An Apple A Day

Fact: Apple pips contain cyanide.

Despite the old saying your mum used to chant at you, apples actually contain one of the most poisonous substances on earth.

Cyanide acts deep in your cells as an inhibitor of an enzyme called Cytochrome C Oxidase, which is essential in the final step of releasing sugar into energy. Without this enzyme working correctly, your cells can’t make enough energy to survive and very quickly start to die off.

Each apple pip contains about 0.6mg of hydrogen cyanide. However, it’s locked up in complex sugar molecules, so if you eat seeds intact the cyanide stays trapped and just passes out your other end. However, crush seeds by chewing them and you’ll release an enzyme (emulsin) that is naturally found inside apple pips. This enzyme will liberate the cyanide and it’s bye bye cruel world.

Don’t panic – 0.6mg of hydrogen cyanide wouldn’t hurt a fly. But blend up 100g of apple seeds and neck it and you’re dead in minutes. Maybe there’s something to that Snow White thing after all.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license

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