Fact Check: Are apple seeds poisonous enough to kill people?

Quick Take

A number of social media posts claim that apple seeds contain cyanide and eating them will result in the death of a person. We fact-checked and found that the claim is mostly false.

The Claim

The social media posts claim that apple seeds contain cyanide, a lethal poison. “Eating 20 apple core will kill an adult while eating less can cause paralysis, coma, or brain damage,” claims one such post. These posts can be seen here and here. A snapshot is given below.

Fact Check

Do Apple seeds contain cyanide?

Apple seeds contain a compound called amygdalin. When metabolized in the digestive system, this chemical degrades into highly poisonous hydrogen cyanide (HCN).

However, not all apple seeds release hydrogen cyanide. They need to be crushed for amygdalin to be released. Also, the amount of amygdalin present in an apple seed is much lower than what can be termed a lethal dose for humans.

Can apple seeds kill you?

The amygdalin is released only if the seeds have been crushed or chewed; a whole unbroken seed will not cause any harm.

A 2014 study found each Apple seeds contain approximately 1-4 milligrams of amygdalin. An average apple usually contains between five to eight seeds. But, not all seeds will release amygdalin or cyanide.

Researches have shown that the human body can process cyanide in a mild amount. According to Britannica, it would take “anywhere from 150 to several thousand crushed seeds” to cause cyanide poisoning in a human.

Eating 20 or fewer apple seeds will not result in death or paralysis of a normal human being. However, doctors advise caution for younger children and infants.

Do apple juices contain cyanide?

Since most commercial apple juices are produced by crushing the whole apple, it is natural that some amount of amygdalin gets released into the juices.

A lethal dose of cyanide will be around 50-300 mg depending on the person’s body weight. Researches have shown that commercial apple juices contain anywhere between 0.001mg to 0.04mg of amygdalin per milliliter (ml) of apple juice. So, regular commercial apple juices are safe to consume.

Nutritionist and Dietitian, Kajal Gupta says, “Apple seeds are not edible products. But that does not mean you should start panicking if you swallow or chew on one. You can just spit it out. Even if you ingest, there should not be any concern. It is very unlikely to die due to apple seed poisoning. However, if you are feeding boiled apples etc. to infants or younger children be careful to throw away the seeds.”

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