Apples have been one of the most cultivated and consumed fruits throughout history. They are second only to bananas among popular fruits, and many adhere to the practice of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to support their overall well-being. According to information released by a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, eating an apple a day could reduce vascular deaths similar to prescribing statins to everyone over 50 years not currently taking them.
Flavanol-rich apples are very high in antioxidant activity and have been linked to a decreased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and cataracts. An apple supplies respectable amounts of vitamin C, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and B-complex vitamins.
Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels. They work by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which is necessary to produce cholesterol. These drugs are associated with a long list of side-effects including muscle pain and damage, liver damage, digestive complaints, elevated blood glucose and memory impairment.
Statin use is increasing rapidly with 50 percent of men ages 65 to 74 and almost 40 percent of women over 75 currently taking a statin. It is estimated that 127 million Americans over age 45 take statins – that is an astonishing one in four American adults.
Despite the growing popularity of statins, lifestyle — eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress — is still fundamental to lowering cholesterol levels and preventing subsequent vascular disorders.
The U.K. researchers involved in the study used mathematical models to compare the vascular effects of eating an apple daily versus taking statins as a primary prevention for everyone over 50. They concluded that prescribing statins to 17.6 million more adults would result in 9,400 fewer deaths annually, whereas if the same population consumed a daily apple 8,500 deaths could be adverted.
These results, scheduled for release in the Christmas edition of The BMJ, suggest small lifestyle changes can be very effective in reducing vascular events. And with the risks associated with statins, eating an apple daily to reduce vascular risks may be a much safer alternative to statins. The study authors stress the importance of continuing statin use for those who currently take them.