The dose is the poison: How much of common foods, drinks, or seasonings it takes to kill you

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ last words were reputedly, “15 straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record.” Then he collapsed outside the White Horse tavern in New York and never regained consciousness. Sadly, he went several drinks over the fatal limit. Scientists say that 13 consecutive shots of alcohol would be a fatal dose.

Consuming everyday foods and beverages that you have in your house right now can be fatal – if you take in enough of them. Chocolate, potatoes, common seasoning spices, and even water can kill you in large doses.

Here’s how much you have to ingest to be at risk.


Of course, you need to drink water to survive. Go without it for too long and dehydration will cause your organs to fail. However, you can also consume too much, too fast. Chugging down six litres of water in a short period of time can kill an adult.


Coffee has many health effects, is good for your metabolism and memory, and is an essential ingredient to getting many people going in the morning. However, too much caffeine can cause convulsions, chest pains, vomiting and even death. You’d have to drink about 70 cups of coffee to reach a fatal dose. I think I’ve come close once or twice.


Who hasn’t been tempted to eat too much chocolate? You’ve probably heard that in can be poisonous for dogs. That’s because chocolate contains the ingredient theobromine – which can be deadly for pets. Theobromine can kill humans too, we can just handle a lot more of it than our canine companions. You would have to eat 85 full-sized chocolate bars to ingest enough theobromine to kill you.


You want to flavour your food, naturally. But too much of some common household spices can kill you. Most disconcertingly, just two or three teaspoons of nutmeg can induce convulsions, palpitations and even death. Forty-eight teaspoons of seasoning or 129 teaspoons of pepper could kill you. (But you’re unlikely to ingest 129 teaspoons of pepper at once.)


Ever keep potatoes for too long in cold storage until they go green? Don’t eat them. Eating even one green potato can make you sick. Eating 25 of them can kill you. That’s because the green colour indicates that the potatoes have developed the poisonous solanine to ward off insects, and this chemical is also toxic for humans.


Actually, cherries are safe to eat. It’s their pits that can kill you. Don’t panic if you’ve swallowed a cherry seed, you’re going to be okay. However, just two ground-up cherry pits would contain enough cyanide to kill an adult human. So, never chew a cherry pit.


Bananas contain potassium which is good for you – however eating too many of them could be fatal. Fortunately, you’d have to eat 480 of them, which is stupid, so don’t worry about it.


The trouble with sugar is that it is hidden in so many things that you seldom know how much you are actually ingesting. We all know that too much isn’t good for us. Consuming 10.5 cups of sugar in a short period of time can be deadly to a 150-pound adult.

I took most of these facts from the team at AsapSCIENCE who this week released part II of their video series This Much Will Kill You. Check out their YouTube channel for more.

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