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How do you like them apples?

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” holds up to scientific scrutiny, especially when it comes to heart health, new research from Ohio State University (OSU) suggests.

In a study of healthy, middle-aged adults, consumption of one apple a day for four weeks lowered by 40 per cent blood levels of a substance linked to hardening of the arteries, an OSU release says.

Taking capsules containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, had a similar, but not as large, effect.

The study, funded by an apple industry group, found that the apples lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL — low-density lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals to become oxidized, the cholesterol is more likely to promote inflammation and can cause tissue damage.

“When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries,” said lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and a researcher at the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

“We got a tremendous effect against LDL being oxidized with just one apple a day for four weeks.

DiSilvestro described daily apple consumption as significantly more effective at lowering oxidized LDL than other antioxidants he has studied, including the spice-based compound curcumin, green tea and tomato extract.

The study also found eating apples had some effects on antioxidants in saliva, which has implications for dental health, DiSilvestro said. He hopes to follow up on that finding in a future study.

The study was conducted as a master’s thesis by graduate student Shi Zhao, and was funded by a grant from the U.S. Apple Association/Apple Product Research and Education Council and a donation from Futureceuticals Inc. of Momence, Ill.

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