An ap­ple a day may not keep the doc­tor away in re­al­ity, study says

The China Post - - LIFE - BY LIND­SEY TAN­NER

An ap­ple a day doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily keep the doc­tor away. That’s ac­cord­ing to proverb-bust­ing re­search that found daily ap­ple eaters had just as many doc­tor vis­its as those who ate fewer or no ap­ples.

The find­ings don’t mean ap­ples aren’t good for you but they do un­der­score that it takes more than just one kind of food to make a healthy diet and avoid ill­ness.

About one-third of the adults stud­ied said they had no more than one doc­tor visit in the pre­vi­ous year; the re­main­der re­ported at least two vis­its. A pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis found ap­ple eaters had slightly fewer vis­its than ap­ple avoiders — those who ate less than one daily or no ap­ples. But that dif­fer­ence dis­ap­peared when the re­searchers con­sid­ered weight, race, ed­u­ca­tion, health in­sur­ance and other fac­tors that can in­flu­ence fre­quency of med­i­cal vis­its.

More about the study, pub­lished Mon­day in JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine:

The re­searchers looked at data on about 8,400 U.S. adults who took part in gov­ern­ment health sur­veys in 2007-08 and 2009-10. The adults an­swered ques­tion­naires that in­cluded queries about foods they’d eaten in the pre­vi­ous 24 hours and med­i­cal care in the past year. About 9 per­cent of adults stud­ied ate the equiv­a­lent of at least one small ap­ple daily. Those who ate less than that were con­sid­ered ap­ple shunners.

Ap­ple eaters had more ed­u­ca­tion and were less likely to smoke than ap­ple shunners. Ap­ple eaters were slightly less likely to use pre­scrip­tion drugs, but the study lacks in­for­ma­tion on use of over­the-counter med­i­ca­tion and al­ter­na­tive medicine.

Adults’ food choices in the pre­vi­ous 24 hours don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­flect usual eat­ing habits. The study lacks in­for­ma­tion on other foods peo­ple ate and it isn’t rig­or­ous enough to de­ter­mine whether peo­ple who choose to eat ap­ples are health­ier or un­health­ier than those who don’t. The rea­son for the re­ported doc­tor vis­its also isn’t in­cluded in the study.

Lead au­thor Matthew Davis, a health ser­vices re­searcher at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, said while the study ques­tions the proverb, “to re­ally dis­prove it, you would need a dif­fer­ent study de­sign.”

Ap­ples are a good source of vi­ta­min C; one medium ap­ple has about 100 calo­ries and pro­vides nearly 20 per­cent of the daily rec­om­mended amount of fiber. Ap­ples also con­tain small amounts of vi­ta­min A, cal­cium and iron.

The proverb is thought to have orig­i­nated in Wales in the 1800s. Ap­ples, which have a long shelf life, were likely one of the few fruits that were avail­able through­out the year, said Alice Licht­en­stein, a Tufts Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion science and pol­icy. She wasn’t in­volved in the study.

Nu­tri­tion­ists gen­er­ally agree that ap­ples can be a good food choice. But, said Dr. Steven Zeisel, direc­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina’s Nu­tri­tion Re­search In­sti­tute, “One ap­ple isn’t go­ing to be enough to make a dif­fer­ence un­less it’s part of a healthy food pat­tern.”

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