Eating one apple a day could prevent 8,500 deaths a year from heart attacks and strokes in the over 50s age group, according to a new report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
The fruit boosts cardiovascular health in a similar way to medicines, such as statins, but without the side-effects, revealed researchers at the University of Oxford.
The researchers – from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford – also claimed taking statins could prevent about 9,500 deaths from cardiovascular disease in the same age group.
Their conclusions were based on modelling, rather than direct scientific study.
Statins lower the level of ‘bad cholesterol’ in blood, according to the BHF. High levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ can lead to fatty deposits developing in arteries. This can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including conditions such as: coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and stroke.
BHF senior cardiac nurse, Maureen Talbot, said: “The ‘apple a day’ message has survived for over a century, though now we encourage people to eat five different fruits and vegetables a day, not just one apple.
“However, while fruit is undoubtedly good for you, it shouldn’t replace vital heart medicines, such as statins, prescribed by your doctor.”
The study underlines the fact that statins save lives, she added. “They are one of the safest medicines available and their benefits far outweigh any risks of side effects. If you’re unsure about your medication, speak to your doctor as there are often different types or doses you could try.”
The most common cause of death arising from vascular problems are heart attacks and strokes.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of adults do not eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day. While nine-in-10 Britons manage to eat at least one portion a day, most people would benefit from eating more fruit and vegetables, said the researchers.
11,000 vascular deaths
If adults ate one extra portion of fruit or vegetables a day, up to 11,000 vascular deaths could be prevented each year, the study suggested.
Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at The Stroke Association, said: “Apples have long been known as a natural source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavanoids, all of which are good for our health and wellbeing. This study shows that, as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, a daily apple could help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.”
Coleman said that it was vital that those who have been prescribed statins should continue to take the highly effective medication. But everyone can lower their risk of stroke with simple lifestyle changes, like eating a balanced diet, he added.
The Victorians’ advice that ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was remarkably accurate, said the BHF researchers.
What’s in an apple?
- Energy: 35.4kcal
- Fat: 0.09g
- Saturated fat: 0.02g
- Monosaturates: 0.01g
- Polyunsaturates: 0.05g
- Cholesterol: 0.00mg
- Fibre: 1.39g
- Salt: 0.00g