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The Science Behind An "Apple a Day"


The old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" takes on a deeper meaning when it's backed by scientific fact.

Through studies, researchers have discovered that the skin of an apple contains various types of polyphenols, or antioxidants. The apple's cancer-fighting "power" may have derived from the procyanidins, a type of polyphenols, found in the skin that protects the fruits against the damaging effects of the sun. Procyanidins trigger signals that lead to cell suicide, thus reducing the growth and spread of cancer.

According to Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, RD, Margaret A. Sitton Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University, apples are truly a "miracle fruit" that convey benefits beyond fiber content. Animal studies have shown that apple pectin and polyphenols in apple improve lipid metabolism and lower the production of pro-inflammatory molecules. Arjmandi's most recent research is the first to evaluate the long-term cardioprotective effects of daily consumption of apple in postmenopausal women.

This study randomly assigned 160 women ages 45-65 to one of two dietary intervention groups: one received dried apples daily (75g/day for 1 year) 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 lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein in those women.

"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. The next step in confirming the results of this study is a multi-investigator nationwide study.

There is frequently some truth behind our common expressions, and in the case of 'an apple a day,' Dr. Arjmandi has shown that nutrition science backs up the expression. "Everyone can benefit from consuming apples," he said.


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