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Popular smoothie ingredients could be dangerous

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 16:36:01-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV)  — Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, nothing sounds healthier than a smoothie, right? Step away from that blender for a second, because ingredients found in many smoothies are actually bad for you. 13 Consumer Advocate Tricia Kean looks at what you need to know to protect yourself and who is the most at risk.

Kerry Geyser is a very health conscious mother. As a fitness trainer and partner for a local gym, she knows how important it is to eat right.

"We really advocate that food is fuel for your body," says Kerry.

She's careful about her 5-year-old son's diet. He likes his fruits, vegetables and...

"He loves smoothies. We, my husband and I, make smoothies all the time. We always have. Sometimes it's a snack. Sometimes it's a meal replacement," says Kerry.

But a recent study has her rethinking her smoothie ingredients. Researchers from UNLV and CSN found cyanide in some popular smoothies and juices. Cyanide is a chemical compound naturally found in many plant foods, fruits and kernels. If exposed to too much, it can be extremely toxic to humans.

"That's really scary," says Kerry.

Researchers bought a total of 11 smoothies and juices from several unnamed Las Vegas locations. They found the sources for the cyanide come from several ingredients.

"The biggest one was flaxseed," says CSN Professor, Dr. Doug Sims.

He's one of the researchers involved in the study. He points out, brown and yellow flaxseed are sold as a super food, packed with nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. He says significant levels of cyanide are only found in raw flaxseed.

"When roasted you blow apart or destroy the cyanide for the most part, down to a trace level," says Dr. Sims.

Apples are also found to create a very minute-level of cyanide, specifically from the apple seed. Another source is unpasteurized almond milk. But as long as it's pasteurized, it's safe.

So, who does this really effect? Dr. Sims says people with compromised immune systems should avoid the raw flaxseed.

"The biggest concern would be someone with a liver condition, because that's where you detoxify your system," says Dr. Sims.

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should also be cautious. He does point out current studies don't provide a full picture of the possible risk to a human fetus. Parents buying a premade smoothie should also avoid raw flaxseed for young children.

"I would just ask, does this have flaxseed? If it's not listed. If they say no, you're good to go," says Dr. Sims.

In the end, it's just a precaution. Dr. Sims makes it clear, these cyanide levels do not pose an absolute threat of poisoning.

As for Kerry, she understands you just can't be too careful.

"We just have to be really conscious and we're all exposed to certain things that are going to be harmful to our bodies and it's up to us to do the best for ourselves," says Kerry.