Eating an apple each day may help to keep the cardiologist away. Daily apple consumption appears to help lower cholesterol, according to a small study at Florida State University. Researchers randomly assigned 160 women between the ages of 45 and 65 to eat 2.7 ounces of dried apples or dried plums (prunes) prunes every day for a year. Afterward, the investigators found that the women who ate the dried apples had reduced their total cholesterol by 14 percent and their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 23 percent. They also saw a four percent increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol. Even though the dried apples added 240 calories to the women's daily diets, they lost an average of 3.3 pounds over the year - possibly because the apples and their fiber content provided a sense of fullness. Another benefit: a drop in levels of C-reactive protein, a substance in blood that is a marker for inflammation. High levels of CRP are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The Florida State investigators also reported a drop in levels of lipid hydroperoxide, another substance that may indicate heart disease risk. Slight reductions of cholesterol and the other substances occurred among the women who ate prunes as well, but not to the extent seen among those who ate the dried apples.
My take? Apples really are good for you - as long as they're fresh and organically grown. In addition to the encouraging results of the Florida State study, other research has shown that eating apples may reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, liver, prostate and lung (thanks to the flavonoids they contain). In addition, studies have shown that eating apples may reduce chronic cough and other respiratory symptoms, that people who eat the most apples (and pears) have the lowest risk of asthma, that eating an apple a day may reduce the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in smokers, and that for every 10 grams of fiber consumed daily, you may be able to lower your risk of developing heart disease by 14 percent and your risk of dying from heart disease by 27 percent. A single apple gives you five grams of fiber. Learn more about my own heart health measures.