The Health Benefits of Apples: Looking At the Evidence



An apple a day still keeps the doctor away. This indeed is true, and in this industrialized world where heart disease and cancer abound, maybe we need to consume our share of apples. Cancer and heart disease are top killers nowadays, and they are often linked to lifestyle choices, one of the most important of which is diet. A healthy diet can prevent both cancer and heart disease and can cut off health related expenses.

Since the ancient times, people have turned to fruits and vegetables as a way of preventing diseases. Scientists have attributed this protective effect to phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, which are non-nutrient plant compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavonoids and phenolic acids. These phytochemicals are said to inhibit cancer cell proliferation, regulate inflammatory and immune response, and protect against fat oxidation which is the process responsible for cell damage and aging. An important class of phytochemicals is the flavonoids, which are abundant in apples. The compounds found in apples are said to be readily available for absorption compared to compounds found in other fruits and vegetables. Apples are also rich in antioxidants; in fact they have the second highest level of antioxidant activity. Antioxidants prevent chronic disease and slow aging. All these compounds found in apples are responsible for its health benefits

Let us now examine one by one scientific findings on the health benefits of apples. 

Cancer

First, it is said that the compounds found in apples can reduce cancer risk, especially lung cancer. One study, the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study which involved over 77,000 women and 47, 000 men showed that fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 21% reduced risk in lung cancer risk in women. In this study apples were one of the individual fruits associated with a decreased risk in lung cancer. Women who consumed at least one serving per day of apples and pears had a reduced risk of lung cancer. However, this was not seen in men. These findings were duplicated in a Finnish study involving 10,000 men and women which showed that flavonoids in apples and onions reduced lung cancer risk, especially in younger people and in nonsmokers.

In the Zutphen Elderly Study utilizing 728 men (aged 65–84), apple consumption was found out to be associated with decreased epithelial lung cancer incidence. 

Cardiovascular Disease

Second, compounds in apples are said to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. In the Women's Health Study, nearly 40,000 women were monitored for 6.9-years for flavonoid consumption and cardiovascular disease. This study found out those women who consumed the highest amounts of flavonoids had a 35% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. Women who ate apples had a 13–22% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

In another Finnish study, flavonoids reduced heart disease risk and heart disease related deaths in women but not in men. Those who had the highest consumption of apples had a lower risk of thrombotic stroke compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts of apples. Another study in Iowa which utilized nearly 35,000 women also found out that apple and wine consumption decreased heart disease death rates among postmenopausal women. 

Pulmonary Diseases

Thirdly, apples consumption also decreased asthma attacks and was associated with good general pulmonary health. One Australian study involving 1600 adults showed that apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and a decrease in bronchial hypersensitivity. This was synonymous to findings in United Kingdom wherein 600 individuals with asthma and 900 individuals without asthma were studied according to their fruit and vegetable intake. In this study, subjects who consumed at least two apples per week showed decreased asthma attacks. Similarly, a Finnish study involving 10, 000 men and women showed that apples indeed reduced asthma incidence. A study from the Netherlands even found out that apples might beneficially affect lung function. 

Diabetes and Weight Loss

Fourth, apple consumption may also be associated with a lower risk for diabetes. This was found out in the previously discussed Finnish study of 10,000 people which emphasized that a reduced risk of Type II diabetes was associated with apple consumption. Apple and pear intake has also been associated with weight loss in middle aged overweight women in Brazil, as found out by a study utilizing 400 hypercholestemic, but nonsmoking women. In this study, women who consumed either apples or pears had a significant weight loss after 12 weeks of 1.21 kg. Those consuming the said fruits also had a significantly lower blood glucose level. 

So, can one apple a day keep the doctor away? Definitely, yes.

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Dr. Marie Gabrielle "Gabs" Laguna is a medical doctor-internist and an international medical writer. She views writing for THERAPIES4ALL as a privilege. THERAPIES4ALL is Britain's largest natural health website with over 50,000 practitioners/clinics listed to date. Dr. Gabs' interests are complementary and alternative medicine, efficacy and safety of food supplements and the use of natural products for longevity and disease prevention.
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