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Keywords:

  • Cyanogenic glycosides;
  • Linamarin;
  • Cyanide;
  • Cassava

Abstract

We studied if consumption of boiled fresh roots from sweet cassava varieties grown in Cuba resulted in exposure to cyanogenic glycosides and their final breakdown product, cyanide. When adult, nonsmoking subjects consumed 1-4 kg cassava over 2 days, their urinary levels of the main cyanide metabolite, thiocyanate, only increased from a mean ± SEM of 12 ± 2 to 22 ± 2 μ.mol/l, indicating a negligible cyanide exposure. Their mean urinary linamarin, the main cyanogenic glucoside in cassava, increased from 2 ± 1 to 68 ± 16 μmol/l. In a second experiment 5 subjects consumed one meal of 0.5 kg boiled cassava that contained 105 μ-mol linamarin and 8 μ.mol hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Quantitative urine collections prior to and after intake showed that 28% of linamarin was excreted during the following 24 hours, whereas a modest increase of urinary thiocyanate (SCN) only corresponded to the small amount of free HCN ingested. These results indicate that the dominant cyanogen in boiled cassava is glycosides that pass through the human body without causing cyanide exposure. It remains to be studied whether humans occasionally possess intestinal or tissue β-glucosidases that can hydrolyse cyanogenic glycosides from cassava. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.