LOS ANGELES - An apple a day really can help keep the doctor away, at least for postmenopausal women, researchers said Tuesday.
In a study of 160 women who ate either dried apples or prunes daily for one year, the women who ate apples saw their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol - the "bad" kind known as LDL - drop by 23 percent after six months. At the same time, their "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, rose about 4 percent over the course of the study.
Women in the dried apple group ate 2/3 cup of the fruit each day. Though the apple slices added 240 calories to their daily diet, these women wound up losing weight - 3.3 pounds, on average. These women also saw their levels of C-reactive protein (a measure of potentially dangerous inflammation) and lipid hydroperoxide (which can signal higher risk for cardiovascular problems) fall.
Researchers from Florida State University decided to put apples to the test because the fruit contains pectin, which improves the body's ability to metabolize fat, and polyphenols, which dials back production of inflammatory molecules.
At least, those effects had been demonstrated in animals. Now they have some preliminary data that the same might be true in people.
The next step, the researchers said in a statement, is to expand the study to women across the country to test whether the old adage holds up.
And it is an old adage. According to this website on the history of popular phrases, idioms and expressions, the idea that eating an apple a day could keep the doctor away can be traced to Pembrokeshire in southwest Wales. Nearly 150 years ago, a Welsh magazine called "Notes and Queries" published a longer version of the famous rhyme:
"Eat an apple on going to bed
"And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."