Should We Be Concerned About the Cyanide from Flax Seed?

Should We Be Concerned About the Cyanide from Flax Seed?
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In a worst-case scenario, how much flax seed is too much?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Flaxseed [packs] a nutritional punch,” and, as a bonus, the release of cyanide from flax seed is “below [a] toxic lethal dose.” Well, I should hope so. Back-of-the-envelope type calculations have led industry-funded scientists to assert that “a person would have to consume eight cups…of ground flaxseed [at a time] to achieve acute cyanide toxicity.” I’d feel better, though, if it was actually put to the test.

Researchers tested flax seeds under “worse case [scenario] conditions with respect to resulting in higher cyanide levels in the blood.” So, “1”: locate the flax seed with the “highest level of cyanide”-forming compounds you can find. So, they went to stores and bought 15 different sources of flax seed, and though the average level was 140 milligrams per kilo, which is about typical, they did find one with 220, so they used that one. “2”: “maximal mechanical destruction” to release the most cyanide; so, they used some crazy 20,000 RPM lab grinder.“3”: eat it all at once on an empty stomach, and then keep the stomach empty. And, they gave it raw, since cooking can often wipe it all out. If the recommended daily dose is like one or two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day—I recommend one in my Daily Dozen checklist—they decided to go with four and a half tablespoons. Okay, so what happened?

The range of cyanide blood levels that one might estimate to possibly be associated with the “clinical symptoms of intoxication” would be like 20 to 40. So, that would be like here or higher, where we want to stay below. So, four and a half tablespoons on an empty stomach of the highest cyanide-containing ultra-ground raw flax seeds they could find and…the highest individual level rise was just under 14, and the average was down around six.

There has to be some amount of flax that takes you over the limit, though. So, they tested nine tablespoons, and 15 tablespoons too. Remember, we start to worry at around 20 to 40. Three and a half teaspoons of raw high-cyanide ground flax on an empty stomach? Hardly a blip. Seven teaspoons at a time? Same thing. Fourteen teaspoons (four and a half tablespoons) and there’s that six. Okay, but what about a little over nine tablespoons—that’s over a half-cup at a time—and that does start skirting toxicity. And finally, what about a whole cup? I don’t even know how you’d eat a whole cup at once, but that is too much, putting you in that potential toxic range for about three hours. So much for the industry’s eight-cups-at-a-time-are-safe. But even in this worse-case scenario situation, one cup raw on an empty stomach at the highest dose they could find, that person still didn’t actually have any clinical symptoms. This is consistent with the fact that there’s not a single published report of cyanide poisoning after consumption of flax seeds anywhere in the literature, even from Swedish health spas, where they evidently give up to 12 tablespoons as a “fibre shock.” Usually, high doses are two or so tablespoons three times a day, and this dose would be “safe with respect to possible acute toxicity of cyanide.”

Okay, but what about any possible chronic toxicity? The World Health Organization has something called the “PMTDI”—the “provisional maximum tolerable daily intake.” It’s defined as the amount you can eat safely, every day, for the rest of your life, without risking any adverse health effects, based on the best available data—though often, that’s just like rat studies, as it was in this case. If you put varying doses of cyanide in the drinking water of rats for a few months, at a certain level, the so-called benchmark dose lower confidence limit, there’s a 10 percent increased incidence of shrinkage of the tail of the epididymis, which is where sperm is stored in the testicles. That happens at the human equivalent of about 150 tablespoons of flax seeds a day worth of cyanide. But, they want to err on the side of caution, so they introduce “a 100-fold uncertainty factor” to create the PMTDI. So, instead of 150 tablespoons of flaxseeds a day, the average American should stick to under 1.5 tablespoons a day if you’re going to eat them every day. So, my tablespoon-a-day Daily Dozen recommendation should be safe by any of these standards.

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Image credit: Jai79 via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Flaxseed [packs] a nutritional punch,” and, as a bonus, the release of cyanide from flax seed is “below [a] toxic lethal dose.” Well, I should hope so. Back-of-the-envelope type calculations have led industry-funded scientists to assert that “a person would have to consume eight cups…of ground flaxseed [at a time] to achieve acute cyanide toxicity.” I’d feel better, though, if it was actually put to the test.

Researchers tested flax seeds under “worse case [scenario] conditions with respect to resulting in higher cyanide levels in the blood.” So, “1”: locate the flax seed with the “highest level of cyanide”-forming compounds you can find. So, they went to stores and bought 15 different sources of flax seed, and though the average level was 140 milligrams per kilo, which is about typical, they did find one with 220, so they used that one. “2”: “maximal mechanical destruction” to release the most cyanide; so, they used some crazy 20,000 RPM lab grinder.“3”: eat it all at once on an empty stomach, and then keep the stomach empty. And, they gave it raw, since cooking can often wipe it all out. If the recommended daily dose is like one or two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day—I recommend one in my Daily Dozen checklist—they decided to go with four and a half tablespoons. Okay, so what happened?

The range of cyanide blood levels that one might estimate to possibly be associated with the “clinical symptoms of intoxication” would be like 20 to 40. So, that would be like here or higher, where we want to stay below. So, four and a half tablespoons on an empty stomach of the highest cyanide-containing ultra-ground raw flax seeds they could find and…the highest individual level rise was just under 14, and the average was down around six.

There has to be some amount of flax that takes you over the limit, though. So, they tested nine tablespoons, and 15 tablespoons too. Remember, we start to worry at around 20 to 40. Three and a half teaspoons of raw high-cyanide ground flax on an empty stomach? Hardly a blip. Seven teaspoons at a time? Same thing. Fourteen teaspoons (four and a half tablespoons) and there’s that six. Okay, but what about a little over nine tablespoons—that’s over a half-cup at a time—and that does start skirting toxicity. And finally, what about a whole cup? I don’t even know how you’d eat a whole cup at once, but that is too much, putting you in that potential toxic range for about three hours. So much for the industry’s eight-cups-at-a-time-are-safe. But even in this worse-case scenario situation, one cup raw on an empty stomach at the highest dose they could find, that person still didn’t actually have any clinical symptoms. This is consistent with the fact that there’s not a single published report of cyanide poisoning after consumption of flax seeds anywhere in the literature, even from Swedish health spas, where they evidently give up to 12 tablespoons as a “fibre shock.” Usually, high doses are two or so tablespoons three times a day, and this dose would be “safe with respect to possible acute toxicity of cyanide.”

Okay, but what about any possible chronic toxicity? The World Health Organization has something called the “PMTDI”—the “provisional maximum tolerable daily intake.” It’s defined as the amount you can eat safely, every day, for the rest of your life, without risking any adverse health effects, based on the best available data—though often, that’s just like rat studies, as it was in this case. If you put varying doses of cyanide in the drinking water of rats for a few months, at a certain level, the so-called benchmark dose lower confidence limit, there’s a 10 percent increased incidence of shrinkage of the tail of the epididymis, which is where sperm is stored in the testicles. That happens at the human equivalent of about 150 tablespoons of flax seeds a day worth of cyanide. But, they want to err on the side of caution, so they introduce “a 100-fold uncertainty factor” to create the PMTDI. So, instead of 150 tablespoons of flaxseeds a day, the average American should stick to under 1.5 tablespoons a day if you’re going to eat them every day. So, my tablespoon-a-day Daily Dozen recommendation should be safe by any of these standards.

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Image credit: Jai79 via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

Cooking doesn’t always necessarily wipe it all out. See my last video, check out How Well Does Cooking Destroy the Cyanide in Flax Seeds?

Why do I recommend a tablespoon a day (in my Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist)? Check out what they can do:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

107 responses to “Should We Be Concerned About the Cyanide from Flax Seed?

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  1. Hello, I have been following a ‘Rapid Healing Protocol’ put forth by Dr. Brooke Goldner Tadlock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/smoothieshred/), which you may have crossed paths with at a conference or two Dr. Greger. She is recommending to all autoimmune patients that they consume 1 pound of fresh greens daily, a cup of fruit, and 1/2 cup of freshly ground flax seed, all in a smoothie, daily. And that they/we should be consuming this smoothie everyday until our autoimmune symptoms go into remission. Her recommendations, which thousands of people are following, now worry me greatly, only because of the possible effects of this long term flax consumption.

    1. That’s a really important point. Let’s make some comments on Dr. Brooke Goldner Tadlocks facebook page (and any other online site available) linking this video to warn people that consuming 1/2 cup of flax per day may cause cyanide poisoning? Maybe even Dr. Greger himself can give her the heads up directly. Wonder how she’ll react when told that what she’s recommended to the masses is most likely toxic?

      1. It’s most likely not toxic. And for short term use is probably perfectly fine. Long term use like multiple months of high use of anything creates more dubious outcomes.

        1. Well, what my thought is

          People with autoimmune might not metabolize it the same as other people.

          Dr. Greger usually adds in “If you have liver or kidney problems….”

          Also, if you are low in glutamate or something like that.

          People, like me, with brain problems often are low in the very thing which helps the body metabolize cyanide.

          I don’t worry about it anymore with B-12 and I don’t worry about it with the one or two tablespoons of flaxseed, which I forget to take very often, but if I was seriously messed up with autoimmune, I would not want to get anywhere near that line because people with autoimmune also tend to eat the wrong food and may well have fatty liver or something.

          That is my non-medically based opinion.

          Moderators, if I am wrong, feel free to correct me.

          1. Interesting points Deb. Of course all this could be coming in future videos. Me too I do forget to eat them everyday. But sometimes I just snack on them. Half teaspoon to tablespoon several times a day. I tend to eat as many chias as flax not usually on the same day.

            End

            1. DArmstrong

              What I will say after all of those points is that NOBODY – even little kids or dogs or elderly people or dialysis patients or Alzheimer’s patients with low glutamate. Not anyone has come up as having been admitted to a hospital for cyanide poisoning from flaxseeds or cyano B-12.

              Even with people doing the “autoimmune diet” thing. None of them are coming up as having been poisoned. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t get poisoned. My guess is that lots of people eat it in oatmeal or baked goods.

              Are you snacking on them dry?

              Cancer patients are who I do worry about. They already might be smokers and might start eating flaxseed because of the breast cancer study and might start eating apricot kernels or taking B-17 and might have organ problems from poor eating and might be low in something like glutamate and suddenly there could be a perfect storm and THAT is actually highly likely to happen and they would fall between the cracks. A cancer patient could die of cyanide poisoning and nobody anywhere would think “The flaxseeds pushed them over the edge.”

            2. David,

              I did find something interesting about using flaxseed that way. As fibers go, it lowers butyrate and a good bacteria, which they thought helped insulin sensitivity.

              https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4531470/

              “A beneficial effect of F. prausnitzii on insulin sensitivity has been hypothesised to be due to its role as a major producer of the SCFA butyrate( 31 ), as butyrate seems to have an anti-inflammatory potential that might improve obesity-related metabolic complications such as insulin resistance( 32 ). The relative lower abundance of F. prausnitzii following intake of flaxseed mucilage is supported by the reduction observed in faecal butyrate content and by results from a previous study performed in rats, where fermentation of flaxseed fibres had been shown to yield a remarkably low proportion of butyrate, when compared with other dietary fibres

              1. Also, though it helped males with metabolic syndrome, it did not help females and didn’t help with things like inflammation.

                Males taking flaxseed had a decrease in diastolic blood pressure and reduced metabolic syndrome. There was no difference in things like bone mineral density, inflammation, body composition, etc. Women didn’t even get the metabolic syndrome benefit. They might get a blood pressure change, but it wasn’t mentioned in the study I was looking at. For women, it would be the flaxseed muffin shrinking breast cancer tumors as why to eat it.

                I guess I add that to the risk/benefit ratio.

                I feel like the fact that it messes with butyrate and some good bacteria and doesn’t outperform other sources of fiber for things like metabolic syndrome and inflammation and change in body composition for women is something I will be considering before I increase my dose.

                Compare it to black beans

                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28735851

                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26225995

                Here is the gut microbiome after beans and corn tortillas:

                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30898356

                Does flax increase something other than Butyrate? Are there any science people in the house?

                Acetate?

                Propionate?

                Any other short chain fatty acids?

                Or is that a stupid question?

                Omega 3’s are probably enough.

                I just am not sure what to think about when I have one video where I want to increase Butyrate and my flaxseeds might be decreasing it.

                Does that just mean that I need to eat some beans and focus on Proprianate instead or something?

                1. Deb, for me chias are better I know dr G has moved from chias to flax for omega 3’s do I eat both . I still like the flavor of flax better. But Beans have a clogging effect. I’m not sure if it’s that I don’t chew them enough, or that I do t digest them enough, but they actually make me constipated, if I eat enough to Compensate for lack Of calories of no-meat and cheese. However, I can have chias with my workout drink and do quite well with not having dry bowels.

                  According to dr G I’m in line for Parkinson’s. I’ve had dry bowels since I was 5. I didn’t even know I that was the deal until I went mostly whole food. Drinking water lots of water doesn’t help. Whole grains don’t help. Eating lots of veggies does, if it’s a water based veggie like cucumber or squash, or chia seeds. But the lack of calories can be an issue for me. But beans and nuts don’t help. Just veggies, and foods that carry water into the intestine is the only thing that helps me. And don’t get me wrong, I love beans. Have since I was a kid. But I’m limited to two Bowles for a meal, and that’s not enough calories to make up for what I burn.

                  End

                  1. I will have to look up whether chia has a positive or neutral effect in women.

                    I am wondering why so many things don’t help women. Estrogen is an obvious answer, I guess.

                    The Adventist’s vegan didn’t benefit the women over fish or dairy. They might not have eaten nuts and maybe died after bone breaks or something and I say that because they broke their wrists and that to me means they fell and caught themselves or something. Less padding in falls or something. That is wildly guessing based on the fact that there was a broken wrist study.

                    This whole line of thought is particularly ridiculous, but going back to flax not helping women and beans did.

                    I don’t know how to process that flax would lower my butyrate.

                    David, you keep eating those vegetables. You don’t want Parkinson’s.

                    1. Maybe the flaxseed replaces a food which contributes butyrate.

                      Maybe the Adventist women did eat nuts.

                      Maybe the nut studies are like the flax studies.

                    2. Well, I found the study where flaxseeds lower post-menopausal women’s risk of getting cancer by something like 82% so I guess that makes it worth it. Doesn’t take much either. I think it was a teaspoon.

                      I guess I just need to eat more fiber to help contribute to the butyrate production and beans for the metabolic syndrome.

                      It still does bother me that the Adventist vegan women didn’t outlive the other groups. Though maybe B-12 deficiency or not getting D from milk or not getting omega 3’s for brain health maybe is answer enough. Male vegans did outlive the other groups. Were the vegan women slighter maybe. Maybe went into menopause earlier if they didn’t eat enough calories? Or is it the other direction and males lose weight easier than women, maybe more stores of fat and Vitamin D couldn’t be utilized. Or they wouldn’t eat the nuts and seeds because they were afraid of weight gain or back to they ate flaxseed and flaxseed would have protected them against cancer, but not other metabolic syndrome and inflammation conditions.

                      My mind cannot figure it out except that they broke their wrists more and ate meat alternatives. Sodium.

                      Dr Fuhrman said the people who didn’t eat nuts died younger. I guess I have to go post comments on his site and see if he eventually answers specifically about women. It could happen because he is getting goaded about nuts.

                    3. The more nuts I eat the more weight I lose. As I add them to smoothies, salads and just snack on them. My HDL shot up to 84 from 45 and my LDL stayed the same at about 82.

                      End

    1. Patti,

      Twenty Questions. Or, at least 3.

      Do you have any health problems? Particularly, liver, kidney or brain?

      Do you have any reason to think you have nutritional deficiencies for things like glutamate and, boy, I am not sure glutamate is the right word. Similar words like glutamate and glutamine confuse me a bit.

      Do you grind it and use it immediately?

      Do you add moisture or heat to it? Moisture and heat destroy the cyanide.

      Do you eat apricot kernels or apple seeds any other cyanide-contributing thing? Do you smoke? Or work in manufacturing with chemicals or photo labs

      Which type of B-12 do you take?

      Hint: If you love your flaxseed that much and it is helping with something and you don’t want to cook it, maybe take Hydroxo B-12. That is the antidote to cyanide, so you can get your B-12 and eat your flax, too.

      Not sure if I am right about all of the logic, but that is the best I can do.

      Moderators, if you see any mistakes, please let this dear person know.

    2. Patti,
      I would suggest that, after watching the video, more than once if you feel it necessary, you make your own choice in consultation with your medical professional who presumably has some acquaintance with WFPB diet.

    3. Dr Greger does say in the last paragraph, that ” the average American should stick to under 1.5 tbsp a day if you’re going to eat them every day”. Seems pretty clear.

  2. Any more than a few tablespoons of flax per day and I’d live on the commode… !
    On that note besides my fruity oatmeal with ground flax seed in the AM, I ‘m thinking of adding it to my chickpea flour veg frittata. YUM!!
    mitch

    1. After all it IS fiber much like the fiber in metamucil and other bulk laxatives. Imaging eating 150TB, over NINE CUPS!! Not a pretty visual. I heard a of them type of fits.

  3. Flax is currently being commonly added to the food for cows, horses, poultry, hogs, and even pet foods.
    https://flaxcouncil.ca/flax-usage/animal-feed/

    Wouldn’t bioaccumilation (the gradual accumulation of substances such as pesticides or other chemicals in an organism that gets more and more concentrated the farther up the food chain) mean that beef, pork, and poultry fed flax should be tested for cyanide levels before being sold for human consumption?

    1. I add ground flax seed to many of the foods I prepare without giving much thought to how much I will consume in a day, or in one meal. I recently wound up on a largely WFPB diet more or less by accident! So at this stage my implementation is primitive and I don’t let things get too complicated. Enough that I am seeing positive results ! and yes, I do experience more stool while on the stool.

  4. Dr Ron Weiss on Holistic Cruise suggested 3 tablespoons a day as a preventative for breast cancer. I have been doing that. Is 3 tablespoons a day too much? thoughts?

    1. Sandra,

      I look at the little blip on the graph and I don’t see that 3 did all that much.

      Unless you have problems with your organs, I would not be too worried.

      What are you putting it in?

      If it is oatmeal, then, you are cooking the cyanide away.

      If it is a smoothie, I would have to re-watch the last video to understand the whole moisture thing, but you could probably put it in a little bit of water and heat it and then put it in the fridge and add it to the smoothie that way and not worry at all.

      If you are still worried, then buy some Hydroxo B-12 and you can take that and it is the antidote to cyanide poisoning so you can be extra-super-duper-safe.

      1. Please, a little respect for the unfortunate meat eaters! After all, most do not know how wrong they are and the rest don’t care! (tongue in cheek)

    2. You asked about upper limits for flax seed and I found recommendations that varied from the usual 1 TBS/day as Dr. Greger recommends to up to 5 TBS (50 grams) Here’s one source in addition to NF.Org on dosage:
      https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_flaxseed_linseed/drugs-condition.htm/ 1 tbsp orally, two-three times a day up recommended but safe amount 15-50 g/day
      For specific references on dosages used in clinical studies you can go to: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-991/flaxseed/
      So enjoy your flax at # TBS/day!

  5. The serving size on my ground flaxseed package is 2 tablespoons. Is this excessive to eat every day? Also, if I sprinkle ground flaxseed over rolled oats and then cook everything in the microwave, does this wipe out potential toxicity?

    1. You can probably eat larger amounts of uncooked flaxseeds if you spread their consumption out during the day – ie use divided doses – rather than eating it all at one sitting

      ‘Small amounts of CN can be metabolized in the body by various endogenous metabolic pathways, however, the rate of detoxification is slow (about 0.017 mg CN/body weight/min). The body can metabolize CN at even the lethal dose, if that is given slowly over the course of several hours[40]’
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482825/

  6. Dr. Greger, your book talks about the benefits of 3 TBS of flaxseed a day to address certain prostate issues, so the last statistic in this video from the W.H.O. about 1.5 TBS being safe was concerning. Please comment on if it’s safe to continually eat 3 TBS of ground flax seed per day, thank you!

    1. Remember the WHO limit was based on “a 100-fold uncertainty factor.” Making nutritional choices is based on looking at the risks. If other risks factors are considered (for example, breast or prostate cancer) then the research might suggest continued use of the 3TBS, looking at the very conservative recommendation from WHO. A reasonable person might choose to continue to have the 3 TBS, but of course others esp those with no other risk factors of concern might take the advice of Diana below and alternate the daily dose of seeds use just one TBS flax with additional chia, hemp etc. Hope that puts things in perspective.

    2. Also, we need to remember that ‘serving size’ and ‘amount per day’ are not the same thing.

      1 tbsp three times a day would probably carry less risk than a serving of 3 tbsp once per day.

      ‘Small amounts of CN can be metabolized in the body by various endogenous metabolic pathways, however, the rate of detoxification is slow (about 0.017 mg CN/body weight/min). The body can metabolize CN at even the lethal dose, if that is given slowly over the course of several hours[40]’
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482825/

  7. I alternate my tablespoon of omega 3 seeds (and nut) in a loop – flax, chia, hemp (each 1 Tbs), and walnuts (1/4 cup). To my mind, more variety is always better than less in ways we know and ways we don’t yet know. :)

    1. Very excellent point Diana, And this is my thought too. We’ve seen this pattern often enough to know variety is usually better than too much of one thing.

  8. I guess my only thought would be to show a list of foods that might impart some toxicity of cyanide like flax so we don’t get big combinations that push us over the edge. So what are the most toxic cyanide containing foods we should worry about.

    1. If you “worry about” a lot of the foods you eat, won’t that stress in itself be detrimental? Being concerned to do the absolute best for ourselves is admirable, and we each have to decide for ourselves what is reasonable and balanced. Getting *excessively* worried (and I do not sugges that you are) begins to create a case for the notorious “orthorexia” discussed a short while ago.

      Sorry if this observation, and any others of mine for that matter, seem out of place in this forum where there are many people who devote a lot of time to the issues.

      I may well be in a china shop, and full of bull!

      1. Michael, Dr G does a very good job of presenting the facts as based on tested info. Personally I like to know these sort of things so I can make an informed decision about what I put in my mouth, instead of what average Americans are shoveling in with the only qualification being it “taste good” or it has sugar or fried. I have eaten things that have helped me with stuff like asthma and arthritis, blood pressure. But if you don’t know when enough is enough these things can also cause other problems. Any food that acts as a medicine at some amount will have detrimental impacts. It’s good to know before hand instead of often the fact.

        End

      2. Michael,

        There is no actual evidence that all these dietary strictures do prolong life, and evidence drawn from aged survivors in isolated communities free of significant medical intervention just tells you who adapted to the circumstances of that time. It does not mean that for anyone now to limit themselves to a diet quite alien to their own systems, of say seeds, beans, greens and sweet potato won’t actual do far more harm than good.

        Pollan speculated that it was what you did not consume that did you the most good in these cases of restricted diets, as in the people here NOT consuming the SAD with its overload of processed highly refined nosh. They may well be avoiding many of the diseases of affluence, and that is of course a good thing. But it does not mean you have to eat flax seeds. These things are introduced to substitute for what you lose in not consuming any animal products. You might be better off just eating fish etc occasionally. Who knows?

        Incidentally, there is an oxalate issue here, especially with chia seeds.

        That is the rub.

  9. To people asking if the amount they are eating is safe lets compare an example.

    150TBS flax is the equivalent amount before the WHO thinks there would be actual effects in humans based on the rat studies. So the WHO decided to limit it to 1/100th of the amount where a reaction from the cyanide was detectable.

    Now look at table salt.

    In the average American diet people consume around 1.5 teaspoon salt per day. The amount of salt to kill 50% of the humans who ate it (LD50) is just under 1 cup. 1.5 teaspoons= 1/2 tablespoon = 1/32 of a cup.

    So in the Average American diet people daily consume around 1/32 of the salt dose that would kill 50% of the population.

    In small doses, cyanide can be metabolized into thiocyanate with the assistance of the hepatic enzyme, rhodanese. Thiocyanate is then excreted in urine. A small amount of cyanide can also be converted to carbon dioxide which leaves the body through exhalation. Some cyanide can react with hydroxycobalamin to form vitamin B12. Most cyanide leaves the body within one day. Of course problems result when the intake overcomes the body’s ability to remove it.

    1. Yeah, he is wanting people to choose sides between all of these people who usually are working in unity with minor variations.

      I hate that he keeps doing it, but it has increased his channel ratings.

      Though his own website had ZERO likes when he came at Dr. Greger and Dr. Fuhrman on nuts. Not one person on that.

      He does have a YouTube following or Dr. Greger and Dr. Fuhrman and T. Colin Campbell have one and he knows how to capitalize on it.

      1. Deb

        I think you have summed up this character very well. I’d first thought that his criticisms (which seem to have little real substance) were based purely on jealousy but it may in fact be a very clever ploy to gain ratings.

    2. I think about a year or two ago someone brought up dr F’s info, so I listened to him talk and thought he was a snake oil salesmen, and never listened to him again. So this is NOT surprising.

      End

    3. YR, It has always bothered me that Dr F is selling supplements. And his presentation style is certainly that of a salesman. However, his nutrition recommendations do seem to be in line with most of the overall thinking in the WFPB community. If what was exposed in your Youtube reference is true, I don’t blame Dr Campbell for retracting his name from that paper. I have the utmost confidence in Dr Campbell.

      Thanks for the video link … always helps to view things from many different perspectives.

      1. Hal, despite Dr. F’s eagerness to sell supplements, I sort of like the guy. We can always overlook the salesman approach and take what resonates with us. Which is what we should do with everything we see or hear.

        A lot of his nutrition advice makes sense to me, and I’m partial to his NJ-NY accent; I like to hear him speak, and watch the graceful way he uses his hand. :-) According to his bio, he has an interesting background.

        When you think about it, almost everybody is trying to sell something or other, if only hits on their blogs — how many subscribers can they attract, etc. Am sure they make money from this somehow.

        (I’m thinking Deb might make some big bucks if she started a blog of her own. She could call it Deb’s Brain Blog (say that fast, three times). Let people know what she’s doing food-wise, etc. to “heal” her brain. Seriously, I don’t know where she got the idea she has brain issues….unless a medical doc told her for sure.)

        1. Laughing,

          you have to go to a doctor and get evaluated to be told that….

          Though I do have a Brain Gauge now and I do have serious brain issues.

          The fact that I went mute for a while and was hallucinating and having night terrors and the fact that I was totally out of my mind 6 or 7 years ago is what I am basing it on.

          If I told you the things I believed and said and did back then, you would know it, too, but some of us have healed our brains enough to get away with not fessing up for a long, long time. YR, I genuinely still have brain problems, but I am not complaining.

      2. Hal,

        I like him, too.

        I respect these men.

        I can say that the bulk of his advice is not designed around getting people to buy supplements. Some people the rest of what they say is about trying to get people to feel nutritionally deficient so that they will buy their supplements.

        Dr. F. took patients with cancer into his house and fed them to heal them. I know he can’t do that often, but he did it.

  10. Dr Greger…You personally need to address this issue…You have indeed intimated in the past that 3-4 tablespoons of ground raw flaxseed would be the amount appropriate for maintaining prostate health and blood pressure control…are you npw backing off those recommendations?

    1. I think dr G have us the almost absolute worst case scenario. And expects reasonable thinking people to decide if the amount they are eating is appropriate or not. He’s leaving 100x room for error.

      End

      1. DArmstrong,

        Yes, I do agree that he specifically gave the flaxseed with the absolute highest level of cyanide prepared specifically to do its worst.

        He also showed with the graph that it didn’t start getting toxic until 1/2 cup.

        People clearly don’t feel safe though and that is because he didn’t specifically say, “It is safe even long-term.” But that has to be hard because he isn’t interviewing each of them for things like whether they work with it as a chemical or whether they smoke or take B-17 or eat bitter almonds or a whole bunch of apples with the seeds. The answer is that it is highly, highly, highly likely safe, but if your liver is shutting down and you smoke a pack a day and worked in an industry with a lot of exposure and eat bitter almonds all day long and have noticed your thyroid is shot, well, then, no, it might not be safe at that point at all. The human element makes his job tricky.

        But, since nobody at all has ended up in the ER, my advice is mix it in your oatmeal or put it in a muffin and don’t worry so much.

        But if you like to worry or are just detail-oriented and want to understand things, then scroll down and read acute versus chronic cyanide poisoning and what the symptoms are and if you still are nervous, start taking Hydroxo B-12.

        https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+165

        1. Are you talking to me, Deb? I agree with everything you said. Dr G does have a hard job because of those factors you’ve listed. Personally, I like to know the limitations, interactions, and and signs for over saturation. I have found that doing something to promote health, at some point can have an impact. I had sports induced asthma and inhaler wasn’t working for me, and started eating lots of fresh ginger and it worked. It made it possible to expel mucus from my lungs breath without wheezing. But then later had a bike accident and almost needed surgery and because of the large doses of fresh ginger along with other things I had incorporated, that had blood thinning properties, my blood was really thin and they had to do extra evaluation to make sure I was not a bleed out risk. After that, I figured I better know both sides of the equation. Thanks for pointing out thyroid issues as an interaction with flax I’ll be reading up on that ASAP. I’ve had issues with thyroid type symptoms. I’ve added extra iodine and cut back on raw broccoli and cabbage. sometimes i think I need help there, but last test showed TSH of 3.9 and they called it normal. And lots of dr say between 1-2 is abnormal?? But I do eat flax weekly, if not semi daily, but in small doses of tspns instead of tablespoons.

          End

        2. Let’s hope that the reason “no one has ended up in the ER” is NOT because they all died on the way there (joking)

  11. “a 100-fold uncertainty factor” 100 seems arbitrary.
    If humans had 6 fingers would it be a 144-fold uncertainty factor? Perhaps it would still be “100” but in base 12.

    1. Without having done any detailed study of *any* nutritional scientific literature, I am of course talking out of ignorance but will still say that if all studies with some degree of arbitrariness were removed, there would not be much left.

    2. I guess you could blame Lehman and Fitzhugh for it.

      Two of my house-mates in California were scientists. (I was the only girl in a house with up to 6 males)

      One spoke about how Americans hated the Metric system, but he said that it was an American scientist who put time in base 10.

      Science geeks, if I messed it up, that is because it was decades ago, but I think I said, “So, Europe made a metric clock?” and he said, “No, that was an American.”

      This could be a telephone game entry. Some of us have had serious brain problems since then, so take it with a grain of beach sand.

      1. Laughing.

        China may have used it first. Then, France.

        He must have been speaking about the exact decimal clock he was using in the lab.

        What I remember and what surprised me was that he was so confident about AIDS becoming not as much of an issue. He said, “You aren’t? It must be because we are scientists.” I wonder what he is doing now.

    3. The hundred-fold uncertainty factor could have a darker and ironic side. Could it be that WHO uses such an incredibly stringent standard in order to avoid having to make definitive pronouncements and minimize the times they are shown to be wrong? That way they maintain their high reputation. Of course avoiding definite commitment surely must make a lot of promising developments seem questionable and discourage people from trying them, with a consequent negative effect which is the exact opposite to WHO’s goals!

      This observation is totally unresearched speculation, anyone who knows the facts, please debunk if appropriate!

  12. Questions:
    organic flax any different levels? golden vs dark seeds any different?
    In the how not to die book there is talk of making flax crackers with a large amount of ground seeds I had planned on trying it… I do not recall the ingredients off the top of my head but I think it called for a full cup not certain.. is this is still an ok recipe ?

    1. Hi, eric! Those are great questions, and I am not sure we have answers for all of them. I have not seen information on any differences in cyanide content between organic versus conventionally grown flax, or between different types of flax. As Dr. Greger says, “We don’t know, until we put it to the test!” I wish I could give you a better answer than that.
      If you bake the flax crackers, then much of the cyanide may be destroyed by baking. Moisture and heat are factors in that process, as noted here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-well-does-cooking-destroy-the-cyanide-in-flaxseeds/ The recipe makes a lot of crackers, and you would hopefully not eat them all at once! If you only ate a few a day, I think that should be safe. That said, I have passed along to Dr. Greger the multiple requests from viewers that he revisit his prior advice on flax in light of this new information. I hope that helps!

  13. Also, clarity is needed as in volume wise there is a difference in actual amounts for whole flaxseed vs ground flaxseed and powdered in a tablespoon. Example: weigh each form on a food scale. Be accurate. Level the top off. One might be consuming more or less then desired. Just a thought. There are quite of posts that do not stress exactly the product using. I myself use 1 tablespoon of ground flax and have taken for a long while but do miss days occasionally due to laziness. . Yes, I do level the top of my 1 tbs measure. Be well!

    1. Yes, very apropos, Deb. :-)

      Every morning I put a hefty TEASpoon of Bob’s Red Mill organic golden flaxseed meal on my hot gruel — along with a lot of other goodies, of course . Right now it happens to be golden, but I’ll buy whatever color they’re selling if I happen to be in the market for it.

      1. YR,

        I am back to eating hot gruel, too.

        I found an Ocean State Job Lot store where they have every Bob Red Mill product imaginable.

        I know that all stores sell that brand, but for a discount store, they had a Bob’s Red Mill display twice as big as the one at Whole Foods and the other grocery stores.

        I am laughing that so many people feel less certain after this video and I am probably going to go get another package and up my intake.

  14. WHAT SYMPTOMS might one expect from flax seeds?

    The last time I had flax seeds, my skin became extremely sensitive and irritated.

    Why?

    1. Sydney,

      There are people who are allergic to flaxseeds, but skin sensitivity isn’t listed.

      Anaphylaxis is the allergic reaction listed.

      It isn’t a common allergen, but there are people who are allergic.

      1. YeahRight and Deb:

        Thank you.

        I had been wondering about allergy, but I was confused by the lack of symptoms om the article (other than death) caused by cyanide.
        I think I will try cooking flax seeds in a high humidity environment.

        Thanks again.

    2. With all respect, that question seems to be asking for a medical diagnosis which I beieve we want to avoid. The line between sharing anecdotal experience, and deriving generalized conclusions from it, is rather blurry. No problem I suppose as long as we remember that our sharings are meant to reinforce professional guidance, not replace it – which is why its good to see the suggestion to see an allergist.

      I may just be a bit hypersensitive – too much flax?

    1. That reminds me of the old saying, “For every human problem there is an easy solution, and it is always wrong!” :P Would be nice if correct, though. Do you have to use distilled water? Or maybe drink water processed by a distillery? Sorry the joke demon has me in its power today

  15. For viewers considering ground flax seed, we need a presentation of foods and supplements which attenuate or even reverse creation of hydrogen sulfide during normal digestion. Suggested supplements may include n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM).

    1. I assume you are concerned about excessive flatulence? ( Please correct me if I’m wrong!) My reaction is- why bother? Unless you have a case so extreme that it becomes a real poisoning danger, why not just live with it? People may find it distasteful, to them I am inclined to ask if they ever left grade school! It’s a medical condition! Letting nature take its course if at all possible is surely preferable to chemical intervention which inevitably has unintended consequences.

      I am, of course, overlooking the possibility that excess “hydrogen sulfide” might be damaging to the person producing it. That changes the risk/benefit balance considerably.

  16. Please allow me a couple of comments not directly related to “the plain and simple, unembroidered flax (facts)” _ marilla cuthbert, anne of green gables

    When I discovered Dr, Greger and NutritionFacts.org I was thrilled to finally find a place which was relatively fact-based and not flogging some dubious cure! As I read some of the comments, I realized that some “regulars” on the site had gone through – or were going through- very serious medical problems, and inspite of that were devoting a lot of time and energy to sharing their experiences and techniques of WFPB here. To those people I say “Hats off!” You deserve a nice fancy (plant based) cake!

    Anyone unfortunate enough to have read any of my past comments will notice an abundance ( some say overabundance) of joking of one kind or another, and may think this is disrespectful of Dr. G. or the other participants. Not only is that NEVER my intention, but I firmly believe that it is MORE respectful to take the people we admire off a pedestal and treat them as fallible humans, warts and all. Of course if I encounter comments that I think show signs of not releasing flax by-products. I will not hesitate to administer a flaxative.

    If in so doing people feel I am going overboard, just ask me to check if I took my meds that day!

    To everyone here i say a most respecful Thank You! I will try not to step on your toes, though that is less painful now that I am losing weight withWFPB!

    I have one more “newbie” comment to make. When I first visited the web site, I was dismayed by the photo of Dr. Greger. It may be perfectly natural but the expression on his face, to me, suggested just the kind of smug self-satisfaction which I know now is NOT intended! Sorry if I am in a minority, it just strikes me because first impressions are so important. If I am being a pompous, self-important ass just call me Charles Emerson Winchester III (M*A*S*H)

    1. “I was dismayed by the photo of Dr. Greger.”
      – – – – —

      I ‘spect that mugshot was taken many moons ago. Currently, according to recent videos, he’s been sporting a beard. GodOnlyKnows why.

    2. Laughing.

      Good news about losing weight with WFPB!

      Congratulations!

      Well, I happen to like that photo of Dr. G. but if you don’t like the clinical clean cut serious version, you may be happy to find out that the beard is back.

  17. Isn’t the heating of flax seeds while cooking make them toxic? I know that ground flax seeds oxides quickly under light.
    (I am one of your Hebrew translators)

    1. Hello Ruth,

      This is a fantastic question! Like you, I used to also be worried about flax oxidation, but it seems that that is not actually an issue. Flax oil, on the other hand, will oxidize fairly quickly, but studies on cooking ground flax do not show oxidation. Furthermore, I know Dr. Greger mentioned in one of his Q&As that ground flax stored in an airtight container or bag will not oxidize for many months.

      I hope this is helpful,

      Matt, Health Support

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16390176
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11879055
      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960308512000715

  18. I missed this essential issue I suppose, but why is there any cyanide in flax seed to begin with? Surely it is not a natural occurring event, is it?

  19. I would like to find out which daily amount is absolutely safe for my 6 month old little girl.
    We blend in about a teaspoon of flax with her daily fruit meal (along with half a walnut).
    Since she weighs about 6 kg, less than 1/10 of the average adult weight, and a teaspoon is definitely more than a thenth of a tablespoon, I’m wondering if this is safe.
    Thank you in advance for your help!
    Kind regards,
    Jürgen

  20. I eat flaxseed with my oatmeal . I grind it fresh every time I use it. An thats usually two tbsp. I will continue to eat it that way. Whole plant based diet uses flax as binders in burgers an other things . I don’t think to much about it.

  21. Recently you reviewed study on effects of 1/4 cup of flax on blood pressure, which was very positive. After this toxicity info re flax, should I be concerned about that level of daily dosing. It’s not sounding like a great idea.

  22. Good day! I write to you from the small town of Ivanteyevka in the Moscow region. I want to thank You and your team for your work and for what you do for people! After reading the book, I step by step switch to a new diet, but so far there are no results. I have a strange connection between digestion and nasal mucosa. As soon as I do not eat what apparently considers my stomach I immediately begins a terrible runny nose, it came to the fact that my sinuses are 70% overgrown with polyps and cysts, it is very difficult for me to breathe. Doctors can not do anything, just wash your nose weekly, which gives a little temporary relief, but they are very expensive, and you need to do at least once a week. But I do not want to live like this, it is expensive and to no avail. Tell me, please, the food on your program is able to dissolve all the cysts and polyps, and to get my digestive system back to normal? Have there been such cases in your practice? Thanks in advance for your reply! My English is not perfect, I apologize in advance for the mistakes.

  23. Hi, Annet! Your English is fine, so do not worry. You might be interested in this video: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-risks-and-benefits-of-neti-pot-nasal-irrigation/ Everything on this site related to sinus health may be found here: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/sinus-health/ Without knowing more about the digestive issues you are experiencing, it is difficult to comment on what might improve the condition. What do you feel is not normal about your digestion?

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