An apple a day keeps the doctor away – or that’s what they have been telling us since the 1860’s1. So is it true? Can an apple a day keep the doctor away? Lets take a closer look at the beautifully round, sometimes beautifully misshapen, apple and decide for ourselves.
Apples are a common fruit seen at most food markets and I feel confident that the majority of readers would have eaten an apple at least once or twice in their life. There are a lot of varieties and colours (green, red, yellow or a combination of colours) and their flavour can range from tart to sweet2. They can be eaten fresh but are also used commonly in cooking2 (whether you have eaten one or not, I’m sure you have seen an apple pie in a kitchen or two). The skin of apples is particularly high in nutrients, which include phytonutrients such as flavonols (quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin), phenolic acid, cholrogenic acid, anthocyanins (in the skin of red apples), epicatechin and apigenin2. These provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antihistamine actions2.
Apples are considered a good source of fibre with 3g of dietary fibre in 125g of apple (with the skin on)3. The fibre content makes apples a good source for assisting in relief from constipation as it adds bulk to the stool and stimulates normal bowel contractions4. As well as providing relief from constipation, pectin, a soluble fibre found in apples, has also been linked to providing relief from diarrhoea4. Once in the gut, intestinal bacteria use pectin to form a smooth and protective coating for the irritated intestinal lining and also add bulk to stools4.
The vitamin C found in apples supports the prevention of heart disease as it fights free radicals and protects against inflammation and cellular damage2. The phytonutrient epicatechin is also said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension by preventing oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL are a form of cholesterol found in the body that is linked to heart disease and often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’5), enhancing endothelium-dependant relaxation (endothelium is a single layer of tissue that lines the cavities of the heart, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels6), reducing inflammation and inhibiting the formation of clots by modulating platelet function2.
However to benefit from all of the great constituents found in apples you need to eat the whole fruit. A study investigating the impact of whole apples versus clear apple juice on lipid levels showed that the polyphenols and pectin found in apples segregated differently during processing and that clear apple juice is free of pectin and other cell wall components7. The study concluded that the fibre was necessary for apples to have a cholesterol lowering effect on healthy humans and that clear apple juice was not a suitable substitute for the whole fruit7.
So, will eating an apple a day keep the doctor away? I think it will definitely help!
**Whilst it is great to be passionate about maintaining your health, you should never self medicate and always ensure that you consult a medical or health professional before including a new item in your diet or health routine.**
- Ely, M 2013, ‘History behind ‘An apple a day’, The Washington Post, viewed 2 May 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/history-behind-an-apple-a-day/2013/09/24/aac3e79c-1f0e-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html?utm_term=.b93363846fbf
- Marcel, C 2015, ‘Apple’, Cinahl Information Systems, viewed 3 May 2017, www.ebscohost.com
- Condé Nast 2014, ‘Apples, raw, with skin [includes USDA commodity food A343]’, Nutrition Data, viewed 3 May 2017, http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1809/2
- Castleman, M 1995, The Healing Herbs: The Ultimate Guide to the Curative Power of Nature’s Medicines, Bantam Books, Pennsylvania, United States
- Whitney, E, Rolfes, SR, Crowe, T, Cameron-Smith, D and Walsh, A 2014, Understanding Nutrition Australia and New Zealand Edition, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning, Victoria, Australia
- Tortora, GJ and Derrickson, B 2012, Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 13th Edition, John Wiley & Sons Inc., United States
- Ravn-Haren, G, Dragsted, LO, Buch-Anderson, T, Jensen, EN, Jensen, RI, Németh-Balogh, M, Paulovicsová, B, Bergström, A, Wilcks, A, Licht, TR, Markowski, J and Bügel, S 2013, ‘Intake of whole apples or clear apple juice has contrasting effects on plasma lipids in healthy volunteers’, European Journal of Nutrition, iss. 52, pp.1875-1889, viewed 3 May 2017, www.ebscohost.com