One of the most famous quotes from our childhood is undeniably “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Whether you heard it from your parents or your doctor it was almost always part of a ploy to get you to eat healthier. The main question on my mind however, is whether this is actually true and if people who eat apples on a regular basis legitimately get sick less and make fewer trips to the doctors. Why is this such a burning question in my mind you ask? Well it is the first few weeks of school and with that of course comes illness. It is rare that you will find a student lacking a cough or the sniffles and in my case I have both. I have been sick since the end of the first week and have already been to the health center twice and have had no success. That being said I can’t help but wonder if I would be in a different place if I had just eaten one more apple.
The Apple a Day myth, dates back as early as the 1860’s and has had many different forms from “an apple a day, no doctor to pay,” to “an apple a day sends the doctor away” to the phrase we commonly know today. However, the myth may not be so much of a myth. The saying itself originated from the fact that apples are rich in Vitamin C and fiber and contribute to a healthy diet. This leads me to wonder whether eating more apples is:
- Directly correlated to less doctors visits,
- Whether fewer doctors visits is reversely correlated to eating more apples
3. If the two are affected by some third variable.
This third variable could be anything from people who live in wealthier areas eat cleaner and are thus healthier and go to the doctor less or some people just get sick less etc.
A recent study conducted by UC Davis Medical Center tracked 25 men and women over a 12-week period and had half of them drink apple juice daily for six weeks and the other half eat two apples a day for six weeks and then switch for the remaining six weeks. The study found that those who drank apple juice had a increased their lag-time by 20%. Lag-time is the amount of time it takes for cholesterol to oxidize. Therefore the longer the lag-time means a lower risk for heart disease. The study also revealed a 22% increase in fiber intake in the subjects. According to other recent studies cited by UC Davis Medical Center, people who added apples to their diets showed reduced risk for stroke and lung cancer. Similarly, it was discovered that the phytonutrients that are present in apples including their skin were able to restrain the growth of certain cancer cells.
The important part from this research is that the majority of the health benefits, that being antioxidants and phytonutrients lie in the skin of the apple. According to researchers at Cornell University, it is actually better and healthier to eat apples with the skin on. The health benefits found in apples are so important because they can’t easily be gotten from your local pharmacy. While yes, of course they do sell Vitamin C the fact of the matter is that you can’t get the quantities or the combinations of nutrients that the fruit itself offers. According to the author, an apple can contain 1,500 mg of Vitamin C, this is due in part to the many nutrient combinations found in apples.
So what is to be taken away from all of this? There is no evidence that people who ate more apples physically went to the doctors less, however it is evident that they were healthier and incurred a lower risk for some serious health problems over time. That being said I cannot answer whether the two are directly correlated however, it does prove that there is a connection between apples and better health.
The big take away from this is that if eating an apple a day is going to save you from anything, it may just be saving you from added trips to the pharmacy to get your daily Vitamin C supplements. Even though it won’t save me from getting a cold or the flu, I will be sure to eat an extra apple and hopefully improve my overall health in the long run.