If your mother ever warned you not to eat apple cores, it was with good reason. Yeah OK, so apples don’t really have cores, but they do have those rough middle sections full of seeds, and those seeds can harbor concentrations of molecules called cyanogenic glycosides. One of those is amygdalin, and when it gets down into your gut bacteria, it can turn into cyanide, which can do a pretty good job of killing you.

So, it seems like a good idea to steer clear of that crunchy center, right? But here’s where that logic is off: A single apple’s worth of seeds can’t produce nearly enough cyanide in your belly to make you even a little bit sick. So if you’re throwing out the rest of your apple, you’re not actually saving yourself from anything. You’re just wasting half an apple.

Apples aren’t the only fruits with cyanogenic glycosides, either. Peaches, apricots, cherry pits, almonds, even lima beans–they’ve all got ’em. But you don’t usually eat fruit pits whole anyways, which is where the amygdalin is, and almonds and beans don’t have enough to harm you. You’d have to chew or grind a cherry pit into a fine powder for the glycosides to do their work. A small number of children have gotten sick from eating too many amygdalin-loaded seeds, but “it’s extremely rare, and would require significant ingestion beyond any normal amount,” says Kate Sweeney, a registered dietician who manages the Nutrition and Wellness Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

And assuming you’re really good at grinding up peach pits with your teeth (ouch), or you really like chewing on apple seeds, the cyanide that would form in your gut if you ate a bunch of amygdalin is quite different than the cyanide formed in the lab. Chemists have been extracting glycosides from fruit pits since Carl Wilhelm Scheele dissolved them in water back in 1782, creating a highly toxic chemical that was really useful for making pen ink or hardening certain metals. Today, commercial cyanide comes in the form of highly concentrated gases, liquids, and crystals, which are used to make everything from paper to plastic.

Inhaling or ingesting these ultra-strong man-made chemicals can cut off oxygen supplies to your cells, causing immediate damage to your heart and brain. When you swallow, or even chew, a few apple seeds, it might produce trace amounts of hydrogen cyanide, but the amount and concentration is so minute that your body just flushes it out during digestion. So while cyanide poisoning is nothing to scoff at, it’s not going to happen if you eat more than, say, seven almonds in one sitting. Thanks, Obama.

22 Comments

  1. but they won’t as you can read on my comment below.

  2. Nick Carmine

    “So while cyanide poisoning is nothing to scoff at, it’s not going to happen if you eat more than, say, seven almonds in one sitting.”

    – And yet, a healthy serving of almonds is about 30-40.

  3. Yes.

  4. David Forrest

    Do tell.

    Oh, the reader is supposed to click through to the video and wait for a minute to hear Wired’s answer. Better headline: “Here’s How 18 Apple Cores Could Poison You”

  5. Keith Salwoski

    What does Obama have to do with this? Confused.

  6. This article should have a different name.. It doesn’t answer it’s own title.. I was misdirected to read it. This should be called “Apples and other fruits you shouldn’t eat in abuse.. Here is why”

  7. They should have at least segued into a couple of examples of food that could have harmful levels of cyanide — cassava and bamboo. Of course it breaks down readily when boiled.

  8. The video does.

  9. I’ve, in 62 yrs. have always eaten the whole of an apple. Never thought otherwise. As did an uncle who died @ 83 from, primarily, being a smoker of nearly 50 yrs. best that I can recollect. I’ll have to ask mom, aged 89 & his sister the exact yrs.

  10. Reminds me of the episode of GI Joe where they kill a huge blob that destroys everything in its path by bombarding it with thousands of apples. That’s how e I learned that Apple seeds are dangerous.

  11. Chad Brubaker

    To the base premise of the article (Apple cores/peach pits/almonds, etc. can’t REALLY poison you), I respond “Duh!!”

    Lets keep in mind, plants developed these tasty, tasty covers for their seeds in order to spread their species far and wide.

    If these couldn’t be eaten, and effectively pass entirely through the digestive system of your friendly neighborhood herbivore/omnivore, then the plant that does this would not have proliferated. Instead, it would create a lot of competing “children” with which it will have to struggle for resources (because the fruit would fall to the ground).

  12. disqus_ZE3VhQZ7M6

    Now if only the authors at wired could learn about a valuable search tool called “Google” and worry less about being online SJWs producing fluffy articles full of mush.

  13. disqus_ZE3VhQZ7M6

    The snarky ended did not add to an article that did not live up to its title. Who do I blame for WIRED’s stupid leftist bent and low info articles, thanks Obama.

  14. Thank you, your tiny comment is more informative and useful than this entire article.

  15. WHERE IS THE Fing ANSWER?

  16. RolandeDeschaine

    For a second I thought you were going to take the article the full distance and let people know they were wasting a good chunk of the apple by coring them. But nope.

    The whole apple is edible and if you are worried about that tough little bit in the dead center of the apple (from all directions) just pare that little tiny bit out. There is no reason to throw away about 15%-20% of your apple.

  17. George Pavlou

    You do not need much. Actually 3.5 less and Apple tastes kind of bitter.

  18. So inaccurate! Sorry but this is a bad article without research. The cyanide needs to be unlocked out of the amygdalin by an enzyme which called beta-glucosidase. This unlocking enzyme is not found to any dangerous degree anywhere in the body. There is another important enzyme called rhodanese, which we can call the protecting enzyme because it neutralizes cyanide. This protecting enzyme is found in great quantities in every part of the body.

  19. Theodore Kennedy

    You would need to finely chew and eat about 200 apple seeds, or about 20 apple cores, to receive a fatal dose.Per this site: http://www.healthline.com/heal

  20. Hardly surprising.

    Wired is a horrid mess these days, barely able to string a verb and a noun together, let alone flesh out an idea.

  21. David Forrest

    This article doesn’t answer its own headline: “Here’s how many apple cores it would take to poison you”

  22. That reminds me of the Alar scare back in the late 80’s. Stuff was used to regulate apple growth and keep them preserved longer. There was a big stink about it causing cancer and it got banned from being used on food. Thing was, you can get cancer from it but because of the tiny amount used in the spray you had to eat like a pound of apples a day for several years to have a chance at being harmed by it.

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