Fact-check: Eating large amounts of apricot seeds can cause cyanide poisoning

"Consuming more than 10 or 15 apricot seeds can lead to cyanide poisoning and death," warn nutritionists and doctors

Geo Fact-Check

Doctors in Pakistan have corroborated viral claims on social media, which argue that eating large amounts of apricot seeds can be fatal and may lead to death.


On July 5, a Facebook user posted a long block of text claiming that eating apricot kernels can lead to serious health risks.

“It is believed that apricot kernels are beneficial to eat and can prevent many types of diseases, including cancer,” the post read, “But the reality is the opposite. Apricot kernels can cause serious health risks and even death as deadly poison cyanide is found in them.”

— Facebook
— Facebook

On July 8, another Facebook user and a Twitter user posted a similar claim.


Consuming more than 10 or 15 apricots seeds in a day can lead to cyanide poisoning and death, warn nutritionists and doctors.

“Apricot seeds contain a compound named amygdalin, an enzyme that your gut turns into a potentially deadly chemical called 'cyanide',” Farah Syed, a senior dietitian at Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Sindh, told Geo Fact Check, via messages.

“However, the level of danger depends on the quantity of the seeds. Having five to six apricot seeds will not cause any harm,” she added, “But if someone consumes the seeds in large quantities (i.e. 15-20), this will be harmful and may lead to death.”

Syed added that there was no scientific evidence to date that cyanide can kill cancer cells.

Dr Rezzan Khan, the head of the clinical nutrition department and a consultant nutritionist at the private Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, also agreed with Syed.

“Apricot kernels contain a small amount of cyanide,” she said, over the phone, “When eaten in large quantities they can cause cyanide poisoning. But when these [apricot kernels] are boiled at a high temperature for around 20-30 minutes, it destroys the poisonous effect.”

Sajid Iqbal, a clinical nutritionist at Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, and Sana Azfar, a senior nutritionist at Aga Khan Hospital, confirmed the same.

Separately, a report by the UK's Food Standards Agency also states that each kernel contains approximately 0.5 mg cyanide.

“Consumers are advised to eat five kernels in an hour, but no more than 10 in a day,” it warns.

With additional reporting by Nadia Khalid.

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