When Matthew Creme of Britain began noshing on healthy cherries, he never expected to end up fighting for his life in the hospital. The delicious cherries went down easy and Matthew began to fill up.
But then curiosity got the best of the Brit and he decided to crack open three of the cherry’s seeds or pits. Inside he found another seed that resembled an almond.
The 28-year-old father of three took a closer look and decided to eat those, too. That was a big mistake.
Suddenly, Matthew began to feel incredibly ill incredibly fast. He became so sick he called 911 and was told to get to the hospital as quickly as he could, because consuming three cherry pits could be fatal.
“It was just curiosity and you know what they say about curiosity. [The seed] tasted similar to an almond but with a cherry flavor to it – I didn’t think nothing of it, just thought it was a seed, so I ate it and continued to eat more of it.”
It turns out that cherry pits, along with other stone fruit kernels like apricots, peaches and plums, contain amygdalin. It’s also found in apple seeds. At the hospital, Matthew was administered an antidote to counteract the fruit stone’s impact.
Amygdalin is a naturally occurring substance that changes to the toxin cyanide after it’s consumed. It also can cause fever, headache, nausea, insomnia, excessive thirst, lethargy, body aches, nervousness and plummeting blood pressure.
After the incident, Matthew said the government and producers should place warnings on the fruit’s packaging warning of the potential hazards if the pits or stones are consumed. Isabel Maples, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said people shouldn’t worry about cyanide poisoning from simply eating just the fruit.
“The vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants would still be a lot better for us than worrying about the danger of the seeds.”
If an adult were to eat more than three small raw apricot kernels or less than half of one large kernel in one sitting, for example, that could exceed the threshold that the human body can safely process. But you’d have to chew and eat all of the seeds contained in 18 apples just to get a lethal dose of cyanide.
Accidentally swallowing an apple seed or cherry pit intact will not cause any harm. That’s because the shell is hard enough to not break down in the body’s system and leak cyanide. Isabel said people should continue enjoying snacking on fruit and reaping the health benefits it offers–just don’t eat the pits, stones or seeds.
However, for those who like to process the seeds, which usually requires soaking, then drying and heating for canning and roasting, the heat deactivates the cyanide, rendering the pits and stones safe to consume thereafter.