Growing up, everyone’s heard that eating an apple is so good for you that it will ward off many visits to the physician. This staple fruit has long been known to have beneficial health benefits. In this article, I examine whether apples live up to their good names, looking at their positive and negative effects on health. Apples’ health benefits greatly outweigh their downsides; it’s easy to see why so many parents and caregivers urge consumption of this fruit.
The health benefits of apples are numerous, ranging from bone protection to Alzheimer’s prevention. Apples contain a flavanoid called phloridzin that protects middle-aged and elderly women from osteoporosis and that might also increase bone density. Boron, also found in apples, further strengthens bones. Another study has shown that children suffering from asthma have less breathing problems if they drink apple juice daily. Another study has found that children born to mothers who eat apples frequently during their pregnancy are less likely to have asthma than mothers who ate fewer apples. Apples’ role in protection from Alzheimer’s disease was found by scientists at Cornell University, who found that quercetin in apples may prevent the damage in brain cells that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Apples lower LDL cholesterol through an ingredient called pectin, and a study found that eating two apples a day can lower cholesterol by as much as sixteen percent. The pectin in apples also pumps galacturonic acid to the body, which decreases the body’s need and dependence on insulin and thus helps control the factors leading to diabetes. The fruit has also been linked to lung cancer prevention. One study found that people who eat the most apples had a much lower risk of developing lung cancer, due to apples’ high concentration of the flavonoids quercetin and naringin. Research studies have also focused on antioxidant benefits from eating apples. Apples can decrease oxidation of cell membrane fats, which is important considering these membranes are one of the primary risk factors associated with the clogging of the arteries and other cardiovascular problems.
According to a University of Illinois study, a soluble fiber like pectin can decrease the inflammation related to diseases that bring on obesity, and also fortify the immune system. Rats fed low-fat food with both soluble and insoluble fiber were found to have vastly different responses if their immune system was challenged. The animals that ate soluble fiber-rich foods exhibited less sickness and had a faster-recovery rate than the animals that were given less soluble fiber-rich food.
Although the breadth of studies related to disease and apples have been done on lung cancer, other studies done on animals showed the effect the fruit has in combating other cancers. A number of studies done at Cornell University found that animals who consumed a greater number of apples had an equivalent reduction in the appearance or number of tumors involved in breast cancer. Another research team from Cornell discovered that a group of phytochemicals in apples appeared to kill or at least minimize the growth of cancer cells related to colon, breast, and liver cancer. Quercetin, another flavonoid found in apples, is highly beneficial in preventing as well as decreasing the risk of pancreatic cancer. Since most of these studies have been done on animals, apples’ role in cancer prevention has not been fully determined. The direction research is headed in, however, suggests that apples might play a serious role in combating and preventing cancer.
Of course, apples, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation. The fruit does also have a few negative health effects. According to the British Dental Association, apples’ high sugar content may increase tooth decay. With the advent of sweeter varieties like Pink Lady and Fuji, this negative effect will only rise. As a source of fruit acids, apples can cause tooth erosion if eaten too often. Another negative effect is forms of apple allergy. One type, known as birch-apple syndrome, is caused by a protein that produces reactions called oral allergy syndrome. This allergy causes itching and inflammation in the mouth and trait, and on rare occasions can also induce fatal anaphylaxis. Other forms of apple allergies have been known to cause even more severe reactions than oral allergy syndrome – people who experience this kind exhibit symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain, and urticaria, and can also be life-threatening.
Despite these health risks, overall apples are known and proven to be a source of nutritional well-being. Relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, apples provide protection from diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to various types of cancer. The fruit lives up to its legend – eating an apple day really may keep the doctor away.
5 Health Benefits of Apples:
- A study done by the Iowa Health Board found that, among the 34,000 women it’s been following, apples were associated with a lower risk for heart and cardiovascular disease
- Also, Finnish researchers found that people who frequently eat apples (at least once a day) had a lower risk for strokes when compared to non-apple eaters
- The researchers attribute apples health benefit to hearts to antioxidant compounds. These compounds prevent LDL cholesterol
- Researchers have found that consumption of an apple before exercising, may increase your endurance. Quercetin, an antioxidant found in apples, helps increase your endurance by making more oxygen available to your lungs
Regulate Blood Sugar
- Apples contain a large number of phytonutrients. Research has shown that polyphenols, which are found in apples, can help prevent spikes in your blood sugar. One way polyphenols prevents spikes is by inhibiting enzymes that break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars
- Apples are good sources of fiber and vitamin c. Apples contain 14.3% of your daily value of dietary fiber and 11.4% of your daily value of vitamin c
- Apples contain large amounts of healthy polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, epicatechin, phloridzin and dozens more. Most of the nutrients are found in the skin of the apple.