Apples are one of the world’s most popular fruits.
They contain small, black seeds that are usually avoided because of their bitter taste, but people may occasionally eat them by accident or not bother to spit them out.
Many people believe apple seeds are poisonous, while others may consider them a healthy snack.
What’s the truth? This article reviews the scientific evidence.
Crushed or Chewed Apple Seeds Release Cyanide
Apple seeds contain a plant compound known as amygdalin.
Amygdalin is a part of the seeds’ chemical defenses. It is harmless when intact, but when the seeds are damaged, chewed or digested, amygdalin degrades into hydrogen cyanide. This is very poisonous and even lethal in high doses (4, 5).
Summary: Apple seeds contain amygdalin, which is converted into cyanide when the seeds are chewed or crushed. Cyanide is highly poisonous and can be deadly in high doses.
How Much Cyanide Can You Tolerate?
Consuming 0.2–1.6 mg of cyanide for each pound of body weight (0.5–3.5 mg/kg) may lead to severe poisoning, causing a coma, paralysis, heart and lung failure or even death (8).
For a 180-pound (81 kg) adult, this equals 41–286 mg of cyanide.
Lower amounts of cyanide may cause various milder symptoms, such as headache, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, dizziness, weakness and confusion.
The exact amount needed to make you sick depends on your body weight. Young children are at a greater risk.
Summary: Small amounts of cyanide, ranging from 0.2–1.6 mg for every pound of body weight, cause acute poisoning and may even be deadly.
Do Apple Seeds Release Enough Cyanide to Make You Sick?
However, the amount of cyanide derived from apple seeds is much less.
As a result, eating two cups of ground apple seeds might be fatal. At the very least, it could make you sick.
The exact lethal dose of apple seeds varies widely. It depends on body weight, individual tolerance and the type of apple. Keep in mind that much lower amounts might make you sick.
This table shows how many apple seeds you would need to eat to risk death, relative to your body weight.
|Body weight (pounds)||Body weight (kg)||Apple seeds (grams)||Apple seeds (number)|
For example, 243–6,804 apple seeds would be needed to kill a 180-pound individual. To put this in perspective, a whole apple may contain anywhere from 0–20 seeds.
Additionally, swallowing whole apple seeds is unlikely to cause any symptoms.
The seed coat protects them from digestive enzymes, and they pass harmlessly through your digestive system.
Nevertheless, it’s probably a good idea to remove the seeds before giving apples to young children or pets.
Summary: Eating a few apple seeds is safe. However, large quantities of ground or crushed seeds (over 100 grams) are potentially fatal.
The Bottom Line
Apple peels and flesh are very healthy and pose no risks to your health.
However, chewed or crushed apple seeds release small amounts of cyanide, which is highly toxic.
Nevertheless, you would probably need to thoroughly chew and swallow over 150 seeds before you experienced any adverse symptoms.
So if you accidentally eat a few apple seeds, there is no need to worry.