I love putting apples in my vegetable juices to give them a little sweetness and according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) this year’s weather has created the ideal conditions for a bumper crop of sweet and rosy British apples, but how much truth is there is the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?

Apples for Asthma

Children who drink plenty of apple juice may be less likely to develop asthma symptoms, say scientists. The National Heart and Lung Institute research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the latest study to link apples and lung health.

The Power of Juicing Apples

Children who drank apple juice at least once a day were half as likely to suffer from wheezing as those drinking it less than once a month, it found. Eating fresh apples themselves gave no apparent benefits, the study concluded.

The study looked at five to 10-year-old schoolchildren in the Greenwich area of London, asking their parents about their child’s fruit intake, and about any symptoms they had suffered. While no link was found between apple juice consumption and a reduced chance of an actual asthma diagnosis, the link between wheezing and drinking the juice was quite strong.

The appearance of wheezing symptoms is one of the most important signs that a child is at increased risk of asthma, although many with the symptoms are not eventually diagnosed with the illness. A similar, but weaker, benefit was found for children eating bananas at least once a day compared with less than once a month.

In another study, British researchers found that apple eaters had better lung function than non-apple eaters. After analysing the health and dietary records of 2,512 men, scientists discovered a strong link between positive lung function and the number of apples eaten each week.

Although other researchers had suggested that vitamin C from fresh fruit was responsible for improving lung function, this investigation found otherwise. These researchers believe that it is the consumption of antioxidant-like phytonutrients in apples, such as flavonoids especially one member called quercetin which also reduces the risk of cancer and heart attacks. This they say provides an explanation for the healthful effect of apples.

Apples for Stroke Prevention

Dutch researchers say eating lots of fruit and vegetables with white flesh may help to protect against strokes, but the researchers say they do not know why people with a high intake of apples, pears, bananas or cauliflower reduce their risk of stroke by 52%.

Their study followed more than 20,000 adults over 10 years. At the start of the study, carried out in The Netherlands, participants were asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire on diet and lifestyle for the previous year. By using this information and tracking the health of participants over the next decade, researchers were able to examine the link between the colour of fruit and vegetables consumed and stroke risk. The study found that a 25g per day increase in white fruits and vegetables was linked to a 9% lower risk of stroke.
Of the white fruit and veg eaten, over half was apples and pears. An average apple weighs 120g. Stroke experts said people should not be put off eating other colours of fruit and veg.

Another study, found that individuals who ate the most apples had the lowest risk of suffering a stroke, due to the benefits of the active compounds called phytonutrients found in apples. Finnish researchers based their conclusion on evaluation of dietary records and health outcomes of 9,208 men followed for 28 years.

Apples for Heart Disease

Research in America revealed that drinking apple juice and eating apples can reduce the risk of heart disease. The clinical trial involved healthy adults drinking 12oz of 100 per cent apple juice daily or eating two apples.

The time it took for cholesterol in the body to oxidise, or break down, increased by up to 20 per cent after just six weeks of following the apple diet.

Apples contain phytonutrients or phytochemicals (compounds found in plants) which act as antixiodents against LDL (low-density lipoproteins), the damaging portion of cholesterol in the blood stream. Apples are also rich in pectins, which are soluble fibres which it has been demonstrated are effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

Dianne Hyson, a registered dietician and lead researcher of the study, said: “Previous studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, but this is the first clinical study to show the potential benefits of active compounds in apple juice and apples. A very moderate intake of apple juice or apples has the potential to reduce risk factors for heart disease in a fairly short period of time,” she said. “These small diet changes might play an important role in a heart healthy diet.”

Apples for Cancer

Researchers in Hawaii found that an increased consumption of quercetin (from apples and onions) was associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer.

This was supported by epidemiologists from Finland’s National Public Health Institute who concluded that a flavonoid-rich diet (and particularly those flavonoids from apples) was associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer. Their study of 9,959 cancer-free men and women revealed that people who regularly consumed the most flavonoid-rich foods were about 20 per cent less likely to develop cancer.

The researchers found that lung cancer was 46 percent lower among those on these diets and that high consumption of apples was also directly associated with the lowest risk for coronary mortality.

This conclusion was based on their analysis of diet and health outcomes of an ongoing study of 5,133 Finnish men and women aged 30-69, who were initially free of heart disease when the study began in 1967.

Antioxidants

Vitamin C is used as a dietary supplement because of its antioxidant activity, although a high dose (500 mg) may act as a pro-oxidant in the body. Scientists at Cornell University, US have shown that 100 g of fresh apples (approx 1 apple) has an antioxidant activity equivalent to 1,500 mg of vitamin C, and that whole-apple extracts inhibit the growth of colon- and liver- cancer cells in vitro in a dose-dependent manner. Their results indicate that natural antioxidants from fresh fruit could be more effective than dietary supplements.

Apples for Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons

A group of chemicals in apples could protect the brain from the type of damage that triggers such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism, according to two studies from Cornell University food scientists.

The studies show that the chemical quercetin, a so-called phytonutrient, appears to be largely responsible for protecting rat brain cells when assaulted by oxidative stress in laboratory tests. Phytonutrients, such as phenolic acids and flavanoids, protect the apple against bacteria, viruses and fungi and provide the fruit’s anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Quercetin is a major flavanoid in apples. Antioxidants help prevent cancer by mopping up cell-damaging free radicals and inhibiting the production of reactive substances that could damage normal cells.
“The studies show that additional apple consumption not only may help reduce the risk of cancer, as previous studies have shown, but also that an apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders,” says Chang Y. “Cy” Lee, Cornell professor of food science at the university’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.

“What we found was that the apple phenolics, which are naturally occurring antioxidants found in fresh apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress,” Lee said.

Apples for Weight Loss

An apple a day could keep flab at bay – as long as you eat (or juice) the peel. The chemical behind the apple skin’s waxy sheen is credited with helping the body burn extra calories.

Mice fed fatty food laced with ursolic acid ate more put on less weight than those who given the fatty food without the medication. The compound also seemed to keep blood sugar levels in check and stop the liver from becoming clogged up with fat, the journal PLoS ONE reports.

The University of Iowa research revealed ursolic acid, which is also found in cranberries and prunes and in basil, oregano and thyme, to boost the growth of muscle and brown fat, a calorie-hungry version of fat common in babies.

Dr Christopher Adams said: “Since muscle is very good at burning calories, the increased muscle in the ursolic acid-treated mice might be sufficient to explain how ursolic acid reduces obesity. However, we were surprised to find that ursolic acid also increased brown fat, a fantastic calorie burner. This increase in brown fat may also help protect against obesity.”

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