Study Finds Eating Apples Every Day Promotes Heart Health & Weight Loss in Postmenopausal Women

A new study has found that daily apple consumption promotes cardiovascular health, and was even associated with weight loss, in postmenopausal women.

The study, entitled, “Daily apple consumption promotes cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women,” was conducted by researchers in the Department of Nutrition, Food & Exercise Sciences at Florida State University, and was published in the April issue of The FASEB Journal (the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).

The study’s authors report that previous studies on animals have confirmed that apple and apple components such as pectin and polyphenols improve matabolism and lower inflammation. However, they state, “To our knowledge, the present study is the first that evaluated the cardioprotective effects of daily consumption of apple for one year in postmenopausal women.”

In the study, 160 post-menopausal women, aged 45 to 65, were randomly assigned to two groups. One group added 75 grams of dried apples per day to their diet. The other group (the control group), ate dried prunes instead. No other changes were made to the women’s diets.

The women were followed for a period of one year, and fasting blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study, and again in 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months time.

The study found that the apple group, as compared with the dried prune group, after 12 months had experienced significant improvements in several indicators of cardiovascular health.

After 12 months, as compared to the group who ate dried prunes, the group who ate dried apples had 14% lower total cholesterol, and 23% lower LDL Cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). The apple group also experienced improved lipid metabolism, 32% lower C-reactive protein, and 33% lower serum lipid hydroperoxide, a substance that is linked to coronary artery disease and risk for heart attack.

In addition, in spite of the addition to their diet of the approximately 240 calories per day from dried apples, the study subjects in the apple group not only did not increase body weight, but actually lost an average of 1.5 kg (3 pounds) of weight over 12 months, without otherwise altering their dietary intake.

The study, which was funded in part by the USDA, concluded that “incorporation of apple into regular diet is encouraged because of its highly favorable effects in reducing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

The study’s lead author, Bahram H. Arjmandi, PhD, RD, the Margaret A. Sitton Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University, explained to WebMD that the study used dried apples only for convenience, and that fresh apples are likely to be even better. “Any varieties of apples are good,” he said. It doesn’t matter if they’re green, red, or golden.

As to what quantity of apples to eat, Dr. Arjmandi advised just to follow the apple-a-day adage, though two-a-day may be even better. “That’s doable and practical and people like apples,” he said.

Dr. Arjmandi and his colleagues presented the results of the study at a recent medical conference, Experimental Biology 2011, in Washington, D.C. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal. The authors suggest that additional studies of the benefits of apples would be warranted.

Past studies conducted on animals have found that apples also may have other significant health benefits, such as potentially curbing cancer, improving memory, improving heart health, as well as potentially regulating blood sugar and controlling appetite. See e.g. some quotes from studies and writings about apple pectin.

The study is available from The FASEB Journal.

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