Are Apple Seeds Poisonous to Humans?

Are Apple Seeds Poisonous to Humans?

Yes, apple seeds are poisonous as they contain a cyanide compound, which can be toxic to humans. So, whenever eating apples, it is best to avoid consuming the seeds. But it should be noted that the toxic effect shows only if they are consumed in large quantities.
Did You Know?
Amygdalin (vitamin B17) present in apple seeds was thought to be an anti-cancer agent. However, these claims were thwarted when a clinical trial reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, proved that amygdalin is not only ineffective for cancer treatment but its usage can actually be harmful to health.

From a health standpoint, eating an apple everyday is a good proposition but does that mean you should eat apple seeds as well? The brown-colored seeds lie tucked at the center of the apple. Also known as the apple core, we prefer to avoid the seedy center of the apple. However, some like to eat apple seeds, blindly assuming them to be healthy. This Buzzle article discusses whether it is safe to consume apple seeds.

Are Apple Seeds Poisonous?
Yes, they are, simply because amygdalin, a naturally compound found in these seeds is harmful to humans. Amygdalin is a cyanogenic glycoside, a cyanide compound that can be deadly to humans. This is because, in the body, amygdalin reacts with an enzyme called beta-glucosidase to form hydrogen cyanide (HCN), which is toxic to humans. Exposure to HCN has been linked to asphyxia and death. HCN is known to cause systemic poisoning, which often leads to severe cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Headaches, nausea, and lethargy are some of the common side effects of exposure to HCN.

One may think that a person may die after consuming an apple along with the seeds. However, the seeds contain the toxin in trace amounts. Not just one, even if you consume half a dozen apples along with the seeds, the amount of toxin ingested is too small to cause any harm to your health. Ingesting HCN in small amounts through apples does not carry any health risk as it gets easily neutralized in the liver. The enzyme rhodanese combines with the toxic compound, leaving it harmless.

For HCN to be fatal, the dosage estimated is approximately 50 mg, which is equivalent to 85 g or half a cup of apple seeds. To get that lethal dose of 85 g of apple seeds, you would need to consume more than a hundred apples in just a few hours.

Moreover, the way you consume apple seeds can also determine whether they can be lethal to your health. It is observed that the apple seeds have a tough, protective, outer cover that simply does not break open inside the body during metabolism. In other words, the hard coating of the seed is resistant to the corrosive effects of digestive juices in the body. So, if the seeds are directly swallowed without chewing, the toxin remains inside the seed and does not combine with any of the enzymes to produce any lethal compounds. However, if you are chewing or crushing the seeds before consuming them, the toxin escapes from the seeds and subsequently enters the bloodstream, which can be detrimental to your health.

Although eating a few apple seeds is not a cause for concern, to be on the safer side, one should refrain from consuming these seeds. Unlike apples, they do not provide any fiber, nor do they contain any health-promoting vitamins or minerals. So, there is no reason to eat apple seeds that have a potentially harmful cyanide-containing compound.