Bioavailability of cyanide after consumption of a single meal of foods containing high levels of cyanogenic glycosides: a crossover study in humans

Abraham, K.; Buhrke, T.; Lampen, A.

The acute toxicity of cyanide is determined by its peak levels reached in the body. Compared to the ingestion of free cyanide, lower peak levels may be expected after consumption of foods containing cyanogenic glycosides with the same equivalent dose of cyanide. This is due to possible delayed and/or incomplete release of cyanide from the cyanogenic glycosides depending on many factors. Data on bioavailability of cyanide after consumption of foods containing high levels of cyanogenic glycosides as presented herein were necessary to allow a meaningful risk assessment for these foods. A crossover study was carried out in 12 healthy adults who consumed persipan paste (equivalent total cyanide: 68 mg/kg), linseed (220 mg/kg), bitter apricot kernels (about 3250 mg/kg), and fresh cassava roots (76–150 mg/kg), with each “meal” containing equivalents of 6.8 mg cyanide. Cyanide levels were determined in whole blood using a GC–MS method with K13C15N as internal standard. Mean levels of cyanide at the different time points were highest after consumption of cassava (15.4 µM, after 37.5 min) and bitter apricot kernels (14.3 µM, after 20 min), followed by linseed (5.7 µM, after 40 min) and 100 g persipan (1.3 µM, after 105 min). The double dose of 13.6 mg cyanide eaten with 200 g persipan paste resulted in a mean peak level of 2.9 µM (after 150 min). An acute reference dose of 0.075 mg/kg body weight was derived being valid for a single application/meal of cyanides or hydrocyanic acid as well as of unprocessed foods with cyanogenic glycosides also containing the accompanying intact β-glucosidase. For some of these foods, this approach may be overly conservative due to delayed release of cyanide, as demonstrated for linseed. In case of missing or inactivated β-glucosidase, the hazard potential is much lower.

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Abraham, K. / Buhrke, T. / Lampen, A.: Bioavailability of cyanide after consumption of a single meal of foods containing high levels of cyanogenic glycosides: a crossover study in humans. 2016.

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