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Apples – The First Health Food

Contact: Denise Yockey
(800) 456-2753

It seems that people have always known that apples are good for you. For centuries, the apple has been associated with good health. Michigan apple growers are proud that today's nutritional scientists are finding evidence that confirms just how good apples are for our health.

The big buzzwords in nutrition today are “antioxidants” (which control substances that can damage cells) and “phytonutrients” or “phytochemicals” (compounds found in plants). Apples contain many antioxidant phytochemicals. They are also rich in pectins, which are soluble fibers demonstrated to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

Apples are nature's health food, to help people achieve good nutrition. They can be ingested in many forms to do their good work.

Brain Function According to a 2004 study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Having a glass of apple juice with your breakfast may help to maintain brain performance. The study, directed by Thomas B. Shea, Ph.D., suggests that two to three glasses of apple juice a day may protect against oxidative damage that contributes to age-related brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

The study also found that apples and apple juice may affect brain health and mental sharpness throughout life.

Previous research has shown that apples are a rich source of antioxidants. According to a 2000 study at Cornell University, one apple has more cancer-fighting antioxidant capability than a 1,500 milligram dose of Vitamin C. Shea believes it is the antioxidants that maintain brain health and mental sharpness.

These results are encouraging for people who enjoy Michigan apples and apple juice, who want to maintain their brain health. According to the study, a person would need to drink only two or three glasses of apple juice or two apples per day to enjoy the brain-health benefits.

Digestive Health A scientific review published in 2004 reported eating more fiber- and phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables – including flavonoids found most abundantly in apples – may significantly reduce the risk of developing digestive cancers. Such cancers are one of the world's most common causes of cancer-related illness and death.

Professor Ian Johnson of the United Kingdom's Institute for Food Research reviewed published scientific literature regarding digestive cancers, and concluded that better diet – and especially diets rich in micronutrients, fiber and plant-based phytonutrients including flavonoids (compounds found in plants made up of antioxidants) – can play a significant role in reducing the human toll caused by these cancers.

Johnson reported that evidence from the majority of epidemiological studies indicates that high fruit and vegetable consumption protects against many cancers, and especially digestive cancers. His review identified micronutrients, fiber and phytonutrients such as flavonoids as most protective against digestive cancers.

Apples are one of the richest fruit sources of dietary fiber, and are one of the leading sources of phytonutrients among all plant foods. One medium, tennis ball-sized apple (with skin) contains five grams of fiber, 20 percent of the recommended daily value of 25-35 grams per day.

Breast Cancer Prevention A study conducted by food scientists at Cornell University in 2005 suggests that the more apples consumed, the greater reduction in the incidence and number of breast cancer tumors.

The study is the first ever to examine the effects of apples on breast cancer prevention in animals. The Cornell researchers treated a group of rats with a known mammary carcinogen and then fed them either whole apple extract from apples or a control extract. The study found that tumor incidence was reduced by 17, 39, and 44 percent in rats fed the human equivalent of one, three or six apples a day, respectively, over 24 weeks. The number of tumors in rats was also reduced by 25, 25, and 61 percent in rats fed, respectively, the equivalent of one, three or six apples a day.

Study researchers credit phytochemicals in apples with helping to prevent breast cancer. These findings add to the body of knowledge known about apples, their health benefits, and disease-fighting qualities.

Apples are chemically complex, and researchers still have not discovered all the phytonutrients and processes by which these beneficial compounds help the human body. But the evidence shows that eating, or drinking, an apple a day (or more) is a sound investment in improving health.

The Michigan Apple Committee is a grower-funded nonprofit organization devoted to promotion, education and research activities to distinguish the Michigan apple and encourage its consumption by consumers in Michigan and around the world. For more information, visit www.MichiganApples.com.