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Why an Apple A Day May Keep the Doctor Away

Posted by Andrea Lewis on

It turns out apples really can keep the doctor away. And not just the cardiologist. The neurologist, gastroenterologist and endocrinologist may also see fewer patients. Modern research has caught up with one old adage, and proven that apples really can maintain a healthy heart, arteries and colon, assist weight loss and more.

Top 5 Benefits of Eating Apples:

1. Improved cardiovascular health
2. Stroke prevention
3. Better bowel health
4. Assists weight loss
5. Helps prevent metabolic syndrome

Cardiovascular Benefits

For as long as I can remember, apples have had a heart healthy reputation. Now, short-term and long-term research studies have explained the reasons why that reputation is so well-deserved.

According to multiple studies that have taken place over the past several years, drinking 12 ounces of 100% apple juice each day reduces oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoproteins – the bad cholesterol) by 20%, while eating two whole apples a day has a reduction of 9%. This is a very important discovery, because LDL cholesterol oxidation activates the formation of plaque on coronary artery walls. I should mention that all of the participants in these apple juice studies were men. And there was no explanation given for why the apple juice was more effective than whole apples, but I think it's reasonable to assume that more than two apples are needed to make 12 ounces of 100% pure apple juice.

A long-term research study, the Iowa Women's Health Study, led by Dr. Victor Fulgoni, PhD, which tracked more than 34,000 older Caucasian women for 18 years, discovered “a link between the consumption of apples and lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease as well as coronary heart disease.”1

The Iowa Women's Health Study is considered controversial, as there are some who believe it was executed with the sole purpose of discrediting nutritional supplements. However, anyone who has actually read the study can plainly see that it actually disproved what some claimed was proven. That fact alone gives the data collected credibility. In any case, I see no valid reason to disregard the apple and heart disease mortality findings, particularly when you factor in the results of other recent studies, which don't just demonstrate the causality between apple consumption and lowered heart disease rates, but explains them.

One example, is the study conducted by the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University, in Tallahassee, presented at Experimental Biology 2011, in Washington, D.C.. The researchers recruited 160 women and randomly selected which would eat daily servings of dried apples and which would eat the dried plums (prunes). The participants received blood tests at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months; each time the researchers looked for the markers of heart health. “In terms of cholesterol, serum total cholesterol levels were significantly lower in the dried apple group compared with the dried plum group only at 6 months.”2 After one year, the women in the apple group experienced a 14% drop in their total cholesterol. Their LDL cholesterol was reduced by an average of 23%. In addition, levels of lipid hydroperoxide – a biochemical involved in the formation of heart-clogging plaques, and C-reactive protein – a marker of inflammation, decreased by approximately 1/3. Another benefit was that the women had lost an average of three pounds by the end of that year. This study's results are consistent with the other 80+ studies conducted since 2005, ALL of which suggest that apples are highly beneficial to heart health.

Stroke Prevention

Researchers in Finland studied 9,208 people for 28 years and discovered that those who frequently ate apples were less likely to suffer a stroke. Another recent study, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, indicates that fruits with white flesh – such as apples and pears – can reduce stroke risk by 52%.

Wageningen University conducted another apple study using 20,000 adults. The researchers found that “those who ate more white-fleshed fruit and vegetables were less likely to suffer a stroke over 10 years. … They calculated that stroke risk decreased by nine per cent for every 25g (just under one ounce) of apple or pear eaten each day. Given that an average-sized apple or pear weighs between 100g and 125g, that means one a day would reduce stroke risk by between 36 and 45 per cent.”3

And it's not just the usual antioxidants at work. White-fleshed fruits tend to contain large amounts of the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin “has been shown to reduce inflammation, which is relevant because inflammation is linked to hardening of the arteries”3, also known as Atherosclerosis. Cerebral atherosclerosis has been shown to be a predictor of stroke and mortality, particularly in the elderly.

Improved Bowel Health

Dietary fiber is necessary to the health of your bowels and the shape of your stools. And, as everyone knows, apples are dense with fiber; and a lot of it is contained in the skin. According to the USDA, one medium-sized apple (malus domestica; 3" diameter 182 grams) contains approximately 4.4 grams of dietary fiber.

Fiber-filled foods like apples benefit bowel health, because the fiber helps bind together the bits of food in your small intestines as they move along to the colon, while also drawing water to the stool to make it softer and easier to pass. Apples act as a natural cleanser for the bowels, keeping the digestive system working properly. This is extremely important, because, to quote Dr. Bernard Jensen, “It is an indisputable fact that not only illness and old age, but even death, are due to the accumulation of waste products of body chemistry and, on the other hand, to the inability of the body to replenish its cellular structures and organs with fresh, vital nutrients.”4

Weight Loss Benefits

I'm sure you already know that fiber can be very filling. When you eat high-fiber foods, like apples, there's very little room remaining for any other foods, and you will feel fuller longer, especially if you've drank sufficient amounts of water. In addition, apples are low in calories and contain miniscule amounts of fat. This combination of attributes can mean weight loss success, for those who take advantage. And there are studies to prove it!

One randomized study published in the March 2003 edition of the journal Nutrition, showed that eating three apples per day could lead to weight loss. The subjects were all overweight, dyslipidemic, non-smoking women, between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. And the apple eaters lost an average of 1.22 kg (2.69 lbs) in 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that the “Intake of fruits may contribute to weight loss.”5

Other studies have suggested that eating apples can benefit weight loss due to its pectin content. It's believed that apple pectin acts as a natural appetite suppressant, increasing satiety. One study, conducted using healthy US Army adults, tested the hypothesis that apple pectin diminished appetite by delaying gastric emptying. Pectin and not apples were used in this study, and the subjects were also given either orange juice or ice cream. The results were interesting. “There were significant differences in satiety as a function of beverage (p < 0.001) and time (p < 0.001) but not pectin dose (p = 0.121). The effect lasted up to 4 hours after ingesting pectin and orange juice and for 60 minutes after a second meal consisting of ice cream.”6 The researchers concluded that “Pectin in doses as small as 5 g mixed with orange juice increases satiety and can aid in a program to reduce weight by limiting food intake.”6

Metabolic Syndrome Prevention

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Apples have been studied in reference to metabolic syndrome and the research has demonstrated that apples can lower the risk of this condition.

As you are now aware, apples contain flavonoids and antioxidants that support heart and arterial health, and the soluble fiber in apples lowers your risk of heart disease by decreasing LDL cholesterol levels. In one study, people who had reported eating any form of apples within the past 24 hours had lower blood levels of C-reactive protein. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein signifies an elevated risk for both diabetes and heart disease.

A study led by Dr. Victor Fulgoni examined data collected over a five year period (1999-2004), by the NHES (National Health and Examination Survey). They discovered that “adults who ate apples, and drank apple juice or consumed apple sauce, reduced their risk of developing metabolic syndrome considerably. The findings indicated that adults who regularly consumed apples or apple products, reduced their likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome by 27%, and were 21% less prone to develop high waist circumference.”7 So, this was a slight reiteration of the other studies' findings.

A Sixth Apple Benefit

In addition to the aforementioned five health benefits, apples can also act as a natural tooth whitener. I know that's not a health benefit, but whiter teeth are very important to many people, on a psychological level. To many, whiter teeth represent confidence, success, good health and hygiene. All positive attributes. For this reason, those with yellow teeth are often perceived as the opposite, if only subconsciously.

Apples contain malic acid, which is used in many commercial tooth whitening products, because it can safely and effectively dissolve food stains on tooth enamel. But you don't have to purchase malic acid containing dental products to receive it's tooth whitening benefits, just chew on an apple after meals.

The ability to prevent heart disease and stroke, improve and protect bowel health, assist weight loss and lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, in addition to naturally keeping teeth movie star white, is LOT to ask of any one food, but the humble, healthful apple does it all. And they taste great too!


1 Chow, Reuben. “Eating Apples Benefits the Heart”. Natural News, January 23, 2009. Web. November 9, 2015

2 Chai SC, Hooshmand S, Saadat RL, et al. “Daily apple versus dried plum: impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal women”. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, August 2011. Web. November 9, 2015

3 Adams, Stephen. “Apple A Day 'Keeps Strokes Away'”. The Telegraph, September 15, 2011. Web. November 9, 2015

4 “Quotes”. Dharma Healing International, 2002. Web. November 9, 2015 (Complete Bernard Jensen quote is listed)

5 Conceição de Oliveira M, Sichieri R, Sanchez Moura A. “Weight loss associated with a daily intake of three apples or three pears among overweight women”. Nutrition, March 2003. Web. November 10, 2015

6 Tiwary CM, Ward JA, Jackson BA. “Effect of Pectin on Satiety in Healthy US Army Adults”. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, October 1997. Web. November 10, 2015

7 “New Adage – An apple a day, keeps heart diseases & diabetes at bay”. Ayurvedic Talk, n.d. Web. November 10, 2015

Hyson, Dianne, Studebaker-Hallman, Deborah, et al. “Apple Juice Consumption Reduces Plasma Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidation in Healthy Men and Women”. Journal of Medicinal Food, February 23, 2009. Web. November 9, 2015

Lernfelt B, Forsberg M, Blomstrand C, et al. “Cerebral atherosclerosis as predictor of stroke and mortality in representative elderly population”. Stroke, January 2002. Web. November 10, 2015

A blog post by Health writer Andrea Lewis.  Consult with your doctor before making any medical or health decisions.

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