If you eat two of these a day, you can add years to your life

Photo: Nicolas Barbier Garreau

Every now and again, new academic research retroactively salutes a pithy proverb from the past. Just this week, the old Wales’ dictum, “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread,” more famously phrased, “an apple a day keeps the doctor,  away,” was handsomely amended by a new study conducted by the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition at the University of Reading.

“It seems the old adage of an apple a day was nearly right,” the report’s senior author, Professor Julie Lovegrove, said of the findings.

After eating two apples a day for eight weeks, participants decreased their risk of suffering from a heart attack and lowered their blood pressure, in addition to reducing their cholesterol by 3.6%.

How bout them apples?

The researchers began by recruiting a group of 40 participants between the ages of 20 and 69 that had slightly high cholesterol before the start of the study. Over the course of two months, half of the subjects were tasked with eating two large Renetta Canada green apples a day while the other half was supplied an apple-based beverage that they were told to drink two glasses of a day.

Even though both regimens contained the same amount of calories, the green apple group had much lower LDL cholesterol levels, or bad cholesterol, compared to the juice group, in addition to evidencing no reduction in good cholesterol. Moreover, this group expressed a considerably higher concentration of relaxed blood vessels under their skin, which in turn contributed to various markers of heart health.

By contrasting the form of the dietary sources,  Lovegrove and her team were able to shorten their list of suspected correlates. For a start,  two apples (any kind of apple, so long as they are on the larger side) provides just about 25% of someone’s recommended daily fiber, which strengthens gut bacteria and is also linked to cholesterol reduction.

It should be noted that the species of green apple used in the study, Renetta Canada, are especially high in polyphenols, compounds believed to lower one’s risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular attacks. It’s uncertain how much either measure played in the nearly 4% cholesterol decrease after two months, but a longer trial would almost certainly heighten these results. Especially if taken alongside Statins, alternatively known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, which on their own can lower cholesterol by as much as 30% to 55%.

‘People who ate daily two large apples high in polyphenols had lower LDL cholesterol, also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, and no reduction in good cholesterol compared to people having an apple-based drink,” Lovegood continued. We believe the fiber and polyphenols in apples are important, and apples are a popular fruit among all ages, which are easy to eat and make great snack foods.”

True enough,  though not only because of the data above. One 95 calorie-dense apple contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, 14% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C intake, and four grams of fiber.

For whatever reason, the results were more pronounced in women as far as cholesterol reduction was concerned. The authors intend on extending their research to determine why this was the case.

Check out the full report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.