True or False: An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

mythbuster graphic While the health benefits of fruit are widely known and accepted, can an apple each day truly keep the doctor away? Is there something about the “forbidden fruit”—above and beyond other types of fruit and healthful foods—that is ideal for lowering your risk of poor health? As part of a healthful diet and lifestyle, apples really can fight a number of diseases and help keep you healthy and away from the doctor.

Evidence for the Health Claim

Studies have long shown that diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of numerous chronic conditions. But more detailed studies show that apples, in particular, may be particularly protective of good health. Apples, particularly their skins, are an excellent source of antioxidants . Antioxidants are believed to prevent damage to cells and tissues and help defend the body from cancer , cardiovascular disease, and possibly Alzheimer's disease . Apple varieties vary in their antioxidant content, with Red Delicious having one of the highest levels. In addition, the flavonoids in apples, which possess antioxidant properties, are believed to protect the body against allergens and viral infections. Apples may also improve lung function. In a study conducted in Finland, researchers investigated the relationship between apple consumption and the risk of stroke in over 9,200 men and women. Those individuals who consumed the highest number of apples showed a lower risk of stroke over a 28-year period compared to those who consumed the least number of apples. The researchers suggest that this benefit may come from the "phytonutrients" contained in apples, possibly including flavonoids. Two other Finnish studies showed that apple consumption may also reduce the risk of heart disease and lung cancer .

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