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Folklore has always claimed an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Now we also know apples are fast-acting. Eating just one a day for a month can get you significant cardiovascular benefits.
Researchers at Ohio State University found eating one apple every day for just four weeks can lower blood levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein - commonly called the "bad" LDL cholesterol – by 40% in healthy, middle aged people. According to the often challenged "lipid hypothesis" – also known as the "cholesterol myth" - cholesterol is a cause of heart disease. But oxidation is the real culprit.
According to the lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro, PhD, a professor of human nutrition at the university, oxidized LDL begins the process of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. He suggested that just one apple a day for four weeks had the effect of preventing the LDL from becoming oxidized.
In the study, published online in the Journal of Functional Foods, researchers divided study participants into three groups. One group ate a large Red or Golden Delicious apple purchased from a local grocery store daily for four weeks; a second group took daily capsules containing polyphenols for four weeks; and the final group took a placebo containing no polyphenols.
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in certain plants including apples.
According to Dr. DiSilvestro, eating a daily apple was significantly more effective at lowering oxidized LDL than other antioxidants, including curcumin, green tea and tomato extract.
The authors found the difference between the apple-eating group and the placebo group was comparable to the difference between people with normal coronary arteries versus those with coronary artery disease. The placebo had no effect on the blood levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol.
Those taking polyphenol capsules had similar results to those eating the apples but the effect was not as large. The researchers theorize that polyphenols are largely responsible for the effects observed from eating the apples.
Why are apples better than just the polyphenols? Dr. DiSilvestro suggested that there could be other compounds in apples that contribute to the benefits of apples. Alternatively, the active compounds in the apple may be better absorbed when consumed in their whole food form.
Western science is obsessed with deconstructing food, researching and analyzing its component parts, isolating the "active ingredients," repackaging them in pills or powders and prescribing them in daily doses.
However, the truth is that a whole food is greater than the sum of its parts. Better to eat the whole apple than try to take an apple supplement.