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Old adages usually survive because they’re based on common experience. Everyone has heard the old saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." At least one clinical study has found that this may prove out scientifically, at least for menopausal women.
According to a researcher at the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University, apples are truly a "miracle fruit" that convey benefits over and above their fiber content.
Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi’s most recent research is the first to evaluate the long-term cardio-protective effects of daily consumption of apples in postmenopausal women.
This USDA-funded 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.
Apples and Cholesterol
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."* At the same time, HDL or "good cholesterol" increased by 4%.
The daily apple consumption also led to a lowering of lipid hydroperoxide levels (or oxidation of fats, a risk factor in adverse cardiovascular events) and C-reactive protein in those women.
Previous animal studies had already shown that polyphenols in apples improve fat metabolism and lower the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
Polyphenols are antioxidants in plants that work by eliminating free radicals which can lead to premature aging, cancer and other diseases. Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables. Another class consists of tannins, which are found in wines, teas and fruits.
Apples and Weight Loss
Another advantage to eating apples is weight loss according to the researchers. Despite the extra 240 calories per day consumed from the dried apples, the women in the study did not gain weight, and in fact, they lost on average 3.3 pounds.
Part of the reason for the weight loss could be the fruit’s pectin, a water-soluble fiber, which is known to create a feeling of satiety. Pectin is a thickening agent used in cooking and in addition to apples, is found in plums and pears.
In the body, pectin helps regulate the flow of water in between cells and keeps them rigid. It is very helpful for people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea because it provides a thickening agent in the gut.
Prior studies had already shown many amazing qualities for ordinary apples.
In particular, they:
- contain quercetin which reduces the amount of C-reactive protein in the blood;
- slow down carbohydrate digestion helping to regulate blood sugar; and
- have been associated with lower lung cancer risk.
All in all, great reasons to have your apple today. Or even two.
*the notion that there is "bad" and "good" blood lipids has been heavily contested and is also known as the "lipid hypothesis," or "cholesterol myth." The underlying causes of cardiovascular disease are likely more related to inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies and/or incompatibilities and injurious dietary components, infections and environmental exposures.