Apple Review 2009

By: Apple Review 2009

An apple a day really can keep the doctor away - yet most of us are missing out on the health benefits with new consumer research showing that only 21 per cent of Australians are eating an apple a day, and nearly half of us only eat them once a week, less often or never.

In the latest scientific review on apples, apples are shown to be protective for cancer - particularly cancers of the colon, lung, and breast - as well as to reduce the risk of heart disease, asthma and type 2 diabetes. The high antioxidant capacity of apples is believed to be one of the reasons for their impressive disease fighting potential.

In the past year the protective role apples may play in cardiovascular disease has been built upon by new research. French scientists showed atherosclerotic lesions (fatty build-up) in the blood vessels of mice were reduced by 38 per cent following dietary supplementation with apple extracts rich in polyphenols and or fibre.

Two papers out of Cornell University show apple extracts can suppress the growth of human breast cancer cells in the test tube and reduce tumour size in rats. The team at Cornell University also isolated six flavonoid and three phenolic compounds from apple peels with potent antioxidant an antiproliferative activity in human cancer cell lines.

Apples and Asthma
Australian research in young adults found that eating whole apples was protective against asthma where total fruit and vegetable intake was not. The link between apples and asthma has also been observed by European researchers, where a Dutch investigation found that mothers who eat apples during their pregnancy may protect their children against developing asthma in later life. Apples have also been linked with better lung health in older adults, particularly among those consuming more than five apples a week.

Diabetes, Weight Loss and Apples
Consumption of apples has been associated with a reduction in Type 2 diabetes risk in research carried out in America and Finland. The US study on 38 000 women showed a 28 per cent reduction of diabetes risk with eating an apple a day or more. Eating an apple before a meal may also lead to savings in kilojoules, as the apple helps to fill the stomach and provide satiety, leading to a weight reduction over time.

Emerging areas of study
Research published by scientists in Japan has shown that apple phytochemicals may play a role in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Antioxidant Action of Apples
Apple phytochemicals have the greatest total antioxidant capacity of Australia's most commonly consumed fruits, as measured using ORAC, a technique adopted by the US Department of Agriculture to measure antioxidant levels.

However, the new research shows that while almost all Australians have heard of antioxidants (98%), and two thirds of the population (63%) feel that they know why it is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants, we are still confused about which foods contain antioxidants.

According to accredited practising dietitian Karen Kingham, apples are one of the best and cheapest fruit sources of antioxidants.

"An apple has more antioxidants than half a punnet of blueberries or a cup of strawberries, more than twice the antioxidants of a cup of tea, about three times the antioxidants of an orange or a cup of grapes, and almost eight times the antioxidants of a banana," said Ms Kingham.

Yet only 3 per cent of Australians correctly identified an apple as having more antioxidants than any of these fruits or a cup of tea.

The table below shows the high ranking antioxidant value of apples as compared to other commonly consumed fruits or beverages in Australia:

FoodAntioxidant Capacity
Apples (1 whole)6669
Strawberries (1 cup)5187
Blueberries (1/2 punnet)4914
Brewed Tea (1 cup)2820
Oranges (1 whole)2219
Mandarins (2 whole)1944
Grapes (1 cup)1901
Bananas (1 whole)879

"Australians just don't realise that the humble apple really is a superfood. The science suggests that regular apple consumption - an apple a day or at least several apples a week - can make a significant difference to health," said Ms Kingham.

The research found that 36 per cent of Australian people are most likely to mistakenly believe that half a punnet of blueberries has the highest amount of antioxidants, slightly ahead of a cup of tea - both strongly marketed for their antioxidant content but both lower in antioxidants than an apple.

"The concern is that Australians are missing out on an affordable, convenient source of antioxidants. You have to pay around seven times more to get the same antioxidant capacity from blueberries and around four times more to get the same antioxidants from strawberries," said Karen Kingham.

Apples are an inexpensive and super convenient superfood. And just one a day can keep the doctor away.

1. Newspoll (March, 2009). Study conducted by telephone in March 2009 among a representative sample of n=1201 adults aged 18+ nationally.
2. Kingham, K. (2009) The Apple Review.
3. Landon, S. (2008) The Apple Report: A Nutrition and Health Review.


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