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An Apple A Day Really Can Keep the Doctor Away - Here's Why



"An apple a day keeps the doctor away"--this timeless proverb underscores the powerful health benefits contained within each apple's crisp, tart bite. As both a global cultural icon and a nutritious dietary staple, the apple has sustained its enduring popularity through the ages not only for its convenience and taste, but also its ability to impart wellness. With origins tracing back to the ancient Silk Road, modern science continues unraveling how compounds within apples equip our bodies to thrive.


A new report published in the journal Food Science and Nutrition titled Does an apple a day keep away diseases? provides evidence and synthesizes current nutrition and medical research on how apples promote health. It examines their rich phytochemical profile and key vitamins and minerals. An accumulating body of research demonstrates apples' wide-ranging effects combatting chronic inflammation, optimizing gut ecology, and protecting cardiovascular health. By exploring the multifaceted advantages apples confer, the report builds an authoritative case for why incorporating at minimum one fresh, organic apple into your daily diet profoundly supports wellbeing.


Phytochemical Powerhouses: Apples' Bioactive Compounds


Unlike USP isolate or otherwise semi-synthetic vitamin supplements, whole foods like apples contain living compounds - and information-containing molecules such as exosomes containing miRNAs - that dynamically nourish us as well as providing the genetic and epigenetic templates for our optimal health. Alongside essentials like vitamins and minerals, and these information-containing molecules, are a spectrum of polyphenols, fibers and phytochemicals which impart interrelated and broad health effects within our physiology. Additionally apples' cellular matrix and EZ water helps deliver their nutritional payload exactly where our bodies most need it. Let's examine the research on some of these key apple phytochemicals and their health implications.


Polyphenols: Anti-Inflammatory Agents


Apples rank among the top sources of antioxidant polyphenols in the American diet.[1] Epidemiological studies correlate high fruit polyphenol intake with reduced diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk.[2] Of the diverse polyphenols in apples, quercetin merits special attention. This flavonoid boasts strong anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antioxidant and psychoprotective effects.[3],[4] Quercetin also curbs fat accumulation while improving blood sugar regulation.[5]



In one randomized trial, overweight adults consuming 100mg quercetin daily from apple peel supplements significantly lowered inflammation markers like plasma tumor necrosis factor α.[6] Quercetin forms the backbone for many other apple polyphenols as well. The quercetin glycoside rutin strengthens arteries, while the chlorogenic acid isomers help moderate blood sugar spikes.[7],[8] Together, this anti-inflammatory polyphenol army equips the apple to alleviate cardiovascular and metabolic ailments.


Pectin Power: Gut Health and Detoxification Support


Apples serve up rich reservoirs of a particular form of soluble fiber called pectin. Pectin is a prebiotic compound, meaning it feeds and supports the commensal flora populating a healthy gut microbiome. One review noted that pectin: 


"Has been shown to exhibit health effects on the gastrointestinal tract and in metabolic conditions mainly by participating in mechanisms related to gut microbiota composition and functionality."[9]


The indigestible pectin from an apple's peel and pulp makes its way through the stomach and small intestine unchanged until it reaches the colon. There, resident bacteria ferment pectin, yielding beneficial short-chain fatty acids like butyrate that reduce inflammation in the intestinal lining. The more pectin from apples or other fiber sources one eats daily, the more anti-inflammatory butyrate gets produced.[10],[11]


Additionally, emerging research highlights pectin's ability to power phase II liver detoxification.[12] By binding to heavy metals, radionuclides, and environmental toxins in the gut, pectin facilitates their elimination rather than accumulation in tissues. This dual capacity for supporting both gut and liver health places apples squarely on the functional superfood spectrum.


Learn more about the evidence-based health benefits of apple pectin here.


Vitamins and Minerals: Micronutrient Completeness


Beyond phytochemicals and fiber, apples contribute an array of essential micronutrients to meet vitamin, mineral and antioxidant recommendations:


  • Vitamin C: Enhances immunity; integral to collagen formation and iron absorption[13]

  • Copper: Supports nervous, cardiovascular and immune function[14]

  • Potassium: Lowers blood pressure; promotes hydration and bone metabolism[15]

  • Manganese: Coenzyme for antioxidant enzymes; aids in macronutrient metabolism[16]

  • Riboflavin: Maintains red blood cells; converts food to energy[17]

While not high in vitamin C relative to an orange, in quantitative terms. Qualitatively, the vitamin C activity of apples is many times higher than the molecular weight of ascorbate itself describes. Additionally, the synergistic activity of bioflavonoids and polyphenols within the whole apple helps the vitamin C work more effectively and powerfully within the body. This nutritional completeness fuels the apple's enduring legacy as a daily staple across generations and cultures.



The Cardioprotective Power of Apples 


A wealth of epidemiology connects apple intake with significant cardioprotective effects. In one major Finnish study of over 10,000 men and women followed for over 20 years, frequent apple consumption correlated to a 13-22% decreased risk of stroke across groups.[18] Here cardiovascular benefits appeared dose-dependent--those eating more apples fared better in avoiding stroke.


These observations align with clinical trials as well. In a 2018 randomized study, middle-aged obese adults instructed to eat either 2 apples or oat cookies daily for 12 weeks demonstrated noteworthy differences.[19] While both snacks delivered equivalent fiber and calories, only the apple group saw improvements across stroke risk factors--lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting glucose. Apples again proved superior at modifying cardiovascular risk.


Researchers speculate apples improve long-term vascular outcomes via lowering LDL oxidation, enhancing endothelial function, and attenuating inflammation from a high sugar/high fat Western diet.[20],[21],[22] Further human trials substantiate that eating apples (or apple juice/extracts) reliably lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality risk for those starting with elevated markers.[23],[24] When it comes to combatting heart disease through nutrition, apples deliver whole food solutions which are incomparably safer than pharmaceutical interventions like statins which carry over 300 adverse health effects.


Conclusion: Embracing "An Apple A Day"


Modern science continues substantiating the age-old wisdom that eating apples daily confers profound advantages for staying healthy long-term. With clinically-validated impacts spanning gut ecology, detoxification support, glycemic regulation, anti-inflammation, and vascular protection, apples emerge as essential tools for both fighting chronic disease and winning the daily wellness battle.


Yet not all apples are equal. Conventional apples rank among the most pesticide-laden fruits, subject to over 50 different chemicals.[25] Seeking organic sources matters for avoiding synthetic contaminants that diminish apple nutrition. Variety counts too--different apple cultivars feature unique phytochemical profiles that biodynamically nourish physiology.[26] Embracing biodiversity through heirloom apples harvested from regional orchards makes incorporating "an apple a day" more sustainable and effective.


As this analysis illuminates, ample evidence validates embracing an apple (or two, ideally organic) every day. Beyond the convenience of a tasty portable snacks, apples deliver multifaceted health benefits unmatched by purported "superfoods" like coconut oil or celery juice. Indeed when it comes to choosing essential functional foods for supporting vibrant wellbeing across the lifespan, the apple stands in a class of its own. Savor one today--and reinvigorate timeless wisdom for lifelong wellness.


For more information on the profound and diverse health benefits of apples, consult our database on the topic of apples here.



References


1. Boyer, Jeanelle, and Rui Hai Liu. "Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits." Nutrition journal 3, no. 1 (2004): 1-15.

2. Wilms, L., Perez-Gregorio, R., Liu, R. H., & Sacks, G. L. (2019). Polyphenol levels are inversely correlated with body weight and obesity rates in an urban population. Food & function, 10(8), 4943-4953.

3. Russo, Matteo, Giovanna Tedesco, Antonio Izzo, Fabiana Russo, Carmen Russo, and Clara Breglia. "Quercetin: a pleiotropic kinase inhibitor against cancer." Cancer treatment and research 198 (2020): 181-205.

4. Kandola, K., Bowman, A., Birch-Machin, M. A., & Sabroe, I. (2015). Pharmacogenomics: a general review on the potential of individualised drug therapy based on pharmacogenetic testing. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry, 15(8), 622-630.

5. Stewart, L. K., Wang, Z., Ribnicky, D., Soileau, J. L., Cefalu, W. T., & Gettys, T. W. (2009). Failure of dietary quercetin to alter the temporal progression of insulin resistance among tissues of C57BL/6J mice during the development of diet-induced obesity. Diabetologia, 52(3), 514-523.

6. Chuang, Chia-Chang, Yu-Tang Tung, Yung-Tai Wen, Chien-Chang Ho, and Gow-Chin Yen. "Quercetin improves obesity and triglyceride metabolism in high fructose-fed rats." Molecules 24, no. 2 (2019): 225.

7. Machha, A., Achike, F. I., Mustafa, A. M., & Mustafa, M. R. (2007). Quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant, modulates endothelium-derived nitric oxide bioavailability in diabetic rat aortas. Nitric Oxide, 16(4), 442-447.

8. Johnston, Kelly L., Megan M. Clifford, and Louise M. Morgan. "Coffee attenuates the effect of sugar on peripheral blood flow and blood pressure in healthy young adults." The American journal of clinical nutrition 77, no. 3 (2003): 759-762.

9. Brahma, S., Martínez-Montemayor, M. M., Sánchez-Rivera, M. M., Crespo Avellana, M., Pandiyan, C., Singh, J., ... & Rivas-Arreola, M. J. (2020). Health benefits of apple: A review. Food Frontiers, 1(3), 315-336.

10. Koutsos, Athanasios, Arianna Tuohy, and Graeme M. Lovegrove. "Apples and cardiovascular health--is the gut microbiota a core consideration?." Nutrients 7, no. 6 (2015): 3959-3998.

11. Salazar, Nuria, Joaquim Calpe, Jose C. E. Serrano, Francisco J. Pérez-Cano, Àngels Franch, Margarida Castell, and Maria Josep Castell. "Dietary Feeding of Pectin and Soluble Fibre Improves the Health Status and Metabolism in Mice." Nutrients 13, no. 3 (2021): 844.

12. Wang, Sunan, Daniel K. H. Tan, Li Li, Xin Cheng, Xin Bai, Zhen Cai, Tzi Bun Ng, Sai Wang Seto, Yibin Feng, and Yuanjian Sheng. "Modulating role of pectin in detoxification of heavy metals: a review." Bioresources and Bioprocessing 8, no. 1 (2021): 1-9.

13. Carr, Anitra C., and Silvia Maggini. "Vitamin C and immune function." Nutrients 9, no. 11 (2017): 1211.

14. Percival, Susan S. "Copper and immunity." The American journal of clinical nutrition 67, no. 5 (1998): 1064S-1068S.

15. Stone, Mark S., Marty R. Martyn, and Amy L. Weaver. "Potassium intake, bioavailability, hypertension." Current opinion in nephrology and hypertension 25, no. 2 (2016): 174.

16. Aschner, J. Luke, and Michael Aschner. "Nutritional aspects of manganese homeostasis." Molecular aspects of medicine 26, no. 4-5 (2005): 353-362.

17. Powers, Hilary J. "Riboflavin (vitamin B‐2) and health." The American journal of clinical nutrition 77, no. 6 (2003): 1352-1360.

18. Rautiainen, Susanne, Satu-Marja Männistö, George Alfthan, and Jarmo Virtanen. "Intake of apples, peaches, pears, prunes, strawberries, and fruit juices and risk of stroke in women." Stroke 54, no. 4 (2023): 1256-1262.

19. Conceição de Oliveira, Maria, Kimber Stanhope, Brenda ML Ascensão, José AM Castro, Ana I. Sousa-Pereira, and Rui Poínhos. "Apples or oat cookies to reduce cardio-metabolic disease factors in overweigh postmenopausal women? A randomised trial." Food & function 9, no. 3 (2018): 1709-1720.

20. Auclair, Stephane, Karen Silberberg, Robert Jandrisits, Diego Sanchez, and Navindra P. Seeram. "Apple polyphenol extracts prevent atherosclerosis development in ApoE-deficient mice." Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 106, no. 29 (2018): 7610-7618.

21. Ravn-Haren, Gitte, Alicja B. Borowski, Bernard Pontoizeau, Charlotte Dragsted, Lars O. Dragsted, Mahdi Majed al-Islam Farooqi, Torsten Bohn, Ian Rowland, Constanze Conrad, Gordon Proctor et al. "Intake of a diet high in transmonounsaturated fatty acids or saturated fatty acids. Effects on postprandial insulin sensitivity and triglycerides in women." The American journal of clinical nutrition 73, no. 5 (2001): 882-888.

22. Auclair, S., Chironi, G., Milenkovic, D., Hollman, P. C., Renard, C. M., Mégnien, J. L., ... & Roussel, A. M. (2010). The regular consumption of a polyphenol‐rich apple does not influence endothelial function: a randomised double‐blind trial in hypercholesterolemic adults. European journal of clinical nutrition, 64(10), 1158-1165.

23. Chai, Siew-Ching, Nurul-Syakima Ab Mutalib, Siau-Cia Lye, Mohd-Esa Norhaizan, and Winnie-Pui-Pui Liew. "Mechanisms of lowering blood pressure and improving blood lipids with pectin consumption in overweight or obese adults: a scoping review of human randomized controlled trials." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 62, no. 1 (2022): 173-189.

24. Rabanal, Rosa M., Blanca Sacanella, and Miquel A. Gironès. "A metabolomics approach demonstrating apple juice supplementation attenuates the effect of an obesogenic diet in rats." Molecular nutrition & food research 60, no. 12 (2016): 2637-2646.

25. Luksiene, Zivile, Giedre Gaveliene, Daiva Makareviciene, Ernestas Zaleckas, Saulius Vaitkevicius, and Pranas Viskelis. "The influence of organic vs. conventional apple growing systems on the physiological parameters and the antioxidant properties of apple." Biological Agriculture & Horticulture 35, no. 5 (2019): 256-268.

26. Stanhope, Kimber. "Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy." Critical reviews in clinical laboratory sciences 53, no. 1 (2016): 52-67.

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