Apples are a "miracle fruit" that convey benefits beyond fiber content, according to Dr. Bahram Arjmandi at Florida State University. Animal studies have shown that the pectin and polyphenols in apples improve blood fat levels and lower the production of pro-inflammatory molecules. Arjmandi's 2011 research randomly assigned 160 women ages 45-65 to one of two dietary interventions: one group received two dried apples daily and the other group ate dried prunes every day for a year. Blood samples were taken at 3, 6 and 12-months. The results surprised Dr. Arjmandi, who stated that "incredible changes in the apple-eating women happened by 6 months- they experienced a 23% decrease in LDL cholesterol," which is known as the ‘bad cholesterol.’ The daily apple consumption also led to a lowering of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation). "I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent while increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol by about 4%," Arjmandi said. Yet another advantage is that the extra 240 calories per day consumed from the dried apple did not lead to weight gain in the women; in fact, they lost on average 3.3 lbs. "Reducing body weight is an added benefit to daily apple intake" he said. Part of the reason for the weight loss could be the fruit's pectin, which is known to have a satiety effect.
In a study from Ohio State University, healthy, middle-aged adults who rarely ate apples were given one red or golden
Delicious apple a day, or a capsule containing the polyphenols found in apples, for 4 weeks. The apple eaters had a 40% decrease in oxidized LDL, a substance linked to hardening of the arteries. People taking the capsules had a similar effect, but not as large. The author of this study, Dr. Robert DiSilvestro, described daily apple consumption as significantly more effective in lowering oxidized LDL than other antioxidants he has studied, including the spice-based compound curcumin, green tea and tomato extract.
The study also found eating apples had some effects on antioxidants in saliva, which has implications for dental health.
In the Christmas edition of the prestigious British Medical Journal, there is an article comparing apples and statins for the prevention of cardiovascular deaths. Using mathematical models, a team of researchers at Oxford set out to test how the150 year old proverb - An apple a day keeps the doctor away -might compare with the more widespread use of statins in the UK population. They calculated that offering a daily statin to 17.6 million more adults would reduce the annual number of vascular deaths by 9,400, while offering a daily apple to 70% of the total UK population aged over 50 years (22 million people) would avert 8,500 vascular deaths. However, side-effects from statins mean that prescribing statins to everyone over the age of 50 is predicted to lead to over a thousand extra cases of muscle disease (myopathy) and over ten thousand extra diagnoses of diabetes. The researchers conclude that the public health message: An apple a day… is able to match more widespread use of modern medicine, and is likely to have fewer side effects. The research takes into account people who are already appropriately taking statins to reduce their risk of vascular disease and therefore the authors stress that no-one currently taking statins should stop, “although by all means eat more apples.”
My message to readers is similar – eat a daily apple, don’t change your medications without talking with your doctor, and have a wonderful holiday season.
Sadja Greenwood, MD back issues on this blog. Check out my novel, Changing the Rules, at Stinson Beach Books, Point Reyes Books & Amazon