“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We’ve all heard it, and if you’re like most people you took it about as seriously as you take nursery rhymes. While we know that apples are a good source of fiber and considered a good, healthy snack, the idea that they could “keep the doctor away” (i.e., ward off serious diseases) seemed a bit of a stretch. But according to Drs. Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, RD and Margaret A. Sitton, at the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at The Florida State University, there is a lot more to the humble apple than meets the eye. In the first study of its kind, these researchers found that apples not only reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also increase HDL (good) cholesterol in postmenopausal women.
For the study 160 women ages 45-65 were assigned 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. 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." The daily apple consumption also led to a lowering of lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein in those women.
According to Arjmandi, apple pectin, the white stuff under the skin, binds to cholesterol in the gut and cleans it out of the body. This is well-known, but what surprised Arjmandi is how much cholesterol a couple of apples can remove from the body.
“I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent while increasing HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol by about 4%," Arjmandi said. Another benefit? The 240 calories per apple per day did not result in weight gain for the apple-eating participants.
The results of this USDA-funded study were presented at Experimental Biology 2011 on April 12 in Washington, DC.