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An apple a day may keep heart attack (and cancer) away

Heart of the Matter

Apple is back in the spotlight. The age old adage ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may have to be dusted from the shelves of the memory bank and brought back into focus again. Several new research studies are showing that the apple fruit packs a powerful punch when it comes to antioxidant power.

Some of the readers may be familiar with the role of antioxidants in the reduction of heart attack and cancer risk. Although the role of Vitamin C and E in reducing heart attacks and cancer have been enhanced and diminished cyclically by research, the role of a group of compounds called ‘flavanoids’ have remained positive. The antioxidant power of the flavanoids and their role in reducing the risk of heart attack and cancer have formed one of the basis for recommending increased fruit consumption in our diets.

In a recent update of the apple story provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research, apple has been resurrected once again. An adult requires about 75 to 90 mg of Vitamin C per day. A medium-sized apple contains only about 6 mg of Vit C which is grossly insufficient to meet the daily requirements. But, a recent research has calculated the antioxidant power of an apple to be equal to 1,500 mg of Vitamin C for a medium-sized fruit. Most of this antioxidant power comes from the ‘flavanoids’.

The antioxidants help protect the blood vessels and reduce the risk for heart attack. Apples also contain a soluble fiber called ‘Pectin’ which helps to lower cholesterol and thus provide reduction in heart attack risk. We know that high cholesterol level increases a person’s chance of suffering a heart attack.

In a major research study conducted in America, called the Women’s Health Study, involving 40,000 women, researchers analysed heart health in women who ate apples regularly versus those who did not. The research showed that women who ate at least one apple a day had a 22 per cent less chance of developing a heart attack.

The bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood exists in different forms. Some forms of bad cholesterol are more damaging to the heart than others. Apple helps reduce the more damaging form of bad cholesterol.

Another advantage to eating apple is the fact that it is more ‘filling’ and therefore less calorie consumption may be achieved. This will help people lower their weight and help in not regaining the lost weight quickly. Lower weight will also lower your risk for a heart attack. Thus, apple has direct and indirect impact on lowering a person’s heart attack risk.

Apples have also shown to have impact on reducing cancer risk. The flavanoids in apples have been shown to reduce the damage caused to our DNA which in turn reduces the risk of developing cancer. Some compounds present in apples have also been shown in experiments to reduce the growth of already formed cancer cells. Another large research study done in America, which was called the Nurses Health Study, revealed a 37 per cent reduction in the risk for developing lung cancer. Another research study done in Finland showed a 20 per cent reduction in the risk for developing any type of cancer when apple forms a regular part of the fruit consumption.

There are some practical aspects of apple consumption that readers should be aware of. Like any fruit, long-term storage of apple leads to a reduction in the antioxidant power and the benefits thereof. Any kind of processed apple derivatives like apple sauce and apple juice have less antioxidant power compared to eating a whole fresh apple.

Although scientific data is bound to change over time, in many cases, the data about apple can be expected to last. After all, the scientific data about apple is only confirming what our grandmothers already knew.

Dr G Balachander


Illinois, USA

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I eat my Fugi apple every day! Growing up in Boston, Macintosh was the best but they don't keep good in shipping so there not the best here in Minnesota. I like them sweet and crispy.

Donna G

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wow, i should eat an apple a day then, to avoid getting cancer... but do you think, eating an apple a day and smoking like 5 cigarettes a day can stop cancer?? i'm becoming so aware of cancer and afraid for the future... [i'm only 18]

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