An Apple a Day Really Does Keep the Doctor Away

As children, many of us were told “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Our elders were oh-so right. Recently, many studies have provided scientific evidence that apples seem particularly powerful in fending off various diseases. including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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Recently published research from Cornell University found that rat brain cells exposed to quercetin, an antioxidant in apples, resisted damage much better than cells not treated with quercetin. Other foods high in quercetin include onions, blueberries, and cranberries.

Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals, products of normal cell processes, can wreak havoc in their quest to hook up with other molecules, which could be lipids, protein, or DNA. The free radicals’ actions can damage the molecules they react with, sometimes destroying them. This process is known as oxidative stress or oxidative damage.

Humans, and all animals, have complex antioxidant defense systems, but they are not perfect in fending off stress; oxidative damage will occur. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are thought to be in part the results of oxidative stress, so foods like apples and other fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, may be especially helpful in warding off these diseases.

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An apple a day…

Several studies have found an association between apple consumption and reduced risk of cancer, especially lung cancer. In the Nurses Health Study, involving more than 77,000 women in the United States, those who consumed at least one serving per day of apples and/or pears had a reduced risk of lung cancer. In a study in Hawaii, apple and onion intake was linked with a reduced risk of lung cancer in both men and women.

Studies have also linked apple intake with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The Women’s Health Study, which surveyed nearly 40,000 women, found that women eating an apple a day had a 13 to 22% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

“To protect yourself against cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer, it’s important to include at least seven servings – and preferably more – of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day, but if there’s one particular type of fruit you want to make sure you eat every day, it’s an apple. Better yet, eat two,” advises Dr. James Barnard, UCLA professor and researcher, member of the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board, and author of more than 190 studies on diet, exercise, and disease prevention.

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