Seeds Growing in Your Tummy

27 Jul 2013 06.20 am by K. Daniel

During my younger years, eating fruits was often akin to consuming a minefield. Seeds, those little annoyances you'd often get in citrus, watermelons, passionfruit, and other produce were abundant in my meals. On certain occasions it was a hassle to dispose of them so I simply swallowed these little packets. However this was met with disapproval by my carers. Don't swallow seeds they would exclaim, they will grow inside your belly they claimed. And so being the dutiful youngster I listened to their instructions. But have you ever eaten a watermelon? Or perhaps passionfruit? Those things are filled to the brim with seeds! And after a while I simply gave in to eating the whole lot again.

Many years later as I grew and became wiser, there are still no signs of anything growing inside of me as a result of swallowing seeds. So are all their warnings not needed? Was it an exercise in futility?

Not necessarily. Despite thinking that they were hypochondriacs, perhaps some of their concerns were warranted. For one, seeds may present itself as a choking hazard, especially for youngsters such as me back then. Statistically, choking is the 4th most common cause of death for children under 5 years old according to New York's department of health. And considering a child's windpipe is about the diameter of a drinking straw, it would be easy to consider potential problems with swallowing seeds of a certain size.

And it doesn't stop there. As reported by The Daily Mail, in 2010 a U.S. pensioner complained of breathing difficulties. Fearing for his life, his wife called in an ambulance and they proceeded to see a doctor who took an x-ray of his lung. Instead of finding a collapsed lung or cancer, instead they find vegetable matter. Somehow a pea seed has found its way down the wrong passageway, split, germinated, and grew to approximately 1.25 cm (or half an inch) until it was discovered. Of course I should note that this is one extreme example and it is unlikely that most of us would have plant sprouting out of our bodies anytime soon.

One legitimate claim for not swallowing fruit seeds (or not too much of it anyway) can be credited to the chemical compounds present in them, specifically plant toxins. Several commonly consumed fruits, mostly from the Rose family such as apples, peaches, cherries, and apricots contain poisonous seeds. The compound responsible is called amygdalin which is composed of cyanide and sugars, however unless the seed itself is crushed or ground the toxin remains inside. The amount is another factor to consider, as you would need to collect the seeds from a bushel of apples (approximately 20 kg worth) and eating them all simultaneously to cause adverse effects.  From the fruit examples listed, peaches would contain the highest dose but it is unlikely that one might accidentally consume or deliberately chew on peach seeds due to its size.

From this I can say that indeed the adults in my time had good intentions, and now they have the scientific backing as well.  But for all the potential problems listed it is always best to apply some common sense instead of focusing on the potential perils of everyday life. If not, then all of us would be terrified hypochondriacs.


Seeds Growing in Your Tummy  

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