Apples Only Produce Item Singled Out as Beneficial
McLean, Va. – Smokers, take note: Eating just one apple a day may
reduce your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, have
reported that smokers eating moderate amounts of fruits and vegetables – and
particularly apples – cut their risk of developing COPD in nearly half.
“These findings showed that moderate intake of fruit and vegetables can
reduce the risk of COPD in smokers,” researchers concluded based on their
case-control study, which was presented May 20 at the American Thoracic
Society (ATS) annual meeting in San Francisco. Furthermore,“[a]pples were
the only individual fruit… seen to be significantly protective.”
Just one apple a day provided the observed protective effect.
University of Groningen’s Louise Watson told Reuters Health that although
the mechanism of this healthful effect is unclear, she suspects that
produce’s antioxidant content is responsible. Antioxidants counter the
natural although sometimes damaging transformation of cells that have been
oxidized – that is, exposed to oxygen in the body.
Watson and her colleagues studied smokers who were at least 45 years old
and who had been smoking at least a pack a day for more than 10 years.
Smokers with COPD were compared with a control group of COPD-free smokers,
based on food questionnaires and lung function tests.
COPD refers to diseases characterized by chronic obstruction of air flow,
such as emphysema and bronchitis. According to the American Lung
Association, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States,
claiming the lives of 107,146 Americans annually.
The association reports that 80 to 90 percent of COPD cases are caused by
smoking. Other leading causes of COPD are second-hand smoke and exposure to
Another study presented at the same ATS meeting found that persons eating
the proverbial “apple a day” had better lung function and lower risk of
respiratory disease such as asthma than non-apple eaters. Those researchers,
from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, suspected an
“antioxidant effect,” noting apples’ high antioxidant content.
“Other recent studies have also suggested that we might breathe easier –
literally – by eating apples,” said Julia Daly, nutrition communications
specialist with the U.S. Apple Association. Daly noted that several recent
population studies have linked apples with lung health benefits. Researchers
at the University of Hawaii and Finland’s National Public Health Institute
both linked apple consumption with a reduced risk of lung cancer, in
separate studies published last year and in 1997, respectively. Similarly,
scientists at London’s St. George’s Hospital Medical School reported last
year that apple eaters have better lung function than non-apple eaters. All
of these studies have pointed to apples’ high content of antioxidant
flavonoids – including the flavonoid quercetin, found abundantly in apples –
as the potential health benefactor.