Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

The popular quote, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", may just be true.  At the very least an apple a day has enough nutritional value to help keep the doctor away. 

Apple orchards in our area come to mind in the crisp, cool days of fall, where each apple tree is kept pruned to a height so that visitors can reach many of the apples for picking.  At our local orchards, the most common apples are Macintosh apples, Golden Delicious apples, Delicious apples, Winesap apples, the delicious Honey Crisp apples, and a couple of other varieties.  Not only is apple picking a healthy outdoor experience for the whole family, but the apples contain health benefits, as you will read below. Just make sure you know whether pesticides are used and give them a good cleaning before biting into them. I know that is easier said than done! I usually buy organic apples when I'm not picking, have not yet found a place to pick organic, but it's just once a year when I go and the outdoor fun has it's health benefits too.



The disease-fighting profile of apples provides a multitude of health benefits, including a potential decreased risk of cancer and heart disease.  Several recent studies suggest apples may provide a "whole-body" health benefit which include lower blood cholesterol, improved bowel function, reduced risk of stroke, prostate cancer, type II diabetes, and asthma.

A number of components in apples, most notably fiber and phytonutrients, have been found in studies to lower blood cholesterol and improve bowel function, and may be associated with a reduced risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, type II diabetes and asthma. 

Preliminary research from Finland indicates diets with the highest intake of apple phytonutrients were associated with a 46 percent reduction in the incidence of lung cancer. Findings indicate that two apples a day or 12 ounces of 100% apple juice reduced the damaging effects of the "bad" LDL cholesterol.  (Interpoma 2002 Conference, Bolzano, Italy / Dianne Hyson, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., University of California-Davis) 


Over the  years, apple consumption has been linked with reduced cancer risk in several studies. A 2001 Mayo Clinic study indicated that quercetin, a flavonoid abundant in apples, helps prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells. A Cornell University study indicated phytochemicals in the skin of an apple inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43 percent. The National Cancer Institute has reported that foods containing flavonoids like those found in apples may reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 50 percent. (Carcinogenesis March, 2001 / Nature June, 2000 /Journal of the National Cancer Institute January, 2000)


Two recent British studies indicated that eating apples can improve lung health. A study of Welsh men indicated that people who ate at least five apples per week experience better lung function. Researchers at the University of Nottingham reported that those who ate five apples per week also had a lower risk for respiratory disease. In the Netherlands at the University of Groningen, apples were singled out as a fruit that could cut smokers risk of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in half. Scientists believe antioxidants found in apples may ward off disease by countering oxygen's damaging effects on the body. (American Thoracic Society Meeting May, 2001 - Thorax January, 2000)


A Finnish study published in 1996 showed that people who eat a diet rich in flavonoids have a lower incidence of heart disease. Other studies indicate that flavonoids may help prevent strokes. (The British Medical Journal 1996)


Apples are a delicious source of dietary fiber, and dietary fiber helps aid digestion and promotes weight loss. A medium apple contains about five grams of fiber, more than most cereals. Also, apples contain almost zero fat and cholesterol, so they are a delicious snack and dessert food that's good for you.


Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently reported that apples and apple juice may help protect arteries from harmful plaque build-up. In the first study conducted in humans, adults who added two apples, or 12 ounces of 100% apple juice, to their daily diet demonstrated a significant slowing of the cholesterol oxidation process that leads to plaque build-up - giving the body more time to rid itself of cholesterol before it can cause harm.


Updated 11/3/18

Image Credit: Wikipedia

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