(NaturalHealth365) Are you eating apples? It’s safe to say that virtually everyone has heard the saying regarding an “apple a day.” Now, cutting-edge scientific analysis and extensive medical studies are confirming the remarkable truth behind this bit of folk wisdom.
From helping to prevent obesity to inhibiting cancer, and more – crunchy, refreshing apples offer an almost unbelievable array of health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at this delicious fruit and give it the attention it deserves.
Apples are a nutritional powerhouse
Researchers report that apples are packed with antioxidant polyphenols, fiber and essential micronutrients, with particularly high levels of bioactive constituents known as flavonoids. The flavonoid quercetin, in particular, has been extensively studied for its cancer-preventing and heart-healthy qualities, and apples contain it in abundant amounts – along with two other disease-fighting flavonoids, kaempferol and myricetin.
Apples are also rich in antioxidant plant pigments known as anthocyanins, which are responsible for the fruit’s coloration. The deeper the shade of red, the more anthocyanins the apple contains.
In addition, apples contain essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, calcium and potassium, along with the vision-preserving carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Yet, a medium-sized apple contains a modest 75 calories, making it a true nutritional winner.
Apples help maintain healthy weight and reduce risk of obesity
The unvarnished fact is that most adults gain weight as they age – and even small gains can have disturbingly substantial effects on the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and mortality. In fact, gaining 10 or more pounds between the ages of 40 and 60 can increase the risk of developing diabetes by a whopping 40 to 70 percent – and raises the risk of several types of cancer by up to 59 percent.
In an extensive Harvard University study published in BMJ (British Medical Journal), researchers analyzed the eating habits of over 124,000 Americans for 24 years – and found that higher intake of foods rich in flavonols, anthocyanins and flavonoids – which describes apples to a “T” – was associated with less weight gain among adults aged 27 to 65.
Noting the importance of maintaining healthy weight, the researchers included apples in a list of “high flavonoid foods” that may help prevent obesity. Other high flavonoid foods included pears, berries and peppers.
The Harvard study is not the only research attesting to apples’ ability to promote weight loss. A Brazilian study published in Nutrition showed that overweight women who ate three apples a day lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than those women who didn’t add fruit to their diet.
Apples not only help prevent weight gain, but can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, which in itself promotes healthy weight.
A study published in Food Chemistry showed that Granny Smith apples, rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, increased levels of “friendly” bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Researchers noted that pectin, a type of fiber found in apples and pears, has prebiotic benefits – meaning that it increases levels of butyrate, a fatty acid that serves as fuel for desirable bacteria.
For maximum benefit, experts advise consuming ripe, organic apples, peel and all. Fully two thirds of the fruit’s antioxidants are found in the skin.
Important to note: Apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide, which could be harmful or even fatal if too many are consumed. Although apples and apple skins offer a bonanza of health benefits, take care to avoid eating the seeds.
Apples can slash lung cancer risk in half
In a review published in Nutrition, researchers found that women who ate at least one apple a day had a reduced risk of lung cancer. Other studies have shown that participants with the highest dietary intake of apples, onions (another quercetin-rich superfood) and grapefruit experienced a reduction in lung cancer risk of up to 50 percent.
And, the anti-carcinogenic effects of apples don’t stop with lung cancer.
In a 2010 study published in European Journal of Cancer Prevention, researchers found that flavonoids in apples can inhibit cancer onset and suppress cancer cell proliferation – and concluded that eating just one apple a day cut risk of colorectal cancer by more than a third.
(Encouraging note: even people with generally low intake of fruits and vegetables – but who reported eating at least one apple a day – experienced a lower risk of colorectal cancer. And, the ability of apples to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, as noted in other research, is particularly pronounced in smokers. These facts suggest that apples can confer some protection even when lifestyle choices are less than optimal.)
And, score yet another cancer-fighting plus for quercetin in apples – Mayo Clinic researchers report that the flavonoid may be able to inhibit or prevent the growth of human prostate cancer cells by blocking the activity of androgen hormones.
Apples target harmful LDL cholesterol and help us to prevent heart disease
Apples’ healthy content of total dietary fiber and non-soluble fiber can play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Extensive studies have shown that diets with the highest levels of fiber are associated with reduced risk factors for heart disease – and can lower the odds of coronary death by almost one third.
In one study of healthy, middle-aged adults, eating an apple a day for four weeks lowered LDL levels by an astounding 40 percent – an effect more dramatic than that of many cholesterol-lowering pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, one recent study showed that eating one apple a day was equivalent to daily statin use.
Apples also support heart health by reducing the oxidation of dangerous LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing inflammatory damage to arteries.
And, finally, apples lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation which some researchers believe can trigger heart disease and heart attacks.
Apples can help prevent and eliminate neurodegenerative disease symptoms
Polyphenols in apples, particularly quercetin, can protect against oxidative damage to brain neurons, which contributes to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. And anthocyanins, found in good supply in apples, have also shown the ability to improve memory and slow cognitive decline.
In an animal study at University of Massachussets-Lowell, researchers discovered that apples and apple juice can improve brain health and mitigate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies on humans have confirmed apples’ cognitive benefits as well. A recent clinical trial showed that drinking apple juice significantly improved mood and behavior in a group of patients diagnosed with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.
Controlling weight, preventing heart disease, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and fighting cancer – quite a list of major effects for a common, ordinary and inexpensive fruit! Yet, the medical evidence continues to accumulate, showing that apples really can help “keep the doctor away.”
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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