Is an apple a day, as the old saying goes, capable of keeping the doctor away? A recent study more than gives credence to the miraculous fruit that, they claim, appears to reduce the risk of early death in elderly women by 35% and seems to have a particularly protective effect against cancer.
Researchers said that apples are well known to boost health through their high level of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and fibre. They are also high in compounds called flavonoids which give many fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours and flavours and are thought to reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
But they said the benefits were not fully explained by these nutrients and there may also be ‘unknown’ ingredients from apples. The authors of the paper wrote: ‘If apples do contribute to reduce risk of dying from a chronic disease available data indicates that both known and unknown food components could be involved.’
The team at the University of Western Australia followed a group of women aged 70-85 for fifteen years. Each of the 1456 participants completed a food frequency questionnaire which was used to understand how apples impacted on their mortality. It found a variety of fruits gave moderate health benefits when consumed on a daily basis. Women pensioners who ate just one small apple a day, or more 100 grams, were found to be more likely to have a longer life expectancy than those who didn’t.
Dr Jonathan Hodgson, from the UWA School of Medicine and Pharmacology, said it was down to high concentrations of fibre and flavonoids in the skin. He said: ‘Apples are among the top contributors to total flavonoid intake. We have previously shown the flavonoid intake from apple skins improve artery relaxation. We have now shown that higher apple intake was associated with lower risk of all that cause mortality, and cancer mortality in older women. High levels of fibre found in apples have been linked to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and a reduced cancer risk. The researcher examined the impact of apples because they are popular and widely eaten. They are the world’s second most popular fruits after bananas.’
In conclusion, the authors added: ‘our results support the concept that an apple a day protects against death in elderly women particularly in the risk of cancer. People who eat apples are also more likely to live healthy lifestyles and consume other fruits and vegetables which may also contribute to the longer life expectancy.’
The researchers, whose paper was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that former smokers were less likely to eat apples. Earlier this year researchers at the University of East Anglia and Harvard Medical School linked certain flavonoids to maintain a healthy weight. They said eating a handful of blueberries every day for four years would even help people lose weight (around 2lb 10 oz) Experts believe the compounds may reduce the energy that is absorbed by food, especially from sugar.
Although for many years I was a heavy smoker, which luckily I stopped, and took up the habit of eating apples instead, I tend to believe that the magical fruit has untold benefits, some of which we have not discovered yet. But maybe Eve knew more than we do…