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U.S. Apple Association  

Smokers, Take Note: An Apple a Day May Reduce Risk of Common Lung Ailment

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 air pollutants.

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.

(more news)



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