Apple seeds can be poisonous! Here’s what happens when you eat them

Apple is considered as one the healthiest fruits but this same nutritious fruit can turn fatal. Yes, you heard it right. Apple seeds are capable of poisoning and causing death. Apple seeds contain amygdalin, a substance which releases cyanide when it comes in contact with human digestive enzymes. Amygdalin contains cyanide and sugar which when ingested by the body gets converted into hydrogen cyanide (HCN). This cyanide can make you sick and can even kill you. But acute toxicity is rare with accidental ingestion of seeds.

Apple seeds can be poisonous! Here’s what happens when you eat them

According to the World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA), apples and pears are the most consumed fruit in the EU and second most consumed fruit in the US.  Eating apples is associated with promoting health, as the saying goes an apple a day can keep the doctor away.

While this saying may not have guaranteed results, eating apples provides your body with many beneficial nutrients including a good amount of antioxidants.

How cyanide works?

Cyanide is infamous as one of the deadliest poisons with a long history in mass suicide and chemical warfare. Cyanide works by interfering with oxygen supply. And yes, apart from its chemical form it is also found in seeds of some fruits including, apricots, cherries, plum, peaches and apples. These seeds have tough protective coating which seals the amygdalin inside them. This strong protective layer of seeds is resistant to the digestive juices.
How much cyanide is poisonous?

About 200 grinded apple seeds, which means around a cup of it, can be fatal for the human body. Cyanide can damage your heart and brain. It can even lead to coma and death in rare cases. In fact, if consumed in large quantities, the symptoms can occur instantly including, seizures, shortness of breath, trembling, spasm, increased heart rate, respiratory failure, low blood pressure, all of which can lead to loss of consciousness. Survivors of poisoning can show evidence of heart and brain damage.

Also, lower amount of cyanide can lead to problems like nausea, headache, vomiting, stomach cramps, dizziness, confusion and weakness.

The exact amount that can poison someone depends on their body weight. To be more precise 0.5 to 3.5mg of cyanide per kg of a human body can be poisonous. Though it also depends on individual tolerance and the type of apples.

1 gram of finely crushed or chewed apple seeds contain 0.06–0.24 mg of cyanide.

Why are apple seeds poisonous?

What’s in the amygdalin from apple seeds that makes them potentially harmful?

They actually contain the poisonous substance cyanide (2).  Of course ingesting cyanide can be very harmful, but the amount of cyanide you would get from a few chewed up apple seeds is not a concern.

Your body can deal with this small amount of cyanide without any problems.

If you don’t chew apple seeds, they will pass through your digestive tract whole.

Only if the seeds are chewed up and broken down do they have a chance to interact with digestive enzymes and release cyanide.

A few seeds is ok, but don’t overdo it

Cyanide is a poison that can kill.  However, you would need to eat a significant quantity of apple seeds to get enough cyanide for a lethal dose.

In fact, food science consultant John Fry in a LiveScience article suggests you would need to eat around 143 apple seeds (equivalent to about 18 apples worth) to get enough cyanide to be lethal.

In general, it’s best to throw out the seeds and core of an apple.

If you eat a seed or two, it’s not cause for concern.  Ingesting more seeds at one time is not recommended.

If someone does ingest more than a few seeds, you may want to seek medical attention.  Exposure to lower amounts of cyanide, even if it’s not a lethal dose, can be dangerous.

Cyanide can affect the brain, heart and may lead to a coma.


Swallowing whole apple seeds is unlikely to cause any complications, as they pass without causing any harms to the body.
Still it’s a good idea to remove the seeds before eating the apple. Nevertheless, if you accidentally eat a few seeds, don’t worry. But you should immediately spit them out to avoid any potential issues.

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