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Poison Pits

March 1, 2011

A listener asks whether it’s safe to eat fruit seeds and pits.



Are pits poisonous? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Necia Kelleher of Atlanta Georgia called to ask:


Would it be safe to put an avocado seed into a smoothie?


We consulted medical toxicologist Claudia Barthold of the Nebraska Poison Control Center. She says avocado pits aren’t poisonous, but because they’re not something we usually eat, they’d probably cause gastric distress. She says in general, seeds and pits are pretty harmless, but that the seeds of apples, peaches, apricots and cherries do contain small amounts of a chemical called amygdalin.

CLAUDIA BARTHOLD (Nebraska Poison Control Center):

When you ingest it, for instance, chew up all the seed and release all the chemical inside the seed, then your body actually turns that into cyanide.


But, she says, the lvels of cyanide are low, so accidentally eating a few seeds won’t cause any real harm. And if you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. If we use your question, we’ll send you a Science Update mug! I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.