a crucial mediator of apoptosis.
• Further, it down-regulates the activity of Bcl-2 gene. It acts as an essential regulator or inhibitor of cell apoptosis.

Cytotoxic effect of amygdalin

• A product of amygdalin, benzaldehyde can restrict the pepsin activity which can lead to atrophic gastritis. This further can help to lower the risk of gastric cancer.
• As compared to tumor cells, normal cells can convert hydrocyanic acid into nontoxic hydrocyanic acid. Inability of cancer cells to do this conversion, these can be attacked by hydrocyanic acid and can be killed.
• When the amygdalin β‐glucosidase coupled with tumor-specific monoclonal antibody, the amygdalin can be transformed into an active drug to kill tumor cells.

Impact of amygdalin on body's immune system

• Amygdalin increases peripheral blood T-lymphocyte growth, hence improves the body's immune function.
• Amygdalin can regulate the histopathological changes happen in the liver by lowering the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and myeloperoxidase (MPO). These enzymes can lead to oxidative stress and can harm the liver. This ingredient also lowers the levels of cytokines leads to liver inflammation.
• Amygdalin lowers the immunosuppressive cells expression, which further helps to devastate tumor micro-environment. This impede tumor growth and metastasis.
• Amygdalin also lowers inflammation of lung tissues by lowering the lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory cell infiltration.

In this way this component of bitter almond is known to prevent the initiation and proliferation of various cancers.

Amygdalin impact on different cancers

Renal Cell Carcinoma

• Many studies evaluated the antitumor impact of amygdalin in managing renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
• In one analysis, it has seen that amygdalin (10 mg/ml for 24 or 48 hours) lowers the number of cells in S and G2/M phase and increases in G1/1 phase.
• Amygdalin is known to bring down cell cycle activators.
• Amygdalin also known to reduces tumor cell adhesion to the collagen while impeding invasion and metastasis.

Lung Cancer

• Amygdalin found to tackle lung cancer, especially non small-cell lung cancer by inhibiting its invasive, proliferation and migration abilities.
• Amygdalin also down-regulates the factors which promotes cancer cell metastasis and up-regulates the cadherin-E (factor which inhibit cancer cell metastasis).

Bladder Cancer

• Amygdalin used as pro-drug for antibody-directed enzyme prodrug therapy (ADEPT) for bladder cancer.
• Activation of amygdalin at tumor site aids in killing malignant cells more efficiently and lowers toxic side effects related to conventional chemotherapies.
• Amygdalin at a dose of 10 mg/mL for 24 hours or 48 hour known to migrate the immobilized collagen and tumor cells.
• Different amygdalin concentrations found to inhibit all the three bladder cancer cell lines, especially via arresting cell cycle in G0/G1 phase.

Promyelocytic Leukemia

• The cytotoxicity of amygdalin can impede the human promyelocytic leukemia cells.


Undoubtedly the impact of bitter almonds in cancer prevention is significant. The formulations prepared from this can potentially improve health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Cautionary -

However, it doesn't mean you can have bitter almonds in your day to day life. The amygdalin can be highly poisonous for your health, if not consumed under doctor's recommendation. 6 to 10 bitter almonds a time can be enough to cause serious poisoning inside the body.

Although, you can have these after processing from cooking methods like baking, microwaving or boiling. These methods reduce the bitterness up to 79%, 87%, and 98%, respectively. But, up to what quantity it is safe to consume is yet to evaluate. A further analysis is required to test and evaluate bitter almonds.

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