Instead of candy and salty snacks, try giving yourself and your kids treats of the luscious miracle fruits like tangerines, blueberries, and especially apples. Apples have recently become this season’s star celebrity in healthy eating thanks to recent research.
The unassuming apple hasn’t generated this much notoriety since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and it’s all good press. A Florida State University research team presented their findings at the Experimental Biology 2011 annual meeting on April 12, 2011, and they seem stunned with the amazing results showing that:
1. Apples have miraculous cholesterol lowering properties.
2. Adding apples to your existing diet can cause you to weight loss.
The study divided 160 post-menopausal women, aged 45 to 65, and randomly assigned them to a dietary intervention group that had daily servings of either dried apples or prunes. One group ate 75 grams a day of dried apple slices (about the equivalent of one fresh apple) for one year. The other group ate 100 grams of dried prunes daily for a year. (The fruit was dried to make sure that each woman received a standardized amount.) Both groups gave blood samples to look for markers related to heart health after 3, 6, and 12 months.
The researchers determined that the women who ate apples experienced an average drop of 14 percent in their total cholesterol levels. Specifically,their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels dropped by an average of 23 percent. Lipid hydroperoxide and C-reactive protein (CRP) markers were reduced by a third.
Lipid hydroperoxide keeps the body from ridding itself of excess cholesterol. CRP is a measure of inflammation, and a value above 3 mg/L is considered high risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
The women eating apples also experienced weight loss of an average of 3.3 pounds, an unexpected bonus. This was despite the extra calories per day that the apples added to their daily caloric intake.
According to Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, RD, and Margaret A. Sitton Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, an apples is truly a “miracle fruit” that conveys benefits beyond fiber content. Animal studies have also shown that apples’ pectin and polyphenols improve lipid metabolism and lower the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.
“I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent,” said Dr. Arjmandi. He knows of no other food that can lower LDL by such a large amount. The findings were somewhat serendipitous, as the team had set out to study the effect of eating prunes on bone density. Apples were used simply for the sake of comparison. When the remarkable results from the group eating apples started showing up, the study’s focus was shifted.
In comparison with results of common cholesterol lowering medications like Lipitor, apples were shown to be pretty effective, and without the dangerous side effects of the statin drugs used for that purpose.
Pectin, used to thicken fruit into jellies and jams, is the likely reason for many of the remarkable health benefits of apples. It is a soluble fiber that blocks the absorption of cholesterol. Pectin also encourages the body to use cholesterol and not to store it. Dr. Arjmandi thought that pectin’s gel-forming effect when mixed with water was at least partly responsible for the weight loss seen in the study, as pectin has the ability to plump up food in the stomach and create a feeling of fullness.
Earlier animal research indicated that certain apple compounds such as pectin and the antioxidant polyphenols found in apple skins had cardiovascular benefits. Polyphenols can prevent cellular damage from free radicals and promote longevity. Polyphenols are also found abundantly in blueberries, tea and dark chocolate. These stimulate the breakdown of fats in the blood and help reduce inflammation of vessel walls, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Since this breakthrough research study is the first of its kind, it remains to be seen what long-term cardioprotective effects eating apples every day might have on postmenopausal females. The team says a multi-investigator nationwide study is now needed to confirm the results.
Dr. Arjmandi is convinced that we all can benefit from consuming apples. He says “an apple a day” may not be enough, and recommends eating two.
And if you’re worried all that apple gnawing and chewing may be too much, a recent review of scientific studies suggests that fresh fruit juice may bring most of the benefits of the whole fruit. This literature review was also presented at the 2011 Experimental Biology meeting. The presentation elaborated on the beneficial, healthful and protective effects of fruit juice including those of its antioxidants.