An apple a day really might help to keep the doctor away, according to new research highlighting the fruit’s “incredible” health benefits.

Scientists were surprised by the response of a group of post-menopausal women who ate 75 grams of dried apples a day for a year.

Within six months their levels of harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol had dropped by almost a quarter.

At the same time, concentrations of “good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which combats heart disease, went up.

And instead of putting on weight by eating an extra 240 calories a day, the women lost an average of 3.3 pounds. The same changes were not seen in another group of women eating dried prunes.

Study leader Professor Bahram Arjmandi, a nutritionist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, United States, said: “Incredible changes in the apple-eating women happened by six months – they experienced a 23% decrease in LDL cholesterol. I never expected apple consumption to reduce bad cholesterol to this extent while increasing HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol, by about 4%.”

Other effects seen included a lowering of lipid hydroperoxide and C-reactive protein in the blood of the women. Lipid hydroperoxides are highly damaging to cell membranes while C-reactive protein is a marker for systemic inflammation, which has a host of harmful effects.

A total of 160 women aged 45 to 65 took part in the study. Half were asked to supplement their diet with dried apples while the others ate dried prunes. Blood samples were taken at three, six and 12 months.

The findings were presented at Experimental Biology 2011, a meeting of scientists from different disciplines in Washington DC. More extensive research is now needed to confirm the results of the study, said the scientists.

Part of the reason for weight loss associated with apples may be pectin, a source of dietary fibre known to suppress the appetite.

(UKPA)

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