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Apples: Good for What Ails Ya

By Rod Moser, PA, PhD

Woman Eating Apple

I like apples. I am not sure I could eat one a day, but a newly-released study showed that healthy adults who ate one apple a day for four weeks lowered levels of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) – the ‘bad’ cholesterol, which leads to hardening of the arteries and coronary artery disease. This is not really new information, since other studies have also found similar benefits. Perhaps I should reconsider, assuming this apple industry-funded study is accurate and defensible. Similar benefits have been found with antioxidants found in green tea and tomatoes, so perhaps I should have a cup of green tea, a tomato sandwich (my life-long favorite), and an apple.

I used to work with an obesity specialist back in my early days of clinical practice. He treated patients who were well over 100 pounds overweight by placing them on a protein-sparing fast (about 500 calories a day, mostly protein). Patients would lose weight like crazy, but they would occasionally reach a plateau. He would then initiate an “Apple Day” where they were allowed to eat just six apples a day (nothing else, other than water). Bingo! They broke the plateau and started losing again. Don’t ask me why it worked, but it did. My theory is that the high-fiber and sweet apples (about 50-95 calories each, depending on the size), taken at increments throughout the day satisfied their hunger as the natural sugars are released slowly into the blood without significant insulin responses (high insulin lowers blood sugar and increases appetite). Other studies have shown that calorie-restricted dieters tend to lose significantly more weight when apples are included. Apples do not have fat or sodium and are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

Unless you are eating applesauce, you have to chew apples. Chewing requires teeth, and a study has shown that apples also reduce dental caries (cavities). Chewing also takes time, of course, and slows down the rate of eating. When you eat slower, you get full faster. When you eat fast, you tend to eat too much.

There are about a zillion different diets out there, and many utilize apples or apple products. Some recommend using dried apples, while others promote only the fresh ones. There is even a diet built around apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has been found to reduce the incidence of kidney stones. It is definitely good on salad. I don’t know if apple cider has the same overall benefits, however.

Apples (or applesauce) are often the first fruit given to babies. It is the “A” in the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast). I typically recommend applesauce when treating common diarrhea in children. Apples are a natural source of fiber (about five grams) and pectin. Pectin is in Kaopectate.

Apples do appear to help intestinal health (unless, of course, you eat a tree-full of green apples, like I did as a child), thereby reducing the risk of diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and even colon cancer. Studies have shown that apples improve skin health and respiratory health.

So, an apple a day may keep the doctor away after all!

Photo: Pixland
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